Volume 11, Issue 7 - September 2010

Guest Column

Gas Fill Continues to be a Pain Point for Manufacturers

by David Hill

As a technical service representative I visit more than 60 window manufacturers annually and am intimately involved with all things production, from quality appraisals and line layout recommendations to problem resolution and training. Over the past year a common theme has been top of mind for manufacturers–preparing for insulating glass (IG) testing and certification.

Certification can be costly, so getting it right the first time is imperative–not just because certification is mandatory to use the Energy Star® label, but also because of the time and money investment that goes into it. A big part of my job has become ensuring that my customers are prepared adequately. All things must be considered, including gas fill.

Gas-Fill Certification
They say that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. Well, this is not the case with ensuring proper gas-fill levels. Under the new National Research Canada and National Fenestration Rating Council rules, gas-filled units are required to undergo testing.

Of the required sample set for IG certification testing, a predetermined number of samples are randomly selected and tested for initial gas-fill. These samples must achieve an average 90 percent initial fill to pass. Then, a subset of these units is tested for durability and must achieve an average of 80 percent or greater final gas retention to pass.

If, at any stage of the testing, the units fail to meet the standard requirements, testing may be discontinued at that point. For initial gas-fill failures, manufacturers may elect to continue with conventional testing; however, to obtain gas certification, new samples must be submitted for full testing.

The Guessing Game
Testing initial insulating gas-fill levels and retention traditionally has been a challenging task, requiring manufacturers to destroy the unit to get the data they need. Because testing was such a challenge, many manufacturers were forced to take a shot-in-the-dark approach when sending IG for certification testing. Units were sent with fingers crossed that they would achieve the fill levels needed to certify. Time and money were a major concern.

Today, the game has changed a bit with the introduction of devices which offer a non-invasive method for testing IG. Gone are the days of IG unit destruction. These portable devices measure spark parameters to determine gas-fill levels for both argon and krypton gases with freedom of movement and accuracy that virtually eliminate user error–offering total quality control.

Manufacturers no longer have to take a shot in the dark. We can test units on-site non-invasively, identify if fill levels are not up to par, and make the necessary adjustments to correct any issues.

The use of insulating gases, from the reasonably priced argon to the more expensive krypton, can be a vital component in improving the performance of IG. With the proper design, including optimal air spaces and components that reduce conduction, these gases can go a long way in helping manufacturers reach the numbers needed to meet today’s more stringent energy requirements.

David Hill serves as technical service representative for Edgetech I.G. He can be reached at david.hill@edgetechig.com. His opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.


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