Batten the Hatches…and Your Wallet

Rich Walker
September 8, 2011
COLUMN : Industry Watch | Operations, Sales & Marketing

Long-range forecaster James Madden of Exacta Weather, a non-profit worldwide team of meteorologists, states that there is “a potentially record breaking U.S. winter for 2011-2012, with extremely cold temperatures and exceptional levels of snow."

So, given that wallets and maxed-out credit cards have already been taking severe hits at the gas pump and grocery store, it would be wise to make sure those windows–the traditional thermal weak spot in an insulated wall–are maxed out in terms of performance. That will not only help keep a lid on heating bills, but it will help preserve homeowners’ investments for a longer service life and perhaps, by staying in good shape and exhibiting operating cost savings, even help support their depreciating equities.

However, this means paying some attention to maintenance. Dealers, installers and manufacturers can establish some positive customer relations by passing such things along now, while winter is still preparing for its annual trip back across the Equator.

Proper Maintenance
A major wintertime consideration is to minimize air leakage. Homeowners and commercial maintenance personnel should check weatherstripping, hardware and caulking. Missing, broken, cracked, brittle or discolored caulking or weatherstripping should be replaced. Locking hardware should seal the sash tightly against the weatherstripping.

Controlling water penetration is another important consideration. Water drainage pathways–weepholes and sill dams–must be kept clear of dirt, sand, stucco, paint, sealants, roofing cement or any other debris. A small, soft bottlebrush, dry paint brush or vacuum brush attachment should be used to clear openings. Water leakage can occur at the mainframe corners if not properly maintained; and if a crack appears, it should be sealed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

For general upkeep, the frame surfaces should be carefully cleaned as directed by the manufacturer. For example, if the building is located in an area exposed to saltwater or acid rain, windows should be hosed off several times a year to help protect them from these harsh elements.

Moving hardware parts, tracks and rollers should be lubricated periodically per the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. In salt-air environments this may need to be done more frequently. Yet again, the manufacturer’s warranty should be consulted for specific details.

Insulating, low-E or heat reflective glass also requires proper maintenance to ensure peak energy efficiency over the life of the product. Homeowners or maintenance workers should be advised never to use a razor blade, putty knife, steel wool, abrasive pad or anything that may scratch the glass surface or mar the framing. Also, a pressure washer or high-pressure sprayer should never be used to wash or rinse windows, doors or skylights, as this can dislodge seals and gaskets and damage frame components. If glass is cracked or broken, or if there is fogging between insulating glass panes, the local supplier should be contacted for replacement.

Despite cutting edge design, top-quality fabrication, eagle-eyed certification, by-the-book professional installation and high marks from a green rating system, time takes its toll. The end user cannot expect the product to deliver like-new performance over multiple decades. As with all products, performance levels decrease over time due to normal wear and tear. The elements cause deterioration, buildings settle and repeated operation causes wear. To help ensure that windows, doors and skylights smoothly and easily open, close, lock and unlock for years to come, end users should refer to the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website.

Another resource, is AAMA’s consumer brochure entitled Caring for Your Windows, Doors and Skylights, which educates homeowners on the necessity and methods for frame cleaning, operational hardware cleaning and lubrication and glass care, as well as the realities of color change and weatherstripping deterioration over time. Copies can be obtained from AAMA’s website.

Everyone should know: battening the hatches by maintaining windows, doors and skylights can in some measure help smooth a wild ride–be it due to the weather or the economy. Window and door manufacturers, dealers and installers, can leverage this educational challenge into an opportunity to interact positively with value-conscious customers. Reinforce the energy savings inherent in modern product designs and features, become accessible experts ready to lend advice, establish yourselves as resources for replacement parts when needed, and in general be there after the sale. That pays dividends in any weather.

 

 

Rich Walker is president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, 847/303-5664, rwalker@aamanet.org.