July 20th, 2023
Passing IG Certification Testing: What Does It Take to Make the Grade?
During the pandemic, door and window fabricators lost many of their key people as fears of working in close quarters, coupled with government payouts, made working in a manufacturing plant much less desirable. Fabricators struggled to find people and employee turnover was an ongoing issue. The result was that a great deal of fabrication knowledge was lost. So now that things are getting back to normal, many companies are finding it more difficult to pass IG certification testing. The ASTM E-2190 is a very tough test and, for some, it takes several tries to pass and obtain certification, which is a critical requirement in today’s fenestration marketplace. What are the secrets to success?
When visiting an IG fabricator, I oftentimes see quality problems in their IG fabrication process that could be critical issues when it comes to passing IG certification. As I point these out, I sometimes get responses such as, “We have always done it this way,” or, “We don’t have very many field complaints.” It is very important to understand that little things that may not always end up resulting in field complaints can still be a knockout factor when it comes to passing IG certification. It is a very tough test!
One of the most basic factors when it comes to making quality IG, regardless of the system that is utilized, is proper glass washing. I have seen washers operating with cold water, poor water quality or improper rinsing. The importance of proper glass washing is very clear. If you don’t start with clean, dry glass, then sealants and adhesives cannot create a lasting bond. They are designed to stick to clean glass, not dirt and contaminants. Upon initial inspection, it may appear that 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, which is designed to simulate the worst that the world can dish out. If there are any flaws at all in the system, then failure will result. The worst part of it all is that if you fail the IG certification test you have to get back in line, pay additional testing fees, and start all over again!
Other basic things to consider when it comes to passing this test is the use of a high-performance IG sealant and adequate desiccation. The highest quality IG is not usually the most inexpensive. That does not mean that you cannot obtain a quality sealant at a competitive price. However, avoid choosing spacer and sealant on the basis of cost alone. Sure, due to competitive pressure, all manufacturers are looking at ways to cut costs, but IG sealant is a critical material that can break your company’s bank if it is not performing properly. 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 that enters the inside air space. The desiccant system adsorbs the moisture once it does get inside. Tiny flaws in the system will let in excessive moisture vapor and this is where a superior desiccation system ultimately may 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% gas fill when the test lab receives them, and they must average no less than 80% gas fill upon completion of the test. In this regard, proper workmanship practices are an absolute must. 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 indicated by the sealant’s gas permeation rating. This may lead to a failure in the gas content portion of the test. The manufacturer may still pass IG certification, but the thermal values listed on the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label will have to be indicative of a non-gas-filled unit, which could mean failure to meet Energy Star requirements.
So, for manufacturers who have or are about to build test units, first take one hard look at your fabrication process before the units are fabricated. Call upon your IG component suppliers to visit and offer fabrication tips. Many offer quality audits as a service to help you build the best IG units that you can build. After all, your success is their success.
A fresh set of eyes can oftentimes help you make the grade!