Volume 10, Issue 5 - September/October 2006

Filling the Void
Industry Works Together to Handle and Prevent Warranty Claims
by Penny Stacey

According to Dictionary.com, a warranty is defined as: “A guarantee given to the purchaser by a company stating that a product is reliable and free from known defects and that the seller will, without charge, repair or replace defective parts within a given time limit and under certain conditions.”

But what are those conditions? In the case of a window’s warranty, what conditions might void that warranty?

According to a recent 2006 study commissioned by Window Film’s sister publication, Door & Window Manufacturer magazine and conducted by Fry Consultants of Atlanta, 70.6 percent of window manufacturers interviewed believe that the “use of window film” voids a window’s warranty.

Other answers provided were change in home ownership (47.1 percent), failure to water test (5.9 percent) and “other” (35.3)— the use of window film was the top answer.

How does this affect you? Here’s what a number of window film manufacturers, installers and window manufacturers have to say about this alarming statistic.

The Inside Scoop
According to window manufacturer Wayne Gorell, chairman of Gorell Enterprises in Indiana, Pa., the application of window film voids the warranty of its windows, all of which are insulating glass units (IGUs), no matter when the film is applied in the life of the window.

“We have no testing that we can rely on from any of the film makers that shows what it does to the insulating glass unit as far as failure acceleration,” Gorell said. “Without knowing what it does, we have to protect ourselves.”

Kolbe & Kolbe of Wausau, Wis., holds the same stance.

“Our warranty states that the use of aftermarket window films will void the insulated glass warranty,” said Jeff De Lonay, vice president of manufacturing for Kolbe & Kolbe.

Gorell noted that while he wasn’t familiar with the exact wording of his company’s warranty, he believes that it points to window film specifically as an issue that could void the window’s warranty, rather than having window film fall under a general stipulation about changing the window’s structure.

Kolbe & Kolbe, which manufacturers both insulating glass units and a variety of other windows, noted that while the void mainly applies to IGUs, the use of window film on laminated glass is discouraged as well.

“This applies mainly to insulating glass units; however, the use of applied films to laminated glass is also cautioned because it causes distortion of the laminate,” De Lonay said.

When asked how window installers address this, Gorell said the warranty is provided to the customer before he/she completes his purchase.

“I hope [customers] review the warranty before purchasing the window,” Gorell said.

De Lonay said the company’s warranties are supplied through its distribution network, and that the fact that the use of window film voids a window’s warranty is clearly stated in its glass warranty.

Gorell also added that he has never encountered a warranty claim made when window film was involved.

“I review all of the e-mails our company receives and I don’t recall ever having a request regarding window film being made,” he said.

From the Factory
While Gorell noted that he had not yet received a warranty claim in which window film was involved, most window film manufacturers interviewed for this story were all too familiar with this age-old problem.

When David Read, sales development manager for Johnson Window Films in Carson, Calif., was asked if he was aware of this problem, he answered quickly and certainly, “Absolutely.”

Harry Rahman, director of business development for Houston-based Hüper Optik USA, echoed Read.

“I’m surprised that only 70 percent [of the window manufacturers surveyed] said that. I would have thought 90 percent would have said that,” Rahman said.

Andy Schuster, branch manager for Global Window Films of Florida, did point out that this is not just a problem for the window film industry—but anyone that applies an aftermarket product to a warrantied window.

“Many of the window manufacturers void the warranty if anything is applied to [the window],” Schuster said.

Rahman concurred.

“One of the easiest ways for any manufacturers to get out of a warranty is to say, ‘You change this in any way whatsoever and we’ll void the warranty,’” he said.

However, Read noted that most industries are not held to such standards and conditions when applying aftermarket products.
“It would be like Ford saying ‘We’ll warranty the paint on a vehicle for 20 years, but if you go and put graphics on it, we won’t warranty it,” he said.

Lisa Boaz, national accounts representative for Martinsville, Va.-based CPFilms Inc., noted similarly that this stipulation also doesn’t apply to just window film.

“If you read the text of most of these warranties, the way they read, if you put anything on those windows, like a decal or Christmas decoration, those things would also void the glass’s warranty,” she said.

