A Niche Product Moves into the Spotlight

By Trey Barrineau

Driven by code changes and increasing consumer demand, products with blinds between the glass have really caught on in the door and window industry in recent years. The blinds, which are sealed between the two lites of glass in an insulating glass (IG) unit, eliminate cleaning. That makes them ideal for people who are allergic to dust. Additionally, because the blinds and their operating systems are enclosed, there are no cords that can endanger young children or pets.

The safety aspect of windows with blinds between the glass will be increasingly important as a ban on cords starts to take effect, after the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA), in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), recently developed new standards that require most window coverings to be cordless.

“All companies who manufacture, distribute, or sell window coverings in the U.S. must comply with the voluntary safety standard or face enforcement action by the CPSC and/or be open to legal action if non-compliant products are sold,” WCMA executive director Ralph Vasami said in a statement.

For years, safety advocates have warned that window blind cords pose a hazard to young children. A study that appeared in the January 2018 issue of Pediatrics found that at least 255 children died as a result of cords from window blinds between 1990 and 2015.

Blinds-between-the-glass products are recognized as a safe alternative. For example, ODL’s Blink has received WCMA’s “Certified Best for Kids” designation and the Parents for Window Blind Safety Seal of Approval.

While the impending ban on cords is certainly a big driver of increased sales for these products, consumers find them appealing for other reasons beyond health and safety.

“In our numerous conversations with end users, the appeal of blinds between the glass is obvious, because it provides practical benefits in everyday life,” says Enoch Suen, the general manager with TEDnovo Building Products. “It’s healthier, because it eliminates dust. It performs better, it’s more stylish because there’s no longer clutter associated with blinds and cords outside the window, and it’s safer for pets and children.”

The products are especially popular in the multifamily housing market, where according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ 2018 State of the Nation’s Housing report, more than 354,000 units were built in 2017.

“Apartment complexes see higher turnover rates than single-family homes and are typically managed by a property management company,” says Harder. “The cleanliness aspect means reduced maintenance and cleaning effort for tenants since the blinds are enclosed between glass panes and won’t collect dust or be damaged from excessive wear and tear. Plus, the cord-less operation means that property managers face less risk of being held liable for cord-related injury to children or pets.”

Because of all the demand, Intigral started a Certified Fabricator program this year. The company supplies its custom ScreenLine kit, and the certified manufacturer places the blind between the glass. “This program will offer two integrated blind models, six different control systems and 31 color combinations,” says Jamie Runevitch, marketing manager for Intigral.

“The certified fabricator then can establish the best blinds or shades to satisfy their dealers.”

Suen says that despite growing acceptance of blinds between the glass, upselling could be required because the products had a bad reputation in the past due to quality issues.

“Many door and window vendors are hesitant to promote this type of product due to quality and pricing concerns,” he says. “However, there is no question about the growth of the market based on consumer demand; more door and window vendors need to be educated to offer their customers blinds-between-glass products.”

Runevitch says the design side of the industry is taking notice, too.

“Home designers find the different color options and a wide range of operators for their blinds between the glass appealing,” Runevitch says. “They can create an upscale look without needing additional hardware or fabric around the window.”

Those interests have additional companies expanding their lineups, including blinds between the glass manufacturer RSL, which added anew slate color to its offerings of white, earth-tone and wrought iron. Company officials say the new color is offered with a matching slate frame.

 

Windows with blinds between the glass are nothing new, but two years ago the fenestration industry was abuzz with the launch of Innovia by Intigral. This new innovation featured functions such as self-leveling blinds operated by a remote control as well as pleated shades inside the glass.

Since then, the company has continued to grow—so much so that in September it relocated to a 140,000-square-foot facility. The move extends the company’s operations by 100,000 square feet with additional room to expand. As part of its manufacturing expansion, the company installed a new Forel insulating glass line. The new headquarters also includes offices and showroom space.

The company’s products are sold to window manufacturers, who then fabricate the completed system and sell them through their dealers and distributors. Jason Thomas, president of Intigral, says Innovia is their fastest growing channel in terms of customer offerings.

“Our customers are window manufacturers and they take it to their dealer networks,” says Thomas, adding that customers have also tapped into the big box market.

But it was the 2017 International Builders Show (IBS) in Orlando that Thomas says was the real game changer.

“We realized [after IBS] how big the U.S. market is and how big a void there was [for this product],” says Thomas. “That show put us in front of the consumers. Up until then we only saw the window manufacturers. The response we got at IBS from the homeowner is what made us change everything.”

So, if blinds between the glass aren’t new, what is it about Innovia that makes it such an attention grabber?

“The uniqueness of this product is that it’s a blend of what worked well in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with respect to the lift cord,” says Thomas, explaining that the cord was historically the biggest issue. “Before, the lift cord just piled upon itself and the blinds could be unleveled or jammed. So we’ve patented how we treat the string and roll it so it lays flat. It also has a self-leveling bottom rail.”

In addition to Innovia, which is for the residential market, Intigral is also the only authorized U.S. manufacturer of Screenline, a blinds-between-the-glass product from the Italian company Pellini. The Screenline products were developed for the commercial/light commercial market, where the company aims to make inroads via an AIA course focused on educating architects.

—Ellen Rogers

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DWM Magazine

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