Foggy Windows Can Be Repaired
by Carl Brahe, Certified Home Inspector
It’s common to find windows (IGUs or Insulated Glass Units) that are fogged but in otherwise good condition while inspecting homes and commercial buildings. These windows have lost their insulation value as well as having an obscured view. Replacement has been the only solution.
Replacing a single window can be expensive. If a match cannot be found for the existing windows, all are sometimes replaced at great expense. Seller’s repair expense, or buyer’s acceptance of defects, strains real estate deals and may kill them. Being able to repair the fogged window(s) may make everyone happier.
A new repair process developed in Canada cleans between the panes of glass that make up the IGU and installs a pressure relief valve. Solar action keeps the space between the panes dry.
Small holes are drilled in a top and bottom corners of the glass. The IGU is filled with three different solutions to clean, rinse and dry the glass surfaces. The liquids are withdrawn. One hole is sealed and the other fitted with a one-way micro filter that allows moisture and pressure to continue to escape.
IGUs are made of two panes of glass separated by a spacer and sealed around the edges. A desiccant is usually included to absorb moisture. Most IGUs are made at sea level. Air expands as altitude increases. Some IGUs arrive in Colorado with high pressure between the panes. This pressure alone may burst the seal between the panes. Some units have capillary valves to avoid this.
Moisture can enter when the seal between the panes leaks. Vapor clouds the window and insulation value is lost. Installing a valve to exhaust the vapor clears the IGU. John Hennessy, CEO of Crystal Clear Window Works, www.ccwwi.com, the company in Canada that licenses the technology claims that R-value is increased or restored.
Argon is not replaced in IGUs that originally contained the insulating gas. Units using air as an insulating gas are returned to new r-value. Argon filled units will have increased r-value, but not to original specs.
Margaret Webb, executive director of Insulated Glass Manufacturers Alliance of North America, says, “It’s an interesting process.” She does have concerns. The cause of the original failure is not determined, nor repaired.
Hennessy’s response is that all windows are guaranteed for 20 years. If a window fails and cannot be restored a full refund will be made. This guarantee is also offered by the Colorado company that uses the process in the Denver metro area. Their contact info is below.
After reviewing lab testing for the process, Dale Kerr, the engineer who wrote the Canadian Standards Associations specifications for energy performance for windows said, “The raw theory sounds like it has potential” She also has concerns that testing was not done over a long enough period of time and not done by a recognized window testing lab.
Hennessy claims that over 7000 windows, in both homes and high rises, have been successfully repaired in the Toronto area. He also claims that of the 57,000 windows that have been repaired with the process, only a small number have failed.
Some window manufacturers use this process for warranty work. It cost less. It saves homeowners the hassle of having windows removed and replaced. Tons of glass and related materials are kept from landfills.
Repair cost is calculated by the square foot. Repair is advertised as costing about half the price of replacement.
Copyright Carl Brahe - Inspection Perfection Inc. www.inspection-perfection.com 2004 all rights reserved.
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