According to most manufacturers, the voided warranty problem with window film most often comes into play when film is applied to a dual-pane IGU and the way the film interacts with the sun in this situation.

“[When window film is applied,] there is an increase in absorption and an increase in the way the windows expand and contract because of the absorption,” Read said.

De Lonay agreed.

“The main reason that applied films will void our warranty is due to the potential heat build-up that the film produces. The additional heat build-up may cause adverse effects on the seal of the insulated glass unit,” he said.

Boaz pointed out that this is likely a way for the window manufacturers to deflect seal failure claims.

“Pretty much they do this to cover themselves. Film doesn’t cause seal failure breaks,” Boaz said. Temperature, however, does. Rahman pointed out that in areas of high altitude, there are likely more warranty claims of glass breakage, even when these are not related to the film applied.

“Glass itself would experience problems because of the temperature variances [in these areas],” Rahman said.

What’s a Company to Do?
All of the manufacturers interviewed for this article agreed on one thing: this is a problem that occurs every single day. 

However, even though it happens daily, the percentage of claims is still small, according to Donna Wells, Western regional sales manager with Madico.

“Nationally, I don’t know what the percentage is, but I believe window film manufacturers in general have less than 3 percent,” she said.

Rahman said Hüper Optik’s claims are even lower.

“On a percentage basis, our warranty claims are close to half of one percent, and I’m looking at the last 6 years’ history,” he said.

Boaz noted the same figure.

“We probably do get claims in every month from our various dealers and distributors, but it’s maybe one percent of the film that’s been installed out there, and some of these claims could be from film that was installed two or three years ago,” she said.

Most film manufacturers also agreed that there is only one way to handle the problem: to take over the window’s warranty once window film is applied.

“We pay it,” Read said.

So does Hüper Optik.

“All of the window film manufacturers have warranties that will take over the window manufacturer’s warranty,” Rahman said.
Wells echoed Read and Rahman’s sentiments.

“If it was a film that was made for dual-pane glass, and if it’s under the warranty and they did fill out all of the paperwork correctly, Madico will cover that piece of glass up to whatever the maximum dollar value is for that window,” she said.

None of those interviewed for this article would reveal how much is spent annually in paying warranty claims such as these.

Solving the Problem Before It Starts
While it may not affect a window manufacturer’s decision to what voids a window’s warranty, most agree the best way to avoid such warranty claims is to only apply window films that are designed for IGUs on these windows.

“My understanding is that window films do not cause the glass to crack or break as long as they’re dual-pane-safe window films,” Wells said. “What that means is, that if you put an automotive 5-percent [film] on a dual-pane window, will that cause it to break? Most likely, yes, but there are window films in the market that are dual-pane window films and do not cause the glass to break, and the majority of these are warrantied against glass breakage.”

“We have what I call our basic residential and commercial films—we have some of those that are dual-pane safe—and, yes, we do have some safety and security films that are dual-pane safe as well,” she said.

Boaz advised that CPFilms’ film warranties vary—and that certain products have actual seal failure warranties that range from 2 to 3 years.

“Basically, if the consumer has a glass manufacturer’s warranty that is enforced, we’ll cover it up to a certain dollar amount,” Boaz said.

Likewise, the company provides their complete warranty information to distributors—who in turn provide this to dealers.

“When dealers are out there making the sale, this is what they should be telling people, ‘This is what our warranty coverage is,’” Boaz said.

Rahman noted that Hüper Optik has a film-to-glass application chart that all installers are expected to follow.

“The adherence of the film-to-glass application chart is one of the most important things,” he said. “It tells you what the right fit is. We do not warranty the glass if dealers do not stick to the film-to-glass application chart.”

Johnson handles this a bit differently.

“We have something called a ‘warranty application’ for glass breakage and seal failure,” Read said.

All Johnson dealers have to submit the warranty application for approval—and if approved, the Johnson warranty on the product is extended to them and the window film that they install.

“Educating the dealer is a big part of the game for all manufacturers,” Read noted.

