Friday, July 18, 2008

Can window films stand up to wind-borne debris as often claimed?

If you think that retrofit window film installations will stand up to hurricane force winds and flying debris, think again. Misleading claims in product flyers or on websites may have confused you. It’s easy to jump to this conclusion due to false statements and the public’s experience with auto glass films – except for one important detail. Auto glass is tempered to contain glass in highway accidents, not hurricanes. Technically, the installation of home widow films doesn’t even come close to the ASME standards that are proscribed for replacement impact windows by Miami-Dade building codes. But, some recent hurricane protection promotions would lead you to think otherwise.

Among all the available options, including plywood, window film certainly has a price advantage and can provide good solar and UV protection. But what about frame strength, correct fastening within the opening and the attachment of the glass itself? Close inspection of windows installed in older homes frequently proves to be substandard. Ok, so some glass will stick to the film, but the entire installation will more than likely blow out of the wall when facing hurricane force winds.
Protect yourself from misleading promotions. If you want true hurricane protection, hold film installers to the same test standards that replacement impact window manufacturers and installers must meet.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorwindows.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Impact Glass Distortions: one of life’s better trade offs

Life as we know it often has trade offs or compromises. For example, you won’t find a vehicle that gets 30 miles per gallon that can pull your 3,000 lb. camper to a vacation campsite.

There is also some degree of compromise if you are in the market for impact windows to protect your home from hurricane force winds. You should know that these glass types do not always provide a crystal clear view, and are not totally free of imperfections or distortions. This is due to the fact that the heat strengthening, tempering and lamination of glass can result in some distortions or imperfections that can occur naturally during processing. For the most part these inherent problems are not aesthetically objectionable.

So, how you identify a "normal" or "expected" distorsion level versus a defective glass panel? Glass companies must adhere to precise ASTM quality standards that proscribe acceptable levels of imperfections or blemishes. Astor Windows distributes products that are highly regarded for quality of manufacture. No matter which glass type you select, we make sure that all products meet the most stringent quality standards in spite of the fact that they may have some aesthetic imperfections.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorwindows.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brace Yourself from the Winds of Change in Windstorm Insurance Rates

It should come as no surprise that the June 1 beginning of hurricane season has politicians, regulators and insurance providers alike making windy projections about windstorm insurance rates. Will homeowners be left spinning in the wind while rate hikes are debated?

Scientists continue to debate the impact of global warming on hurricanes. However, it appears that insurers have decided that costs will be higher. The industry is betting on more hurricanes, cutting coverage and increasing premiums in Florida. Homeowners have already taken a big hit since 2004, with increases ranging from 100 to 300% in some instances. The rationale behind projected insurance increases is complex and is not yet approved by Florida regulators.

The editors of this blog will be asking the insurance industry and individual agents about possible discounts for homeowners who install impact-resistant windows and doors. We want to know if products that can withstand flying debris and stop structural roof damage can blow the roof off rising insurance rates. Stay tuned.


Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorwindows.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tips on Choosing a Hurricane Windows Contractor

Choosing a window contractor can be difficult if you are not familiar with the business. Consumers need to know the right questions to ask in order to correctly differentiate one company to the other. You will be surprised of how many times homeowners make the wrong choice simply because they did not ask the right questions. Below, you can find a number of important questions to ask window contractors when you are bidding your replacement window project:

  1. Does the company keep customer satisfaction ratings? If so, what are the ratings?
  2. Who are the employees/technitians who will be installing the windows and doors?
  3. Are the technitians certified by the window manufacturer? Can they provide proof of it?
  4. How many years of installation (labor) warranty is the company offering?
  5. What is the warranty of the product being offered?
  6. How many customer references has the company provided to you?
  7. How many of the customers references have you called to verify window company performance in previous jobs?
  8. For how much is the window company's general liability coverage?
  9. For how much is the window company's workers' compensation coverage?
  10. Who is the window company's license qualifier?
  11. Is the person the owner of the company?
  12. Has company provided copies of the qualifier's license?
  13. Has window company speficified that someone from their organization will be present at every building inspection necesarry to complete the job?
  14. Is the company an authororized distributor of the window manufacturer and has shown proof?
  15. Is the company a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB)? Does the company have a clean track record with the BBB?
  16. Does the company use an independent engineering firm to establish the site specifications of the impact products to be installed at your property?

