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March - April 2003

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JACKSON 

Gain the Edge 
Maintain Aesthetics with Consistent Flexible Spacers
Ric Jackson

Consumers continue to be more discriminating and better educated on the fine points of new construction materials. As this trend continues, window manufacturers can expect to be met with more resistance to varying components in different types of window construction, particularly those that might affect performance or ratings. 

One area of particular concern should be the variations in insulating glass (IG) spacer options where the differences can alter a windowís appearance and thermal performance dramatically. Maintaining uniformity of IG spacers for all types of windows sold under a product line or brand just makes good business sense.

Uniformity Through Design
More than 3 million specialty window units flood the market each year, according to the 1999 U.S. and Canadian Window and Door Market Research Report prepared by Ducker Research Co. The growing popularity of various window sizes and specialty shapes, such as half-rounds, round tops and circles, increases the likelihood of non-uniform window units appearing throughout a home. Despite the obvious difference in shape and size of specialty windows, uniformity can be achieved through design.

To realize maximum uniformity potential in IG design, manufacturers should choose common materials throughout their product lines. An ideal starting point is the use of a common type of warm-edge, flexible spacer that will work for the majority, if not all, of a manufacturerís IG units. This foundation for window design is especially notable when you consider that warm-edge spacers have already captured 28 percent of the total residential IG edge seal market, according to the 1999 Ducker report.

Mixing Spacers
A mixture of spacer types, sizes and colors throughout windows in a home detracts from its visual aesthetics and contributes to uneven thermal performance. Therefore, manufacturers are wise to incorporate a single, flexible spacer into their production lines to achieve uniformity and consistent window performance.

Imagine a bay window flanked on either side by a vertical specialty window and topped with a half-round window. If different spacers are used for each of the three window designs, homeowners may notice spacer color irregularities and clarity differences among the window styles. These factors all diminish the aesthetics of a home, but inconsistent performance is also a concern.

The above window layout could yield obvious differences in performance. Some IG units with high-quality flexible spacers may demonstrate excellent thermal performance, thereby reducing moisture and condensation, while rigid, aluminum spacers and other types of metal spacers may have higher conductivity resulting in moisture and condensation.

Economics and Production Requirements
Todayís specialty units incorporate unique curves and unusual angles, requiring a versatile, flexible spacer that should complement IG manufacturing systems. Advance-ments in equipment platforms for IG production have created varying degrees of automation and unique application tools that take the variability out of working with flexible spacers.

Production advancements make the transition from rigid to flexible spacer manufacturing processes a much more cost-effective move. In fact, most companies switching to flexible spacer systems see cost decreases for a variety of reasons and recognize an opportunity to market the thermal benefits of higher-performance IG units.

Facing the Future
Nearly every new single-family home has at least one specialty window. Homeowners request them and architects specify them for the sole reason of improving a homeís visual appeal. Donít allow miscellaneous spacers to detract from their goal of improving aesthetics. 


Ric Jackson is director of marketing at TruSeal Technologies, based in Beachwood, Ohio.


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