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Improving glass characteristics

Films gain ground, but are threatened by pre-treated glass


April 16, 2010
By James Careless

Topics

Window film dealers are seeing continued sales growth in the areas of
solar protection, window treatments and security barriers, but some of
their potential market is being claimed by glass and window
manufacturers who are incorporating window film qualities into their
products.

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Window film dealers are seeing continued sales growth in the areas of solar protection, window treatments and security barriers, but some of their potential market is being claimed by glass and window manufacturers who are incorporating window film qualities into their products.

The solar protection (solar) market remains strong for window film sales, say the dealers who spoke with Glass Canada. This market, which extends to both the commercial and residential sectors, is attracted to window film to reduce incoming visible, infrared and UV light; the last of which causes fading in furniture fabrics.

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 AT A GLANCE
Film future

The benefits of films are numerous, but more are
possible, especially if the dream of films capable of generating power is realized. The ideal is affordable retrofittable window film that can “instantly control the amount of light, glare and heat coming through the windows, plus convert the absorbed solar radiation into
electricity,” says Sam Gabriel of SunScreen Window Products.

  
    

In Vancouver, where the window film vendor Tint Centre is headquartered, “we have a lot of condo customers,” says Tint Centre owner Kristyn Christiansen. “This is because a lot of condos being sold here have a lot of glass, which exposes their interiors to excessive heat and UV damage. Solar film remedies all of this while still allowing light to come in, and the residents to see outside and enjoy Vancouver’s skyline and mountains.”

The solar film being sold today is a significant improvement upon the original product, which was essentially dyed plastic. “The dye looked great at first, but would fade over time,” says Nathan Saikali, owner of AP Window Film in Ottawa. “As well, the early film would absorb a tremendous amount of heat, in some cases causing the windows to weaken and even break.”

Today’s solar film uses either metallic or ceramic particles layered within the plastic to reflect light, rather than absorb it. This results in far lower glass temperatures, plus colours and tint levels that remain stable over time. Metallic films look shiny from the outside, while ceramic films generally do not.

“Upper scale office building owners prefer having reflective window film with neutral effect looking outside,” notes Sam Gabriel, owner of SunScreen Window Products in Brampton, Ontario. “Other commercial buildings still require the standard reflective silver film. The residential market prefers neutral, the least noticeable film when you look outward as well as when you look at the house from outdoors.”

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It isn’t hard to find different window film products being used in a wide variety of applications. They have gained in popularity in both the residential markets (above), where they are frequently used for UV protection and shading, and in a number of different security applications, such as area denial or blast mitigation (below). 
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“I have experienced an engineering company that has windows that face west,” he adds. “During the spring and summer seasons the intense heat and glare became unbearable, so the engineers had to leave the office by 2 p.m. When I provided them with film that rejects 80 per cent of incoming heat and provides 80 per cent glare reduction, the engineers could keep working until 7 p.m. Window film allowed this company to gain five extra hours of productive time.”

Window film’s flexibility and ease of handling are making it a popular option for businesses needing window treatments. “In many ways, window film is replacing blinds as the window covering of choice for offices,” says Nathan Saikali. “There are a few good reasons for this. First, window films are easier to install than blinds, don’t restrict outdoor views and don’t gather dust the way blinds do. Second, companies that use frosted glass to provide privacy on interior glass walls find film an easy way to create that look.”

Window films are also easy to customize graphically. Ease of application and removal allow companies to use frosted window film for corporate logos, knowing that they can be easily removed when the lease is up. In contrast, acid-etched frosted glass is anything but user-friendly: Once the glass has been chemically frosted, it stays that way.

“Business customers like what window films have to offer,” Saikali says. “Film is just the best option for many of their window needs, both on exterior walls and internally.”

Not surprisingly, many commercial customers are now buying security film to cut down on successful smash and grab burglaries. When combined with glass break detector-enabled alarm systems and motion-detection lighting, these systems can help keep thieves from finishing their heists. The combination of frustrated initial entry, sirens and bright lights convince all but the most determined to leave the scene before they are caught.
Window films also offer another benefit to commercial clients: They can act as anti-graffiti protection. “Without a protective film, vandals can damage the glass using diamond cutters or acid etching,” says Christiansen. “When an anti-graffiti window film is in place, the most that happens is that the film gets damaged. You just remove and replace it; that’s a lot less expensive than installing new windows.”

Ottawa’s AP Window Film is selling most of its security film to government clients concerned about terrorist attacks. “They are most worried about bomb blasts and the danger of flying glass shrapnel in their offices,” says Saikali. “Security film can help keep the glass fragments in place, reducing or even eliminating human casualties.”

Peter Yates of Window Film Systems points out that not only have window films become more technologically advanced, those advancements have been acknowledged with certification.

“In the fenestration business, a lot of the advantages of window films were never really recognized,” says Yates. “We now have a lot of products that are not only recognized, but fully tested and certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council. These aren’t products that are simply developed and then thrown onto the marketplace. They come with standards and certifications that are industry recognized.

On the downside, some of the window film sector’s traditional markets are being eyed by the competition. “More and more glass and window manufacturers are making energy-efficient windows that reduce or eliminate the need for window films,” Gabriel says. “We see that happening in newly constructed buildings and replacement of windows for old buildings.”

Many consumers simply don’t know what window films can offer. As a result, “when most people or companies move in their new premises, they tend to buy hard window treatments or coverings,” he says. “And even though window films have been in existence for almost 40 years, we still meet clients who think the glass is manufactured with tinted and/or reflective qualities.”

Despite these issues, the current market offers real opportunities for window film manufacturers and vendors. As the state of the art continues to advance, more opportunities are likely, especially if solar power-generating window film can be brought to market!


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