You should copy this list and create a table to see how the bidding companies compare to one another.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Energy Efficiency and Hurricane Windows – Part III



We will continue our energy efficient series by providing key facts to know about Energy Star® windows and doors. The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency developed an Energy Star® designation for products that meet certain energy performance criteria. Recognizing that these

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Energy Efficiency and Hurricane Windows – Part II

As we discussed in our previous post, when purchasing windows, including hurricane windows, it is important to know about three key glass properties: the SHGC, U-Factor and VT (for term definitions, please read our previous post). Below, we would like to show you how these glass properties vary as you change the thickness and/or tint of the window glass. You will notice that we chose the 5/16-inch, clear glass as our window point of reference in terms of price. This window is our starting point, giving it a value of 1. The "Price Ref." column shows the additional price, presented as a percentage, to pay for upgrading the tint or the thickness of the glass. For your information, all of the windows in the example below are hurricane windows (i.e., impact-resistant windows).



On the table above, you notice how you can improve the SGHC by adding a tint to the window glass. It is also important to highlight that even without a tint, hurricane windows offer a significant reduction in solar radiants. For example, the 0.63 factor means that 37% of the solar heat is block by the clear glass window.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Energy Efficiency and Hurricane Windows – Part I


Energy efficiency is a "hot" topic today. I will not try to explain everything about energy efficiency on hurricane windows and doors because it will be unrealistic. However, I would like to quickly present to you to the key facts to know about energy efficiency and glazing.

First, we need to briefly define a few terms, including SHGC, U-Factor and VT, which are important to understand energy ratings.

SHGC stands for Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, a number between 0 and 1 that provides a measure of how well a product blocks heat from the sun. The lower the SHGC, the better a specific product is at blocking unwanted heat gain. As an illustration, a window that features a 0.60 SHGC means that it allows 60% of the available solar heat to come through. In warm weather, a low SHGC is desirable. As a point of reference, the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) recommends installing windows and doors with a combine SHGC of 0.40 or lower. In the past, there were not hurricane windows in the market that could match that recommendation. Today, new lines of hurricane windows exceed these requirements.

U-Factor is another important factor for hurricane windows and doors. The U-Factor measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping a property. U-Factor ratings, which range from 0.20 to 1.20, are particularly important in cold weather during winter heating season. The lower the U-Factor, the better a window or door is at keeping heat inside the property.

VT stands for visible transmittance, an indicator of how much light comes through a hurricane window or hurricane door. The higher the VT, which is expressed as a number between 0 and 1, the higher the potential for day lighting.

On the following issue, we will continue expanding our conversation about energy efficient hurricane windows and key indicators.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Key Facts about Egress Windows


If you are replacing the existing windows of your property, you should know that the new windows must comply with the existing Florida Building Code egress rules. The Code stipulates that bedrooms must have at least two ways of egress in case of emergency. A door to a different room or to the outside counts as one way of egress. To comply, a bedroom has to have a second way of egress through a window or through another door, such as a patio door. If your bedroom does not have a patio door, then at least one window must have egress dimensions determined by the Code. The window must feature a clear opening that must meet all of the following criteria.

* Minimum width of 20 inches
* Minimum height of 24 inches
* Minimum net clear opening of 5.0 square feet at grade floor and 5.7 square feet otherwise.

It is very important that your window contractor takes into account this rule to avoid installing a window style that will not pass inspection. For example, a single-hung which is 37 inches wide by 50 5/8 inches tall does NOT pass egress. However, a casement window of the same dimensions does pass egress.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorwindows.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.  If you have any questions or want to share additional information regarding this topic, drop us a comment below.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's the Wind-Borne Debris Region?



Wind-borne debris regions are defined as areas along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts where the design wind speed is 120 mph or above, or within one mile of the coastal mean high water line where the wind speed is 110 mph or above. In these regions, the standard requires the designer, either an engineer or an architect, to assume that the windows and doors will be broken by wind-borne debris unless those openings are protected against such items. Protection can be achieved through the use of hurricane shutters or impact-resistant glass.

The wind-borne debris region extends about five miles inland in most cases and considerably further in others. But, in the Panhandle region (sections of northern Florida from the Walkula/Franklin County line to the western edge of Escambia County), the legislature designated the wind-borne region as the land within one-mile of the Gulf Coast.


After Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, Miami-Dade County established the first requirements for wind-borne debris protection and developed test requirements that shutter and impact-resistant glazing systems must pass, under the code (Fla. Building Code § 1626). Since then, the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) has developed testing standards. Products must pass one of these tests to be accepted for use where protection is required. The exception is plywood panels that conform to a set of prescribed specifications, according to Rick Dixon of the Florida Department of Community Affairs. Today, the Florida Building Code uses the America Society of Civil Engineers Standard (ASCE) Standard 7 as the basis for establishing wind-borne debris regions and wind-borne debris protection. The standard requires builders either to (1) construct buildings that can withstand the additional pressure that results when wind gets into a building through a hole in the wall or broken door or window and pressurizes it (like blowing air into a balloon) or (2) protect glazed openings in walls (e. g. , windows and glass doors) from debris borne by high winds (refer to Florida Building Code, Chapter 16).

