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What Consumers Need to Know About Window Warranties

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Monday, January 26, 2015
One of the most important things about purchasing energy efficient windows, doors, and skylights is finding a manufacturer who will stand behind their products and provide good customer service well beyond the initial sale.

 

When you see the National Fenestration Rating Council’s (NFRC) energy performance rating label on windows, doors, and skylights, it’s telling you they have been independently tested and certified to perform as advertised.

 

As with any other product, however, performance ratings are merely a snapshot. The product may not retain its original performance values throughout its lifecycle.

 

For example, a window’s U-factor might change if the gas filler between the panes of glass leaks when a seal fails. It can also change if low-E coatings, frame conductivity, or suspended films become compromised.

Similarly, the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) may change as coatings, tints, or laminated/ suspended films degrade over time.

Additionally, badly-worn weatherstripping, a warped frame, or inoperable hardware can increase air leakage.  

It’s hard to foresee whether any of these things will happen and even more difficult to predict their impact. That’s why you need a reliable warranty to protect your purchase. Be sure to talk with others who own similar products, and ask the seller these questions:  

  • Is the warranty pro-rated?
  • Is it backed by the seller or the manufacturer?
  • Is there a cost to service the window if a warranty issue arises?
  • If you sell your home, is the warranty transferable? If so, what is the cost?
  • Who will service the warranty if the company goes out of business before it expires?

“Lifetime” is a term likely to be included in any warranty, but it doesn’t always mean what it implies. Many consumers interpret this as the owner's lifetime, the lifetime of the product, or the lifetime of the manufacturer. The definition, however, can vary.

In Colorado, for example, the law doesn't define the word “lifetime” when used in a contract. In fact, it can mean whatever the person offering the warranty wants it to mean — as long as they tell you.

California, on the other hand, requires lifetime warranties to cover at least three years.

Finally, keep in mind that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says a warranty period that is not clearly defined constitutes deceptive advertising.

Before you get too impressed by any warranty for windows, doors, or skylights be sure to read the fine print -- no matter what anyone tells you – and be sure you know for yourself exactly what it covers.

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