I recently came across an article that I wrote 16 years ago entitled “Leaking out the Facts- How to Keep Argon in Your IG Units.”

Reading this old article made me ponder how much has changed since then — but also how much has stayed the same.

The biggest concern I see among window manufacturers today has to do with passing IG certification for argon gas filling requirements. First of all is the question of whether or not we have achieved an initial fill rate averaging above 90 percent or higher. Then comes the uncertainty of whether or not the units will be able to retain the argon as they are exposed to the cycling of low temperature to high temperature while being bombarded with simulated weather conditions, which include s high-humidity and UV-light exposure.

When it comes to building an IG unit that can pass the fog requirements, small imperfections  may not always prove fatal. This is because we are putting a desiccant into the unit. As moisture vapor finds its way into the unit, the desiccant is there to save the day by snatching up the moisture molecules and trapping them inside the molecular sieve where they cannot fog the unit. However, those same imperfections are not only gateways for moisture vapor to enter the unit, but also represent a path for argon particles to escape – a two-lane highway.

Manufacturers participating in the Energy Star program are subject to the Independent Verification Program (IVP), which evaluates a cross-section of fenestration products in the marketplace to ensure they meet the advertised U-values. Therefore, practicing proper gas filling procedures on the production floor are critical to prepare units for certification testing by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). Your company’s reputation is on the line if it turns out that windows are being made other than as advertised.

Often, manufacturers cannot even achieve the initial fill rate of 90 percent. Many manufacturers I visit are still using rudimentary argon metering equipment and have no way to check units after they’re filled to make sure the proper fill rate is achieved. The technology to fill IG units accurately and test the units after filling is available. Why isn’t every manufacturer who is gas filling investing in it?

The other critical element is component and vendor selection. Manufacturers should not choose components and vendors strictly on the basis of price. When it comes to argon gas retention, the quality and performance of the spacer and sealants employed can be critical. Also, certain vendors may be willing to offer their resources in assisting their customers when it comes to designing manufacturing practices and procedures which ensure the most consistent gas fills and retention. Manufacturers should take this into consideration when choosing and engaging in partnerships with component suppliers.

So when it comes to argon filling and retention, many of the design principles and filling practices from my article written 16 years ago still apply, but we have learned so much more. Also there is so much more now available in technology and supplier resources that can help manufacturers build the best IG units possible.

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