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Building Features that Reduce Wind Damage

Homeowners should be aware of several building features which reduce wind damage during storms. Some of these features include the following:
  • Hurricane clips and straps that hold the roof structure to the walls.
  • Roof coverings that meet FBC requirments.
  • Exterior opening protection against wind-borne debris. For example, hurricane shutters, impact-resistant windows and doors.
  • Secondary water resistance systems.

In order to find out which of these wind-resistive contruction features a property has, homeowners can hire a home inspection service company to field verify those features. These inspections take between 45 to 90 minutes depending on accessibility to home attics. Now, recently built homes are more probable to have some or all of the features described above. For example, homes built in Miami-Dade and Broward counties after 1994 are more likely to comply to have these features. For the rest of Florida, houses built after March 1st, 2002 needed to comply with the Florida Building Code which demanded these features.

Please keep in mind that insurance companies offer windstorm premium discounts to structures that have wind-resistive construction features.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Should You Consider the Impact Windows Option?




Deciding whether to change the existing windows of a house is an important decision to make since windows have a significant influence on the ventilation, interior temperature and lighting of a house. Equally important, replacing windows is a major investment that makes a tremendous impact on the house's architectural identity. Therefore, when it is time for a window facelift, homeowners need the honest advice from a professional window company that can explain the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives available to them. One of most important decision is to make a choice between purchasing standard-glass windows with hurricane shutters and installing impact-resistant windows that do not require shutter protection.

STANDARD VERSUS IMPACT-RESISTANT WINDOWS
Cost, convenience, appearance and time commitment are the four major differentiating factors to consider when choosing between standard-glass and impact-resistant windows. With regular, standard-glass windows, the Florida Building Code demands the installation of storm panels in every house opening in order to provide for hurricane protection. The combined initial cost of purchasing and installing standard windows with shutters is less than buying and installing impact-resistant windows. However, the cost comparison can change substantially over time if we factor the time commitment for installing and uninstalling storm panels every time there is a hurricane warning, especially if mounted panels are used.

Impact windows are an excellent alternative to hurricane shutters or storm panels. When struck by flying debris during a storm, they are designed to stay in one piece, protecting the building from the devastating effects of high winds. In addition to hurricane protection, impact windows and doors provide the following important benefits:

  • Energy-efficient windows
  • Improve burglary protection
  • Insurance Premium wiscounts
  • Signicant noise reduction 100% UV protection

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Benefits of Installing Impact Windows

In addition to hurricane protection, installing impact-resistant windows and doors provides other important benefits:

BURGLARY PROTECTION
Impact windows’ and doors’ main design characteristics are the shatter-resistant glass securely fastened to a heavy-duty aluminum frame. The impact-resistant glazing consists of two layers of annealed or tempered glass bonded to an intermediate layer of a shatter-proof membrane. This membrane is typically made of Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB), a plastic film which varies from .015 to .090 inches in thickness, depending on the design pressures needed. If the outer glass breaks, the shattered pieces will adhere to the PVB film. In contrast, standard-glass windows are made of standard float glass that, when broken, will fracture in large sharp shards. Given these characteristics, it is very difficult for an intruder to break into a house through an opening with impact-resistant glass.

IMPROVED ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Impact windows and doors are built of heavy-duty aluminum frame with double glazing panes which make the windows much more energy efficient. Impact windows provide excellent insulating capabilities, helping isolate interior spaces from the outdoor weather changes and contributing to important utility bill savings.

INSURANCE PREMIUM DISCOUNTS
If all of the house openings are protected with impact-resistant windows or doors, policyholders can obtain up to 45% premium discounts. In order to apply for the discount, homeowners need to call a home inspection company so they perform a wind certification inspection. Check with your insurance carrier to obtain more information on the process.

SIGNIFICANT NOISE REDUCTION
Impact-resistant windows and doors help reduce outdoor noise significantly. Homeowner testimonials confirm that impact-resistant glass is a great contributor to bringing peace and quiet environments inside the house or property. For people who live near busy intersections, highways or heavy traffic, installing windows and doors have proven to be an effective noise attenuation solution.

MAXIMUM UV PROTECTION
Impact-resistant windows and doors provide 99% blockage of ultraviolet (U-V) light, protecting valuable interiors, including your favorite photographs, loveseat, Persian rug and even flooring, from fading or discoloring after repeated exposure to direct sunlight. This characteristic is particular important Florida residents who enjoy the direct sunshine all-year round.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

What are Impact-Resistant Windows?

