Insulating Issues: January/February 2010

Insulating glass certification: What’s the fuss?
Margaret Webb
January 31, 2010
By Margaret Webb
Why certify? Certification is a way to demonstrate product compliance with code requirements. This is done not only through testing, but through ongoing surveillance and compliance to certification requirements. 

Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. Department of Energy agree, and insulating glass (IG) certification will become a requirement for qualification for Energy Star windows. Manufacturers of windows must not only demonstrate their windows can perform to established energy levels, they also need to prove their products can withstand the test of time and climate. 

Certified and tested IG units are an assurance to end users, window and door manufacturers, building code officials, architects/specifiers and consumers that products have demonstrated quality and performance according to the latest, up-to-date standards. Certification goes well beyond lab testing.

Participation in a certification program demonstrates ongoing code compliance though regular inspections and daily quality control. If testing represents a snapshot in time of product performance, then regular inspections and daily quality adherence to the program’s quality control measures represents a video presentation.

The results of the IGMA 25-year field correlation study show that IG units certified to the most stringent level last in excess of 20 years, with a failure rate of 3.6 per cent documented at the 25-year mark. When an IG unit lasts 25 years, it’s no longer considered a failure. It’s simply the natural death of the unit.

Prior to this year, insulating glass certification was not a part of code compliance.  Since most Canadian fabricators participate voluntarily in the IGMA  Certification Program, backlogs at the testing facilities are not anticipated in Canada.  IG certification will be a requirement for both the U.S. and Canadian Energy Star programs.

Time is running short for those who want to qualify their products for Energy Star. On average, achieving certification for a single line takes four months, providing there are no delays in either inspection or testing. This also assumes no failures. For IG fabricators and window manufacturers who want to qualify their products for the U.S. Energy Star program, there is no margin for a failure, and shortly there will be insufficient time to certify, even with no failures.

All it takes to start the process is one phone call, completion of the program application form and a signature on the license agreement. Product components are identified by generic categories for connectors, spacers, desiccants (or desiccated matrix) and sealants. They are provisions for equivalencies and waivers when substituting one of the components for another in the same generic category, but check with the program administrator before changing such features as the low e coating, any of the tracked components, the method of gas filling or the production method.

The CGSB 12.8 tests the manufacturer’s ability to make a good, durable seal and the critical aspect of the seal is the edge seal pressure, which is achieved through the standard specifications. This allows for a consistent platform between product lines and manufacturers. The gas content component of the IGMAC Certification Program tests the manufacturer’s ability to consistently fill to a known percentage value and to maintain a certain percentage through the various stages of the durability testing. Therefore changes in the selected spacer width or depth are permissible within the existing product certification.

Insulating glass certification is one of the least expensive certifications. A product line is defined by its corner connectors, the spacer, the desiccant and the sealant system. Through equivalencies and waivers, generic changes are permitted and have no impact on the certification status of the product.

If you haven’t certified your insulating glass units or are not using certified IG units in your window products, don’t delay.  Give IGMA a call and we’ll walk you through the process. •

Margaret Webb is the executive director of the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Association (IGMA). She can be reached at mwebb@
igmanonline.org.

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