How Dealers Fight the Problem
Thanks to the information and coverage with which his manufacturers have supplied him, Irvin Blankenbaker of Reflecto Shield in Tucson, Ariz., doesn’t see the warranty issue as a problem.

“If you use the proper film, you’re not going to have a problem with this,” he said. “I might have a three to four windows a year here in Tucson that I might have a problem with. If you check with the glass manufacturers, I bet they have a problem with more than three or four windows a year.”

Charlie Arakelian, president of Northeast Tint Co. in Springfield, Mass., also focuses on installing the proper film to avoid warranty issues.

“I look at the heat absorption ratio of what the glass will [have to with]stand and I always, always put on the correct film so I don’t have any problems or issues,” he said.

Using this method, Arakelian said that, to date, he has not encountered a warranty claim in his 14 years in the industry.

Arakelian stressed, though, that it’s very important for installers to educate themselves to maintain such a track record.

“It is imperative that a window tinter knows what films they’re putting on glass,” he said. “The reason we have such a bad name is because window tinters have no idea what a heat absorption rate is and they put on the wrong films that absorb too much heat and they shatter the glass.”

As for advising homeowners of this issue, Blankenbaker says normally the contractor who installs the windows originally has advised the customer that window film will void the windows’ warranty. When Blankenbaker is trying to make a sale, he stresses this–but adds that the film manufacturer will take over the window’s warranty.

“My biggest problem is a lot of times the homeowner doesn’t have a copy of the warranty,” he added.

Arakelian takes a different approach.

“It’s one out of more than 400 who actually ask about [the warranty issue],” he said. “I don’t bring it up unless it’s brought up.”

When the question does arise, Arakelian handles it by re-assuring the customer of what he’s confident in himself: that he’s applying the proper film to minimize any issues that could arise.

“You explain to them that you understand glass and how it’s manufactured and that you’re putting the correct film on,” he said.

Blankenbaker added that most film manufacturers with whom he’s worked do have a $500 limit on what they’ll pay for under a warranty—but to protect from such problems, if a window is likely going to cost more than this to replace, the dealer must get approval before installing film on the window.

“When you’ve got a huge piece of glass, there’s that much more surface that can create a problem,” he said.

Arakelian’s distributor has the same policy, but he noted that not all installers necessarily follow this course of action.

“It’s mandatory that, with any installation over 2,500 square feet, you submit a film-to-glass chart, and then they will cover you and the glass, but you’re only covered if you submit the paperwork,” he said. “They say it’s mandatory, but it’s up to you as the business owner or office manager to complete the paperwork if you feel it’s necessary.”

The Martinsville, Va.-based International Window Film Association also recommends that installers check with their manufacturers before installing window film that could be problematic, according to a publication on the association’s website, www.iwfa.com, “Guide to Avoiding Glass Failure.”

“The window film manufacturer should be considered the final authority on whether or not to install window film and the proper type of window film to be installed,” the publication states.

The section is set up to assist window film dealers in approaching jobs with the necessary information to avoid glass breakage and even speaks specifically to insulating glass seal failures.

Looking to the Future
While most of those in the film industry that were interviewed for this article agreed the warranty concern is a common issue, most also agreed that it is a problem that’s been around for years and is here to stay—but not something that is likely to hurt their businesses in the future.

“[This problem] started 10 to 12 years ago,” Read said. “It’s not new—it doesn’t affect the future of the industry at all.”

Rahman agreed.

“If we were having major problems with this, we would have gone under, or some of the other manufacturers would have gone under,” he said.

Boaz noted that the concern may have always existed—but the public is more informed regarding glass and window film than it has been in the past.

“More consumers are aware of it I think [than in the past], and that’s where the difference is,” she said.

Wells noted that as product lines extend and awareness increases, she actually expects the frequency of this occurrence to decrease.

“I’ve seen it improve through the years because back in the early 1990s, when this first became an issue, the window films that were being manufactured at that time were not deemed dual-pane-safe,” she said, “There really were not films that were made specifically for dual-panes. But as time has passed, window film manufacturers have seen the need and filled that void.” 

WINDOW FILM
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