Volume 35, Number 5, May 2000




Schizophrenic Energy Games

can energy-efficient glass stand up to unrealistic expectations set by customers?

by Dez Farnady

Webster defines schizophrenic as “the presence of mutually contradictory or antagonistic parts or qualities.” Few industries are attached at the hip like the construction industry is attached to the automobile industry by the glass industry. The attachment of the glass business serves two masters with schizophrenic energy policies.

The automobile industry caters to a gas-guzzling, energy-wasting, big car market, with empty two-story SUVs and vans getting ten miles to the gallon. These vehicles are driven to the shopping mall by jogging-suit clad housewives, usually alone. These cars have lots of windows, even “energy-efficient glass,” and astronomical operating costs. All this time, the construction industry is trying to create a perfectly insulated glass home, with insulation values equivalent to an underground air raid shelter, and trying to reduce heating costs of sunbelt mansions, already little to nothing.

The energy ideas that now nearly overwhelm every phase of the construction industry would all make sense in a country that did not generate incredible energy wastes each day. One example is the custom home with double-glazed “wonderEcubed” insulating super-duper glass windows. Buying the most expensive windows only because they can afford it satisfies the energy conscience. In the meantime, in the driveway there are three gas-guzzlers, a trash bin piled high with bottles, packages and plastic waste, and the front yard is lit up like a Christmas tree.

I have no magic solutions, but I do remember not only the gas lines of the 1970s but also the shortages of earlier eras, best not mentioned (it would give away my age). I do think we are like spoiled children, abusing the abundance, and dealing with real issues, such as energy, in fad-like fashion. We get excited about ENERGY STAR® values while piddling away with our left hand twice what we save with the right.

In our extravagant pursuit for better glass, we take short cuts with sealants and become bored with worrying about perimeter frames. We have the capacity to create a better than necessary package at too high a price, but cannot sell the obvious. A simple insulating unit, with 1/8 gray and ½-inch air over 1/8 hard coat low-E, makes an effective and surprisingly attractive insulating unit. The performance is an improvement in a cheap aluminum re-glaze if there is room for the ¾-inch or even ½-inch unit. It is too obvious and simple of a solution for people looking for magic.

Needless to say, the wonderful performance of the 1/8-inch multi-colored glass products over low-E are even more difficult to sell. Apparently most homeowners, who don’t even know that the glass in their cars is green, are concerned with the “aesthetic effect of the color on the design scheme.”

My 93 year-old mother has her favorite chair by an 8-0 by 6-8 patio door so she can see her garden in the summer and her TV in the winter. The patio doors were re-glazed with a colored product over low-E, and the cold of winter does not bother her anymore than the heat of summer. And somehow the colored glass does not reflect a deathlike green pallor on her cheeks. In fact, she thinks it’s quite attractive.

Everyone wants results but they don’t want to pay for them. The simple option is color. But people want a colorless, invisible, performance glass that keeps the house warm in the winter and cold in the summer without multiple images. They want to see out at night and enjoy the view, but at the same time not have anyone see in at night. They want a lifetime warranty and windows that don’t have to be maintained or even cleaned, and so on and so on. And they get insulted when I suggest what they really want is magic, not glass.

wpe15.jpg (3343 bytes)   Dez Farnady is manager of architectural products for ACI Distribution in Santa Clara, CA. His column appears monthly.


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