Volume 8, Issue 5 - May 2007

NFRC to Mandate 
Insulating Glass Certification

Task Group Encourages IG 
Manufacturers to Plan Ahead
by Tracy Rogers

The thermal performance of insulating glass (IG) systems has long been recognized as critical to the overall thermal performance of a fenestration system. After all, the glazing area typically makes up the largest area of a window. The inclusion of low-E coatings, insulating gas and warm-edge spacers has impacted overall fenestration performance dramatically and has been a key factor in reducing energy loss through the building envelope. 

Why the Requirement?
Based on the recommendation of the Insulating Glass Industry Durability Advisory Group (IGIDAG), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) agreed with a proposal that was presented at the National Fenestration Rating Council’s (NFRC) 2006 Summer Meeting in Minneapolis, Minn., to require insulating glass certification as a prerequisite for Energy Star labeling. Because NFRC rating, certification and labeling is required of Energy Star- labeled fenestration products, this became a proposed mandatory requirement for NFRC certification.

In response, the NFRC board of directors formed the “IG Certification Task Group” and assigned the following:
1. Develop a recommendation on the feasibility of requiring IG certification as a prerequisite for NFRC certification;
2. Identify the pros and cons; and
3. Make a recommendation on an implementation plan.

As part of its assignment, the IG Certification Task Group surveyed all participant companies of the NFRC certification program to determine current breadth of IG certification within the industry and the impact of such a requirement. Of the approximately 400 participants surveyed, 150 responded and a summary is shown above.

Because a primary concern of the task group was the extent of the impact on the industry, the fact that more than 67 percent of the respondents were utilizing certified IG in one manner or another is encouraging. The overwhelming attitude of the negative comments is the potential for additional cost necessary to certify fenestration products under the NFRC.

Critical discussion was to determine the necessity of such a requirement. Support was given based on the utilization of NFRC ratings in the analysis of the building envelope thermal performance for energy efficiency. The failure of an IG unit can degrade thermal performance seriously due to loss of insulating gas and the deterioration of low-E coatings due to moisture intrusion. With the support of the DOE, the recommendation to mandate certification of IG units under the NFRC certification program was approved by the NFRC board of directors. This requirement is contingent upon the development by the task group of an acceptable implementation plan that addresses acceptance criteria for third-party certification programs and the implications of additional cost. It is not the intent of the NFRC to develop its own IG certification program. The task group is working to make this recommendation at the NFRC Summer Meeting in Denver, Colo.

What Does This Mean to IG Manufacturers?
Manufacturers currently participating in the NFRC certification program and who do not currently certify insulating glass should know preparation now is key. Following approval of the task group’s implementation plan, third-party certification of IG may be required in as little as 12-18 months. As there are a limited number of labs in North America that are accredited to perform this testing, extended lead-times and testing backlogs are a major concern as the final deadline draws nearer.

Additionally, some units–particularly those with only a single-seal construction–may have difficulty passing the test requirements and some reengineering may be required to continue participation in the NFRC and Energy Star programs. Manufacturers should give themselves plenty of time before the mandate goes into effect and anticipate additional costs to redesign or purchase new IG fabrication equipment necessary for them to be compliant.

Getting Started
The first step in having products certified is to contact one of four independent organizations certifying insulating glass: the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA), Insulating Glass Certification Council (IGCC), Associated Laboratories Inc. (ALI) and the National Accreditation and Management Institute (NAMI). Each organization will provide manufacturers with the proper procedures to get started.

According to the IGMA website (www.igmaonline.org), manufacturers first need to provide the following items to start the certification process:
1. Complete and sign paperwork (IGMA form FO11 Certification Program Application and F010 License Agreement); and 
2. Pay for appropriate certification fees.

Once the facility is ready to provide test samples, an IGMA field auditor will be sent to the site to witness production of the units and apply the appropriate labels. The labeled test samples are then sent directly to an IGMA-approved test facility, certified either by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) or the American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) or accredited for testing by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It can take up to two weeks for a field auditor to visit so be sure to add this into the overall timeline.

While each certification organization dictates its own requirements, typical construction for test unit submittal is: 
• 12 units, 14 x 20 inches;
• 3⁄16 or 1⁄4 inch glass; and 
• 1⁄4 to ½-inch spacer.

IG testing includes the following and can take six to eight weeks to complete:
• Part I – Durability Testing. This puts the IG through extreme low-and high-temperature weather cycling and UV exposure; and 
• Part II –Volatile Fog Test. This is used to show that the components in an IG unit will not out-gas a volatile fog, which could result in a chemical deposition on the interior glass surfaces.

After testing the prototypes, the completed audit form and test results will then be forwarded to the IGMA certification program administrator by the testing laboratory. A license agreement will then be forwarded to the certification council for acceptance and a subsequent notice of certification will be sent to the manufacturer.

Protocol similar to IGMA’s is followed by other certification organizations. The first step with IGMA is to fill out an application form, which is available online at www.igmaonline.org/certification/IGMA.

A Positive Step for the Industry
Ultimately, making third-party certification of IG mandatory for NFRC certification will elevate the credibility of Energy Star program on a global scale. The bottom line of putting this mandate into effect is to ensure that IG units manufactured in North America retain their energy efficiency from IG retention and low-E integrity for the life of the structure. This is instrumental in promoting energy conservation and overall compliance set forth by the Energy Policy Act. 

For more information, visit www.nfrc.org


NFRC IG Certification Task Group: 
February 2007 Certification Program Participant Survey — 
Analysis Summary

% of Total Response % of Category
Respondents sourcing certified IG either externally or internally 101 67.3%  
Respondents not certifying IG 49 32.7%  
Respondents sourcing 
IG external only
44 29.3%  
Certifying IG   34   22.7%     77.3%
Respondents sourcing IG internal only 71  47.3%  
Certifying IG 38 25.3%    53.5%

Survey Comments:

Comments Received  43  28.7%  

"Positive" Comments

8  5.3%    18.6%
"Negative" Comments 26    17.3%        60.5%
"Impartial/Non-Germane" Comments 9 6.0% 20.9%

Tracy Rogers is the technical director for Edgetech I.G. and co-chair of the NFRC IG Certification Task Group.


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