Well, 2010 is upon us, and this is the year that ENERGY STAR will start shining brighter. I say this because it will mean so much more! Starting July 1 of this year, the DOE requirement for insulating glass certification will go into effect as a prerequisite for ENERGY STAR labeling of windows, doors and skylights. So if you have not yet go started on this, you are officially “under the gun.”

Assuming no backlog, the entire certification process normally takes about 24 weeks but due to the impending deadline coupled with the fact that only about a third of all manufacturers that fabricate IG have historically participated in what has been, up to this point, a voluntary program, a manufacturer just getting started may have a hard time getting scheduled with a certified test lab in time to meet the deadline.

Since there has been plenty of press regarding the new DOE requirement during the second half of 2009, I am finding that the majority of manufacturers have either already tested, are in the process of testing or are at least on the schedule to be tested by one of the certified test labs. However, many do not realize how tough this test may be to pass and are not preparing adequately from a quality assurance/ process control standpoint!

As I am out in the field visiting customers, I oftentimes see quality problems in their IG fabrication process that may end up being critical factors when it comes to passing IG certification. As I point these out, I sometimes hear remarks such as, “We have always done it this way, and we don’t have very many field complaints.”

I cannot stress enough that little things which may not always end up resulting in field complaints can still be a knockout factor when it comes to passing IG certification. This test is tough!

As an example, one of the most basic factors when it comes to making quality IG regardless of the system employed, is proper glass washing. I see washers operating with cold water, poor water quality or improper rinsing. It is very simple. If you don’t start with clean, dry glass, then sealants and adhesives will not permanently bond to it! Upon initial inspection, it may “look” like you have a good bond, but when you send IG units to the test lab, these units will be subjected to 15 weeks of intense weather cycling designed to simulate the worse that the world can dish out. If there are any flaws in the system, failure will result. The worse part of it all is that if you fail the IG certification test, you go back in line and wait at least another 24 weeks to pass, assuming you have diagnosed and corrected the causes of failure.

Other basic things to consider when it comes to passing this test it to use a quality insulating glass sealant and desiccation components. The sealant or sealants, depending upon whether a single seal or dual seal system is utilized, are responsible for bonding the IG system together while limiting the amount of moisture vapor which enters the inside air space. The desiccant system adsorbs the moisture once it does get inside. Tiny flaws in the system will let in more moisture vapor and this is where a superior desiccation system may ultimately make the difference between success and failure!

Gas retention is another critical element of the test. The units submitted must average a minimum of 90 percent gas fill when the test lab receives them, and they must average no less than 80 percent gas fill upon completion of the test. In this regard, workmanship becomes super critical. Sealants must be applied in such a manner to achieve a uniform and dense barrier or gas leakage will occur at many times the amount as indicated by the sealant’s gas permeation rating. This may lead to a failure as it relates to the gas content portion of the test. The manufacture may still pass IG certification but the thermal values listed on the NFRC label will have to be indicative of a non gas filled unit, which could put the window fabricator at a competitive disadvantage!

So for manufacturers who have not yet submitted test units, take one last hard look at your fabrication process before the day of truth arrives. Call upon your IG component suppliers to visit. Many offer quality audits as a service. A fresh set of eyes can oftentimes notice something that you may have missed.

When the dust settles, we will surely see fewer ENERGY STAR labels, and you can bet that the manufacturers displaying them will be stepping up their marketing campaigns to let consumers know that the ENERGY STAR label now stands for so much more…not only energy performance but also sustainability as well!

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