Given the current situation in the door and window market, one would not expect the price of Krypton gas to be rising. After all, with windows representing the largest percentage of Krypton usage and window production being down, this price jump is catching many window fabricators off guard. Well after talking to Adam Seymour of Electronic Fluorocarbons, my suspicions were confirmed.

There are some recent events on the supply side of the equation that are causing a jump in Krypton prices. You see, Krypton is harvested from air using air separation units (ASUs). Well there are a limited number of ASUs on the planet and several of the more productive ones have recently gone down—one being in the Ukraine and another in Wuhan, China, that was recently idled. The Wuhan ASU belongs to Baosteel, a very large steel manufacturer. According to Adam, this ASU produces 10-15% of the world’s total Krypton supply and it remains out of service due to the pandemic. Baosteel took over its rival, Wuhan Iron and Steel, four years ago to create the world’s second largest steelmaker and then found itself in the Krypton business. So, what does steel production have to do with Krypton? Well, steel producers need ASUs to take oxygen out of the air in order to fuel the steel making process. It turns out, if you are going to spend the money on an ASU to harvest oxygen, then you might as well spend a little more and get one that can also capture Krypton. Then you can enjoy an additional revenue stream by selling this valuable gas that is used to make energy efficient windows, lighting, semi-conductors, and lasers. So, with many of the world’s ASU’s being associated with steel plants, Krypton production is somewhat tied to the hip of steel manufacturing.

And what is steel production doing? You guessed it: falling right now. Yes, demand for steel is falling as car sales and construction projects are being delayed. I say “delayed” because I do not believe this is a long-term problem. When things get back to normal, there will be a pent-up demand for cars and delayed construction jobs will get back on track. So, demand for steel will rebound sharply. The supply of Krypton will follow suit.

But for now, this unequal pressure on the supply side of the curve is pushing up Krypton prices. Adam says that the pricing of Krypton is going up from being in around the 30 cents per liter range to being in the range of 60 to 70 cents per liter. Meanwhile, there is concern that it could hit the dollar per liter mark. Compare this to the cost of argon, which is just pennies per liter. So, what does this mean for the manufacturer that’s relying on Krypton to achieve a certain u-value or condensation resistance factor (CRF) in its window design? Well, if you need actual calculations, feel free to check out my Gas Fill Cost Calculator to calculate the exact cost of filling any size window unit. Just enter your Krypton gas cost per liter, dimensions of your insulating glass unit (IGU), the pane gap, and the number of cavities per IGU—whether it be a double pane, triple pane or even quad. If you run the numbers, you can see that if Krypton cost doubles from 30 cents per liter to 60 cents per liter, your cost to gas fill a typical triple pane window with two quarter inch pane gaps goes from $4.46 to $8.92 per window.

So, will this price increase damper the usage of Krypton in the window industry? I think not, considering that I remember when Krypton gas filling first became popular and it was selling as high as $1.50 per liter. Yes, one 10K-liter tank would set you back $15,000. The fact is—you are not putting Krypton into a window that is selling for $500 an opening, but rather one selling for at least double that price. Krypton is bundled with many other high-end features, such as triple pane construction, multiple low-e coatings, low conductivity spacer systems, and even sound attenuation technologies. I even know of a U.S. manufacturer planning to introduce quad units. Windows built with Krypton feature U-values below the 0.20 mark, coupled with the highest CRF value, which helps to prevent condensation from forming on the inside pane of glass during cold winter months.

So, when it comes to combining ultimate thermal efficiency with outstanding CRF performance, Krypton holds a special place among currently available technologies. Sure, there are fourth-surface low-E coatings that can rival Krypton in terms of overall window U-values in double pane configurations, but not without sacrificing CRF values. Krypton works its magic in windows featuring small gaps with multiple pane configurations. Not all window systems are created equal and Krypton provides a high degree of marketing “sizzle” to those window companies competing in the high end of the market! “Why just mentioning that my windows contain Krypton tends to get my customers excited!” exclaims one seasoned salesman I know.

So, despite rising cost, when it comes to the marketing sizzle that one can add with its usage, Krypton is King!

 

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