Also known as hurricane windows or high-impact windows, impact-resistant windows are an excellent alternative to hurricane shutters or storm panels. When struck by flying debris during a storm, they are designed to stay in one piece, protecting the building from the devastating effects of high winds. The main assembly difference between a standard and an impact-resistant window is that the latter is securely fastened to a heavy duty aluminum frame. Unlike the single-glazed design on standard windows, the impact-resistant glazing consists of two layers of annealed or tempered glass bonded to an intermediate layer of a shatter-proof membrane. This membrane is typically made of Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB), a plastic film which varies from .015 to .090 inches in thickness, depending on the design pressures needed. If the outer glass breaks, the shattered pieces will adhere to the PVB film. In contrast, standard-glass windows are made of standard float glass that, when broken, will fracture in large sharp shards.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

How to find out if the windows I am purchasing are real impact resistant?

For a window or door system to be considered impact-resistant certified, it must meet testing standards set forth by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). One of the most rigorous requirements comes from the Florida Building Code which, given the increase in frequency and strength of hurricanes in recent years, has incorporated many of the lessons learned from prior hurricane-driven disasters. The Florida Building Code, for example, requires that every exterior opening in a structure be protected against wind-borne debris. This protection can be accomplished by either storm shutters or by impact-resistant windows and doors.

To learn whether or not a product is considered impact resistant, ask your window dealer for a copy of the Notice of Acceptance (NOA) issued by the Miami-Dade County. The NOA is the document issued by the County which provides specific information, including dimensions, parts, materials, accessories and installation guidelines, about the particular product in question. The NOA certifies whether or not the product has passed the impact-resistant test. This product also sets forth an expiration date until which the approval has been issued for. NOAs can be downloaded at the Miami-Dade County's website.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.

Impact Windows and Insurance Discounts

Installing impact-resistant windows and doors in your house allows you to apply for special insurance premium discounts in the State of Florida. A state legislation that took effect March 1, 2002, included a requirement for insurance companies to provide property insurance discounts for homes that have construction features that reduce the losses during windstorms. The new insurance rate discounts took effect in 2003. According to Bob Ricker, president of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, “credits for impact-resistant windows have always been part of Citizens mitigation program.” However, Mr. Ricker specifies that in order to obtain the discounts, all of the house openings must be protected. Mr. Ricker further stated that “policyholders with questions about mitigation should contact their insurance agents to make sure they are receiving proper credit for any steps taken to strengthen their home.” According to an article published on Citizen’s website, premium discounts of up to 45% can be available to those policyholders who show proof of risk mitigation alternatives. You can access additional information at Citizens’ website.In accordance with Florida statute 627.0629 regarding residential property insurance, all insurance companies that provide homeowner's insurance to residents in Florida must offer some type of discount for dwellings that have an effective windstorm protective system installed. The first paragraph of the statute reads as follows: “Effective June 1, 2002, a rate filing for residential property insurance must include actuarially reasonable discounts, credits, or other rate differentials, or appropriate reductions in deductibles, for properties on which fixtures or construction techniques demonstrated to reduce the amount of loss in a windstorm have been installed or implemented. The fixtures or construction techniques shall include, but not be limited to, fixtures or construction techniques which enhance roof strength, roof covering performance, roof-to-wall strength, wall-to-floor-to-foundation strength, opening protection, and window, door, and skylight strength. Credits, discounts, or other rate differentials for fixtures and construction techniques which meet the minimum requirements of the Florida Building Code must be included in the rate filing. All insurance companies must make a rate filing which includes the credits, discounts, or other rate differentials by February 28, 2003. By July 1, 2007, the office shall reevaluate the discounts, credits, other rate differentials, and appropriate reductions in deductibles for fixtures and construction techniques that meet the minimum requirements of the Florida Building Code, based upon actual experience or any other loss relativity studies available to the office. The office shall determine the discounts, credits, other rate differentials, and appropriate reductions in deductibles that reflect the full actuarial value of such revaluation, which may be used by insurers in rate filings.”

To qualify for these discounts, most insurance companies require a certification of the key construction features. These certifications must be approved by a professional engineer, registered architect or building official. The best cost-efficient way to obtain this certification is by calling a local home inspection company that offers the service. For more information, you can visit windloadcalculations.com which is one of the many companies that can provide the service.

Visit Astor Impact Windows for information about purchasing impact windows and doors. You can also email us at sales@astorusa.com or call us at 1-800-573-1780.