Volume 41, Issue 5 - May 2006


A Matter of Identity
Telling Which Glass is Whose Glass?
by Dez Farnady

"If the unit fails before its time, most people donít know it even if they do have some recourse. 
And unidentified units make for no recourse at all."

In an era when we hear about identity theft nearly every day, most of us feel the need to protect ourselves and generally choose to hide in unlabeled anonymity. This also seems to be the attitude of most of the manufacturers and fabricators in the glass business. There is no label or identification on any of the glass products on the market, so good luck if you are trying to match something. At first I thought that, while every other industry is fighting to have its product identified by brand name, the glass business has just given up. Now I know better. Nobody has given up, they are just hiding.

Brand Awareness
I remember when a glass door was called a Herculite door, a PPG brand name; an insulating unit was called Thermopane, the LOF brand name; and all reflective glass was either an LOF Varitran or a PPG Solarcool. Those days are now a thing of the past. Commercial products in quarter-inch are available in a wide range of blues, greens, grays and bronzes. Each manufacturer puts on its own little twist with a name for the products that rolls off the tongue like the name of some Polynesian rum cocktails.

But, itís funny that those names are only visible on advertising or in catalogs and not anywhere else, certainly not on the glass. Heaven help you if you mix them up. There are so many similar, but not matching, green products, for example, that itís enough to drive you cuckoo. Of the basic light green alone Guardian green, Ford green (now Visteon [ACH]), PPGís formerly known as Solex and LOF/Pilkingtonís blue-green have all been around forever. These old, established products have always been tough to identify, and now that there is a whole slew of new greener greens and reflective greens with both first and second surface coatings, without labeling, just try to tell them apart. 

Labeling Matters
I understand the practical realities of trying to label commercial cut size or tempered glass, since just the permanent label for tempered glass is enough of a pain. But the technology available for identifying the components of insulating glass during fabrication is more than up to the task. And there is certainly no excuse for window manufacturers who donít date and identify their units. Glass identification, fabrication date and manufacturer identification should be readable on every spacer. Some simple basic spacer labeling was automatic decades ago and now that, too, has gone. 

The recent need to replace about a dozen of the 30 insulating units in my house is what brought me back to this issue with a jolt. The replacement process required that we inspect each unit to confirm its age and state of moisture accumulation. Fortunately it was all clear glass so all I was looking for was age. The oldest unit was date-stamped 1977 and I know where that came from. Some of my other older units also have some sort of fabricatorís identity stamp or a date or a makerís label.

But now since the í77 units are finally all gone I am not sure what I have. I had a few replaced in 1990 that have the date and manufacturerís name and I have some 1996s but after that the trail has grown cold. The new ones I just put in are, of course, unmarked but I canít kick too much since the price was right. But thatís me. I donít know what happens to the retail customer. 

Who are You?
I guess now we are living in an age when a lot of fabricators do not feel the need to identify themselves or the date or their product. Obviously, there are advantages to this. If they donít know who you are they are not going to come looking for you. If the unit fails before its time, most people donít know it even if they do have some recourse. And unidentified units make for no recourse at all. There ought to be a law Ö all units should be identified with the type of glass, the identity of the fabricator, the date of fabrication, the classification the unit may have and terms of the warranty. 

Product identification is going to be even more critical with low-E products because they are so close that they are almost impossible to identify in the shop, but they do not match. We are not a glass house, yet even our facility currently uses two from Cardinal, one from AFG, one or two PPG Solarbans as well as some combinations with Pilkingtonís hard coat low-Es. This means that we use four different manufacturers with lots of similar products offering options for hundreds of combinations.

They are all close in performance and close in appearance, but not close enough once they are glazed side by side. In the field when the unit fails without some type of labeling, identification is impossible. Youíre only going to know that the one you picked is wrong when the glass is in the hole. 

Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer  in San Carlos, Calif.
His column appears monthly.

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