March 31st, 2022
Perhaps the Best Warranty is No Warranty at All
As a representative of various window and door component suppliers, I frequently visit customers to perform in-house quality audits on the plant floor to ensure the materials I sell are appropriately used to make the highest quality products. After completing an audit recently, I commented to the general manager about the exceptional manufacturing facility he runs. This made me ponder the topic of warranties and led me to ask, “How long do you warranty your IG units?” His answer astonished me.
“On paper, we don’t offer a warranty, he said. “We just take care of our customers! If they are not happy with something, then we fix it, period! If a muntin is crooked, we replace the IG. If the unit fogs 10 or 15 years down the road, we replace it. We have no warranty—we just take care of our customers—period!” So, my next comment was, “Well then, I guess the only time a customer has to cover a repair is if little junior throws a baseball through the window?” “Nope,” he said, “We cover that too!”
With many window companies experiencing component shortages, backlogs, and extending lead times to their customers, it becomes increasingly important to maintain the best quality possible in the finished product and offer the best possible warranty and service after the sale.
“When a customer has to wait 15 weeks to get our windows, we want to make sure they are 100% satisfied and end up with the feeling that our windows and doors were worth the wait,” said the GM. So, this made me ponder further about what type of warranty a typical window customer should expect.
Believe it or not, even if the manufacturer does not explicitly state a warranty, one usually exists. Most states have laws that conform to Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code. There is an Implied Warranty of Merchantability. Every product a company makes has an implied warranty which covers the type of product itself. As stated in the definition: an implied warranty is a legal term for the assurances that a product is fit for the purpose intended and that it is merchantable, i.e., it conforms to an ordinary buyer’s expectations. So, in other words, if you are a window manufacturer making and selling windows in the marketplace, then your windows should last as long as most windows typically last, given the current state of technology within the window and door industry. So how many years would be typical?
In the absence of a written warranty, if a consumer went after a window company claiming that his windows failed early, what would the so-called independent experts say of the expected longevity of a window? Let’s look at one. In an article written for Real Homes, Sal Vaglica, who has written about home improvement for some major publications over the last 10 years, suggests a longevity of 20 years. It is interesting to note that he sees the frame and hardware components of a window as lasting for up to 50 years, with the glass package being the limiting factor, since, if it fails, then the sashes or perhaps even the entire window would need to be replaced. However, it is also quite humorous that he views the failure of the insulating glass unit to be defined as “the energy-efficient gas escaping from between the two panes of glass causing the IG unit to lose its insulating ability.” An IG unit can lose its argon or krypton while still maintaining a clear view for a very long time due to the power of the desiccant inside the spacer. The desiccant or molecular sieve adsorbs moisture vapor that is entering the window even if the gas escapes, and this keeps the insulating glass unit fog-free, thus maintaining a clear view. If the homeowner has a clear view through the window, then he will not consider it to have failed and will never even know if the argon or krypton is still present.
So, if the number is 20 years, is that what a consumer should look for when it comes to comparing the warranties of various window manufacturers under consideration? The answer lies in the warranty itself. The longer it is and the more words it contains, the more diluted it becomes, like adding water to a strong cup of coffee. Some would suggest that long warranties written by the legal department do more to protect the manufacturer than the consumer. The longer the list of exclusions, the weaker the actual warranty becomes. Which goes back to the point of my conversation with the GM, who stated, “the best warranty is no warranty at all—we just take care of our customers—period!”