Innovation in energy efficiency

Andy Everett, national account manager at Swisspacer, says real innovation lies in making energy efficiency affordable for more homeowners.

We have seen many leading innovations in our industry over the years, particularly for energy efficient products. Will this continue? We believe it will because homeowners will continue to demand high performing windows, simply because they want to reduce the amount of money they spend on heating.

A September 2017 Which? survey revealed that 56% of people want the government to address rocketing energy prices above any other issue facing the UK today.

The cost of heating their home is clearly front-of-mind for the average consumer.

The window industry has been responding to this need for the past 40 years, and advances in design have already resulted in A+ and A++ rated windows.

Manufacturers have been so successful at improving energy efficiency that homeowners replacing their windows simply expect their new double glazing to come with a minimum ‘A’ rating.

This customer expectation is one of the drivers of innovation; homeowners do not want to know how the different components of a window work together to make it more efficient. They just want to know how much money they need to invest to achieve a level of efficiency they are happy with.

Warm edge spacer bars are a case in point: most homeowners don’t even know they exist as a component of their windows. But manufacturers and installers know the difference they make to the energy performance of windows.

Aluminium spacer bars that transmit heat and allow the edges of windows to leak warmth (and money) were seen as unavoidable 20 years ago. But the development of the warm edge spacer bar changed all that and enabled installers to offer more energy efficient windows – benefitting the homeowner and the installer.

And innovations have continued: the introduction of special glass and the use of exotic gases in sealed units have made A++ rated windows available to homeowners willing to pay a premium. Triple glazing has the potential to lower U-values even further.

So, where do we go from here? I believe the focus of innovation should be on making the highest performing windows available to the mass market. Sealed units made with treated glass and filled with argon, xenon, or krypton are expensive. A much more affordable option is triple glazing, which can achieve u-values as low as 0.8W/m² and is already popular in Europe (80% of window sales in Nordic countries are now triple glazing, 60% in Germany and 20% in Ireland). But UK installers are wary because the extra glass (and therefore extra hardware) required can make units heavy and difficult to fit.

This is where innovation comes into play once again. The Swisspacer Triple is a high performance single bar that removes the need for two traditional warm edge spacer bars. Triple’s centre groove holds the middle pane of glass firmly, allowing sealed unit makers to use slimmer, lighter 2mm or 3mm middle panes. Significantly reducing the unit’s overall weight, it results in a more durable sealed unit that is easier to install.

Only two applications of butyl primary sealant are required instead of four, which reduces the risk of sealed unit failure from gas leakage or moisture penetration by 50%. Aesthetically it’s more pleasing too, as there’s no sign of a butyl ‘wave’ across the centre pane and the bar is naturally 100% parallel.
Innovations in small components such as the spacer bar make triple glazing simpler to install, look better, and perform better for longer. In turn, this makes it easier for installers to sell to homeowners who want the benefits of heat retention, noise reduction and lower energy bills. And that’s good for the environment, good for customers, and good for business.