The National Fenestration Rating Council is an independent non-profit organization that establishes objective energy-efficiency ratings for windows, doors, and skylights, all of which are known as fenestration. The ratings help consumers compare products and make informed purchases, and every NFRC-rated window has a label affixed to it displaying its ratings.
There are three mandatory energy-efficiency factors NFRC rates for all windows. Lower or higher ratings for each of these areas aren’t always better or worse for your home — that depends on where you live and how much sunlight hits your windows. The Efficient Windows Collaborative’s Window Selection Tool searches existing window offerings to find the best options for your home. The tool considers each of these three factors, as well as your location and also the direction your windows face. NFRC’s ratings system also includes two optional ratings that measure efficiency in areas other than energy use.
Many standards and programs for energy-efficient windows base their criteria on NFRC ratings, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® certification, which is given to windows that undergo additional verification testing. When used to replace old windows, ENERGY STAR-certified products lower utility bills for a home by an average of 12%. Click here to learn more about ENERGY STAR and its Most Efficient Program, which recognizes products that use cutting-edge technologies to deliver the greatest efficiency.
U-FACTOR: This mandatory rating measures the amount of heat inside your home that can escape through a window, and is the top-left number on all NFRC labels.
- Rating range: 0.10 – 2.00 (this may vary, but is a typical range)
- A lower number means less heat loss
- BUYERS TIP: In cold climates, windows with low U-factors help reduce heating costs
U-factor should not be confused with R-value, which is another common measurement of a home’s energy efficiency. R-value measures the effectiveness of insulation in other parts of a building’s exterior shell – its walls, roof, floors, and anything else that acts as a barrier between outside and inside. This is often called a home’s envelope. Unlike U-factor, for which a lower number is better, a higher R-value indicates better performance for the various elements that insulate a home. The benefits of efficient windows with a low U-factor include lower monthly utility bills, savings on heating-and-cooling equipment, and increased comfort.
SOLAR HEAT GAIN COEFFICIENT: This mandatory rating measures the amount of solar heat sun that can enter a home through a window, and is the top-right number on all NFRC labels.
- Rating range: 0.00 – 1.00
- A lower number means less heat gain
- BUYERS TIP: In hot climates, windows with a low rating can reduce cooling costs
The right ratings for your home depend on your climate and the orientation of each window. A lower rating promotes energy efficiency in hot climates and prevents overheated rooms from the afternoon sun. The benefits of windows with low-SHGC ratings include lower monthly utility bills, savings on heating-and-cooling equipment, and increased comfort.
VISIBLE TRANSMITTANCE: This mandatory rating measures the amount of solar light that can enter a home through a window. The rating can be found on the middle or bottom row of an NFRC label, on the left side.
- Rating range: 0.00 – 1.00
- A higher number means more natural light
- BUYERS TIP: Windows with a high rating may reduce your dependence on artificial lighting and lower monthly utility bills
Efficient windows can allow natural light into a home while also keeping out unwanted heat. Getting the sun’s benefits without also accepting its drawbacks is possible thanks to reflective coatings on the glass surface. There are different types of coatings and treatments, such as low-e (emissivity) coatings, tints, and films. These allow different amounts of light and heat to pass through your windows based on your needs. The benefits of high-visible transmittance efficient windows include enhanced natural light, lower monthly utility bills, and additional protection from faded furniture, art, or wood floors.
AIR LEAKAGE: This optional rating measures the volume of air that can infiltrate a home through a window. This rating can be found on the middle or bottom row of an NFRC label, on the right side.
- Rating range: less than or greater than 0.3
- A lower number means less air leakage
- BUYERS TIP: windows rated higher than 0.3 in this specific category disqualify a building from ENERGY STAR certification
The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) has developed a window energy rating system based on whole product performance. This section on the National Fenestration Rating Council describes what the NFRC is, what they rate and certify, and what is displayed on the NFRC label.
The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have developed an ENERGY STAR designation for products meeting certain energy performance criteria. This section on ENERGY STAR shows the ENERGY STAR performance zones and requirements.