Volume 9, Issue 6 - June 2008
from the publisher
Holy Price of Krypton, Batman!
Prices at the pump aren’t the only high gas prices—krypton is up to approximately $1.50 per liter—a $1 per liter jump from earlier this year. And as with consumer gas prices these krypton prices will continue to rise.
Manufacturers that use krypton gas in their IG units know all too well the effect these high prices are having on their business. Tom Gallagher of Spectra Gases outlines the problem and some solutions for manufacturers in his article on page 6. Even if you don’t use krypton currently it’s important to understand this issue.
Randy Ernst of FDR Design is another noted expert on gas filling. According to Ernst, it’s not as simple as changing from krypton to say, argon, or using a mixture of gases to combat the high prices.
“Manufacturers that use krypton are now stuck and in a state of panic,” says Ernst. “If you have a product with a NFRC rating, you can’t just change it.”
“Think of it like this. You drive a SUV and you’d rather drive a smaller car, but what can you do? Do you make a radical change when gas prices will eventually go back down?” asks Ernst. Maybe not, but the sad fact is that manufacturers in many cases are forced to sit back and watch their profits erode.
Some may think that the gas producers are driving up the krypton prices, and while some may believe this, Ernst admits there is some justification for the increases.
“It take tons of energy to produce this gas,” he says. “Additionally, most of these producers are in Europe where the price of the EURO has gone up as well.
”When I talked to Gallagher about this situation he alluded to the fact that, when changes are made to the Energy Star® program, this may force more manufacturers to use krypton in their window systems.
“The gas producers are hoping this occurs,” says Ernst. “The DOE is spending a few million dollars on the research of next-generation windows.
”But Ernst isn’t convinced that krypton is the answer saying that the same thermal performance can be achieved by using different gap widths, for example. And other factors come into play such as center of glass performance and the frame.
So, as this column, and my conversation with Ernst, began with the subject of krypton it ended with the reaffirmation that when Energy Star makes changes, this will mean big adjustments for manufacturers—no easy fixes will be available.
And as is often the case lately, our conversation also came back to a discussion of recyclability, etc.
“It used to be that manufacturers talked about cradle-to-grave,” says Ernst. “But now it’s more about dust-to-dirt.” In other words how much energy does it take to produce your window to recycle it, etc.?
With so many issues affecting manufacturers lately, it’s more important than ever to prepare now for upcoming changes. That way when say Energy Star changes are announced or the price of krypton rises again, you won’t be praying for Batman to come rescue you.