Think Outside the Glass

Vinyl extruders developing new profile technology for higher thermal performance
Stacey Freed
May 23, 2014
| Design & Performance

Vinyl extruders have been working hard to help customers meet Energy Star Version 6.0’s new requirements. Getting there, in some cases, has meant tweaking existing profiles to yield better thermal performance or creating new products altogether to provide the strength necessary to accommodate triple glazing. Yet window manufacturers—by way of consumer demand—are also asking for additional color options. So, how are extruders meeting the challenge?

Frame and sash design

 EnergyCore from Quanex Building Products is a patent-pending window system with AirCell fusion insulated technology that blocks thermal conductivity six times better than fiberglass, four times better than rigid PVC and three times better than wood, according to Quanex. 

The last frontier in achieving better energy efficiency is work on the frame and sash, says Dedo Suwanda, vice president of sales, marketing and new product development for Skyreach L&S Extrusions Corp. And because the frame is an integral part of the window’s thermal performance, there’s no end to the research and development in this arena.

In the past year, Skyreach introduced the R-Maxx window profile, which incorporates expanded foam technology on the interior for added thermal insulation. Although originally created for colder climates, R-Maxx is popular in warmer areas as well, where “people don’t want to lose the cold air,” Suwanda says.

Chelsea Building Products has designed several different window profiles that integrate a composite reinforcement utilizing its Ccore material technology. The thermally efficient reinforcement, designed to replace metal reinforcements, was developed using a proprietary, scientifically engineered PVC composite.

Quanex Building Products now offers the EnergyCore system that incorporates its patented AirCell technology: a special coextruded PVC foam-fill that provides a fully insulated core within the vinyl frame. With this specially engineered core and tri-extruded frame profile, the system improves U-factors by 15 percent over hollow vinyl window frames, the supplier reports.

“With other products on the market, you have to beef up the glass to get ultra-high performance. We’ve taken the cost out by putting energy efficiency into the frames themselves, so you can go with a standard glass unit,” explains Saul Schnurman, vice president for the Window and Door Systems Division at Quanex.

Deceuninck North America also turned to an optimized profile―rather than triple glazing― to meet higher thermal performance requirements with its new eos window system. “We achieve a .27 U-factor with just double-pane glass,” reports Filip Geeraert, president and CEO.

Triple glazing

 The new Energy Optimized System, eos, from Deceuninck North America is designed to meet the Energy Star V6 criteria, as well as its “Most Efficient Window” requirements.

Triple pane has become the standard in Europe, Geeraert says, but U.S. homeowners aren’t yet asking for it. “For the U.S. [market] it will be driven by regulations,” he says. “If [the U-factor requirement] remains at .27, which is Energy Star [in the Northern Zone], there will be no push for triple pane. If that gets pushed down and a minimum of .20 (most efficient) is needed, that will drive the demand.”

In anticipation of increasingly stringent Energy Star requirements, extruders are developing profiles capable of handling triple glazing. “We develop systems that meet current requirements, but we’re also looking ahead to Energy Star Version 7 and what’s coming down the road three to five years from now,” says Steve Dillon, marketing director at Veka.

The Holy Grail of R&D is to come up with a product that Dillon says is “feature-rich…without the cost.” Many manufacturers want to give dealers the ability to offer “good, better, best scenarios” and the profiles that can accommodate dual- or triple-glazing options are a good solution.

Veka will introduce Ecolutions, a “crossover” window system at GlassBuild America in Las Vegas this September. “It’s specifically designed to integrate all our best practices and know-how to develop a window that is capable of triple glazing, but if you dual glaze it, will still meet Energy Star requirements and have the customer be competitive in the market,” Dillon says. He uses the analogy of the car industry to describe the product: “It has the fuel economy benefits of the low-end car as well as high-end performance features.”

Like other manufacturers, Royal Building Products has seen higher interest in triple-glazed windows as another means of increasing energy efficiency, and has responded with wider frames and heavier vinyl profiles to support their additional weight. The company has also developed several products, including the new Ibrido hybrid, a profile made of rigid and cellular vinyl that can accommodate both triple- and dual-glazed windows.

The idea that triple glaze is the answer to higher thermal performance has been changing the production line at Quanex too, says Schnurman. Its EnergyCore line “has the capacity for 1 1/8-inch glazing capacity. You can get it with dual today and beef it up with triple tomorrow,” he says.

Custom color

 Royal Building Products’ Ibrido hybrid window profile―made of rigid and cellular vinyl―provides the look of painted wood and the durability of vinyl. The triple glass capability offers thermal performance beyond R5, according to Royal.

R&D is also focusing on color options― from co-extruded products to painted or laminated profiles. “The number one topic at fensterbau this year was color,” says Deceuninck’s Geeraert. “Thermal was a given. [European consumers] are looking more toward aesthetics, and it’s the same trend we’re seeing in the U.S.”

“Anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent of our profiles are being painted,” says John Vukanovich, Royal Building Products’ director of marketing. “Before it was predominantly white.” He adds that a lot of customers want to “make the exterior design of windows match the siding and roofing to increase curb appeal. And on the interior, there are more wood grain and colors to complement the interior décor of the home.”

Although color popularity varies by market, most manufacturers report darker colors are in vogue, particularly “dark bronze,” according to Quanex’s Schnurman.

Everyone is responding to the color trend: Quanex extrudes in color and also offers SuperCoat, a UV-cured coating that is applied in a secondary process. Royal Building Products supplies paint to its customers but also paints extrusions in-house through its RoyalBond Technical Coatings program. Veka offers a selection of colors through its Pinnacle Color Solutions line of laminates. And Deceuninck’s eos comes in three standard solid colors that are stocked. According to Geeraert, “we’re seeing homeowners wanting to customize the look of their windows.”

In Europe, Wider is Better

To accommodate larger insulating glass units, European profiles are becoming wider. While a 70-millimeter profile depth is fairly standard in the United States, European frame depths are 76 mm and wider, according to exhibitors at the recent 2014 fensterbau/frontale event. During the show, manufacturers introduced wide systems of 80 mm and 82 mm for windows, and 85 mm and 88 mm for doors. The wider profiles can also allow for additional chambers to improve thermal performance, and additional weather seals to prevent water intrusion.

Manufacturers are looking to bring European-style systems with wider profiles to North America. “We see positive growth in having larger profiles in the U.S.,” said Dillon, on the show floor.

Architectural shapes are trending for windows in Europe as well, and in response, manufacturers are developing bent vinyl profiles. During the show, Ventana displayed a 7-foot circular, operable window. Veka introduced its 82 line of window and door profiles. The systems feature an 82-millimeter frame depth, three weather seals and high thermal performance. Wider frame depths are more common in European window constructions, according to suppliers. Pictured is the new 80-mm Synego profile system from REHAU.



Freed is a contributing writer for Window & Door.