Fade Protection and a Competitive Edge

Glass coatings blocking UV rays offer new way to differentiate window lines
Michael Mooney, Guardian Industries Corp.
April 1, 2007
FEATURE ARTICLE | Materials & Components

Homes are developing their own personalities. From exotic hardwood floors to intensely-colored walls and luxurious fabrics and furnishings, today’s dwelling is a reflection of its owner’s style and taste. As such, a home’s interior has taken on greater significance. More than shelter, a house serves as family center, entertainment destination and cozy, creative cocoon. A cocoon, it should be noted, both larger and letting in more natural light than its modest predecessors just 10 years ago.

With so much time, money and personal investment in homeownership, it’s only natural that homeowners now wish to protect their furnishings from the sun streaming in through their bigger and more numerous windows and doors. No doubt, many of them believe they’ve got it covered via the low-E coating in their IG units. However, the gold standard in residential windows just a few years ago, low-E has been eclipsed by new glass coatings providing nearly complete UV protection.

When compared to the costs of replacing heirloom rugs, cherished antiques and fine wood furniture damaged from fading, the additional cost for a UV coating becomes surprisingly affordable. Our research has found that consumers are willing to spend up to $50 per window to get complete UV protection.
Concerns about the effects of UV on interiors have grown as homeowners demand windows and doors with more glass to allow natural light inside.

“UV windows are the wave of the future,” says Bob Dillon, owner of Unique Windows in Indianapolis, which offers its customers a UV-blocking glass on its products. “I believe in the technology and believe with increased consumer awareness UV coatings will catch on, just as low-E coatings have.”

Now, window manufacturers and dealers can give their customers the best option available: a UV-blocking, fade protecting coating used in tandem with low-E in an IG unit. In a challenging market, adding UV protection to their product lineup provides differentiation among competitors. Considering homeowners typically talk to as many as five window suppliers before buying, a competitive edge could seal the deal.

A Guardian Industries survey demonstrates there is consumer demand for UV protection. Some 66 percent of surveyed homeowners reported experiencing fading of their furnishings, and every consumer with whom we spoke believed the sun could cause fading in their home.

“When we put the facts on the table, our prospect usually becomes our customer. And, we’re the only supplier in the area offering full UV protection in a coated window,” says Ed Colwell of HartWell Exteriors in Boston.

A look at the aftermarket window film business makes the case for a UV-blocking coating. Primarily built on solving the problem of too much UV transmission into homes, where fading is occurring, companies are retrofitting thousands of low-E coated windows with sun blocking film. Imagine converting those film sales into custom home builds and replacement windows carrying the UV-resistant glass option.

And don’t forget word of mouth; it’s key to referrals. Using the now outdated low-E standard to provide UV protection, your customers may need window film in just a year or two to save their prized interiors. That last thing any dealer wants is his customer sharing with a neighbor the disappointment of relatively new windows not performing as expected. But sell that same customer your better line of windows, complete with a UV-blocking coating, and you may have a spokesperson for life.

A dealer’s first step should be to raise awareness about the potential damage of high-energy UV light. Surprisingly, even though survey respondents experienced fading, or knew someone who did, they did not associate the fading with sunlight blazing through their windows and doors. Many of those who did make the association were not aware of protective options other than drapes, blinds or film.
Evidence of fading within the home often makes selling UV-resistant glass in windows fairly easy.

“Testing data and information are key to making the sale. Customers know about low-E, now we have to show them that there is something that performs even better,” Dillon explains.

Until recently, window technology has not adequately addressed the cumulative and irreversible effects of UV light to a home’s interior. Historically, low-E coating blocks between 75 and 85 percent of harmful UV energy, the remaining light reaching wood floors, fabrics and windowsills can cause considerable fade and rot damage. Simply put, low-E by itself doesn’t solve the fading problem.

A simple demonstration of how UV rays penetrate both clear and low-E IG units—we use a black light and a damaging UV message printed in UV sensitive ink—clearly shows the benefit of the UV protective coating. To take advantage of consumer awareness of sunscreen SPF ratings and their correlation to exposure to the sun, we recommend using FPF, or fade protection factor, to help simplify your conversation about UV coatings, solar exposure and fading.

Borrowed from a textile industry test that determines light fastness for fabrics, FPF scores exist for a variety of window glass configurations. The higher the score, the better the fade protection. A double-pane clear window unit has an FPF of 2. A typical low-E/clear window only scores an FPF of 7. Triple silver low-E/clear windows earn an FPF 23. Most impressive, however, are the coated glass products developed specifically to address UV. Guardian’s ClimaGuard SPF/low-E windows, for example, earn a 50+ FPF.
Fade Protection Factor - graphic
Still think low-E’s ability to block 85 percent of the sun’s rays is enough? It’s a fact that the most damaging solar energy, UVA, is in that last percent blocked only by a UV-specific coating.

The best solution, then, is a UV-blocking coating now available from glass manufacturers. Unlike aftermarket film, UV-blocking coatings add no visible darkening and are neutral in color. Compared to laminated glass for sun protection, UV-resistant coatings are more cost efficient. And in light of replacement costs for interior finishes and furnishings, a 10 to 15 percent premium for UV coating becomes quite attractive.

And if you are worried about adding another option to an already complex sales process, we recommend making complete UV protection standard in your “better” or “best” line of windows. You are the expert and consumers, without feeling sold, are looking to you to provide the product that best meets their needs. Finally, tell your prospective customers that UV protection is not a regional issue. The U.S. Weather Service indicates that the entire continental United States and Hawaii (surprise) experience seasonally strong UV light.

With competition sure to heat up among suppliers to custom home builders and consumers of replacement windows, UV-blocking coatings provide a variety of advantages to the smart dealer, including:

  • a solution to a widespread consumer problem - fading
  • differentiation among the three or four window dealers quoting the project
  • fade insurance for a buyer’s cherished belongings
  • generating positive word of mouth—advertising that simply can’t be bought
  • ability to capture a value-added sale currently going to aftermarket window film.

“One of two things happens when I walk into a customer’s home,” Colwell concludes. “Either I find fading or dry rot, or they show me damaged furniture and flooring. That’s my conversation starter about UVA and the solution Hartwell Exteriors provides.”

Should UV coatings become a key element in your product line? Based on research, consumer surveys and the proven dangers of solar energy exposure, the answer is clear. With UV protection among your glazing options, your business and customers have just stepped into the future.

Michael Mooney is the senior marketing segment director for Guardian Industries’ residential glass business. Based in Auburn Hills, MI, the company is a diversified global manufacturer of float glass, fabricated glass products, fiberglass insulation and building materials for the commercial, residential and automotive industries. Guardian’s UV-blocking glass, ClimaGuard SPF, earned Window & Door’s Crystal Achievement Award in 2006. For more information, visit www.guardian.com and www.climaguardspf.com.