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Winter  2001

FENESTRATION FOCUS

Current Trends in the Warm-Edge Market
        by Ric Jackson

Each year, the marketplace becomes more competitive for window and insulating glass (IG) manufacturers. In order to maintain and grow market share, manufacturers must differentiate their product lines and offer the consumer value and high-performance products. To ensure a competitive edge, window and IG producers are expanding their product lines to include high-performance low-E glass, gas-filling technologies and new warm-edge spacer designs.
Advancements in laminates and extrusion technologies have led to many opportunities to develop flexible spacers with a variety of enhanced performance features. These new flexible spacers can improve a window’s performance significantly while also being more efficient and cost-effective for IG fabricators than many current spacer systems. 

Today’s Spacers
Our company first introduced warm-edge spacer systems in 1978. The use of these systems began to rise in the early 1980s due to the energy crisis, when conserving energy and reducing the cost to heat a home became a priority. Over the past 20 years, new spacer designs have revolutionized the energy efficiency of windows.

Today’s IG spacer systems are characterized in a variety of ways, from thermal performance to degrees of flexibility, but typically, all include a moisture barrier, sealants and adhesives, desiccant and spacer. As of 1999, according to the Study of the U.S. and Canadian Market for Windows and Doors by Ducker Research Co. Inc., the residential IG window market has been dominated by warm-edge spacer technology.

    Spacer Use in North America

This is in contrast to the market prior to 1995 when aluminum spacer was the dominant IG system.
  
Currently, warm-edge spacers comprise 82 percent of the North American window market. This category of spacers can be broken down further into rigid (54 percent) and non-rigid (28 percent). Rigid warm-edge spacers include principally U-shaped and stainless-steel spacer bars, while non-rigid, warm-edge spacers include products like Swiggle® Seal and desiccated silicone foam. The remaining portion of the market uses aluminum spacer bars (18 percent).

Trends Driving New Developments
Advancements in spacer systems are being driven today by a number of trends. These include developments in new window shapes such as bent glass, new coatings for glass and a variety of shapes and inserts. In addition, new applications for insulating glass in commercial buildings, residential homes, transportation vehicles and refrigerated displays demand advancements in spacer design. 

In addition, fabricators are pushing suppliers to produce products that are more versatile and cost-effective. Lower profit margins and reduced selling prices, combined with increased market fragmentation, are forcing fabricators to reduce inventory and increase flexibility of their operations. New materials, such as laminates, composites, film adhesive applications and advanced extrusion and molding technologies, are creating opportunities for better designed windows and spacer systems with advanced performance features at competitive costs. 

Most significant, however, is the trend to require manufacturers to meet new performance standards. As energy concerns continue to grow, spacer systems, as well as other products, must be energy-efficient. Spacer systems must meet new certification requirements from federal and industry regulators and they must support longer-term warranties and durability standards. In addition, spacers must be flexible and compatible enough not only for today’s coatings, but for tomorrow’s as well. 

 

Ric Jackson serves as director of marketing for TruSeal Technologies Inc. based in Beachwood, Ohio.

DWM

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