by Clark Halladay
As advances in technology propel the window and door industry forward, warm-edge technology will remain at the forefront of efforts to improve our products. Just as scaled insulating glass (IG) units captured the attention of the industry in the 1960s and 1970s and just as low-emissivity glass coatings and inert gas fillings were the focus during the 1980s, today builders, consumers, and window fabricators alike see warm-edge technology as one of the keys to the continuing improvement of energy-efficient window technology.
Warm-edge technology has become an industry term for any IG design innovation that increases the temperature of the perimeter of the window. Today, there are a number of space configurations marketed as warm-edge and, with the continued demand for differentiation and improved thermal performance, every glass manufacturer and window fabricator is working to predict and develop the next generation of warm-edge performance innovations.
While some manufacturers are making huge capital investments in IG production equipment, others are investigating the use of economical spacer materials that result in the same, or better, performance gains as "second-generation" warm-edge technology, such as butyl spacer and foam spacer. Other manufacturers are focusing their attention on the issue of condensation, which continues to be of paramount importance to many consumers.
Next Generation Warm-Edge Technologies
As we approach the turn of the century and warm-edge technologies continue to grow in popularity, increased speculation is focused on the next generation of warm-edge technologies. There is a general feeling in the industry that we are on the brink of a third wave of warm-edge innovations, which will set a new level of thermal performance and condensation-resistance.
With so much research and development taking place across so many disciplines, it is impossible to predict exactly what the next generation of warm-edge technologies will be. Considering the previous developments in this area, however, some facts can be predicted with certainty, that is, next-generation warm-edge designs will have to bring about continued differentiation, which window fabricators can use to improve their marketing position.
Spacer designs must also consider the concerns of the window fabricator who is desirous of manufacturing processes that reduce overall costs. To be seen as truly revolutionary, new spacer innovations will have to improve upon the performance gains made by the most recent generation of designs, which are widely recognized as the current industry standard in terms of energy efficiency, clean sight lines and reduced condensation levels.
While this might seem like a tough set of standards to fulfill, these represent the next logical developments in the perfection of warm-edge technologya quest that began nearly a decade ago. The window industry is on the brink of a leap forward in warm-edge technology, and it is certain to benefit both window fabricators and consumers.
There is no disputing the increasing role of warm-edge technologies in improving energy-efficiency levels, however, it is important to remember that spacers are only one component of the total window unit. Without the inert gas fillings and low-E coatings that preceded warm-edge innovations, even the "perfect" spacer design cant achieve the highest levels of energy efficiency for builders and homeowners. As warm-edge technologies continue to be refined and perfected, we cant lose sight of the other critical elements that contribute to true energy and cost efficiency.
Clark Halladay is the sales and new business development manager for TruSeal Technologies Inc., based in Beachwood, OH.
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