Let’s say your windows were incredibly energy efficient when you first had them installed. They have double or triple pane glass with gas fillings for added insulation, and for a few years, their performance was exemplary. But in more recent years, you’ve noticed your home has been draftier in colder months and stuffier in warmer months than it once was. You hate to admit it, but it might be that your window’s seal has failed.
But before you assume the draft must come from a seal failure in the window, learn how to spot seal failure.
How Do You Spot Seal Failure?
Seal failure often happens over time, so it’s not immediately obvious. However, there are warning signs, including:
- Fog between the glass. The most obvious sign of seal failure is foggy windows. In this case, you may notice some fogging or moisture in between panes of your windows. It may not be immediately obvious that the fog is between the panes, so wipe down the window first. If you still see fog or moisture there, the seal has failed.
- Distorted or broken glass. Have you ever looked at your reflection in a window or at the view outside and something seemed a little off about it? This could be because of seal failure. When gas fillings start to leak from your window in the event of a seal failure, air doesn’t immediately take their place. The absence of filling can cause panes to move towards the center of the unit, which often creates a visual effect that’s not quite reality. This can also cause the glass to break.
- Dirt and grime. Dirt and grime, as well as mineral deposits, usually follow the build-up of fog between panes of your window, and is most often triggered by changes in temperature. It might look easy to clean, but it’s surprisingly persistent. This is one of the later signs of seal failure, and generally indicates a need for a replacement.
These signs will almost all become more evident with sharp changes in temperature or colder weather.
What Causes Seal Failure?
Many homeowners don’t expect seal failure because it usually occurs in windows that are meant to be pretty high tech as windows go. Double or triple panes of glass with argon or krypton gas fillings slow the flow of air into your home, so in extreme temperatures your home will stay comfortable while your energy costs stay low. These windows are made to be fortified. A seal failure feels almost like a betrayal.
But no window, no matter the quality, is invincible, and there are a few causes of seal failure that are quite common.
- Heat expansion. Sometimes it’s not enough to have multiple panes of glass, especially in summer. It’s also important to make sure that the glass itself is thermally resistant. Otherwise, it may expand in hot temperatures, causing it to bow and the seal to break. Since heat tends to wear down the perimeter seal, extreme heat is a precarious time for seal failure.
- Water damage. While insulated glass is made to withstand harsh elements, heavy exposure to water can break down the perimeter seal, which makes the inner glass more vulnerable. This could be from a heavy storm, but also frequently occurs when homeowners power wash their windows. Although power washing might be faster and easier, It’s better to gently wipe down the glass with a cleaning solution, as we discussed in our blog about caring for different types of windows.
- Age. Nothing lasts forever. It might be that your window has simply outlived its functional use. Take a look at the product warranty for the window. Typically it lasts for 10-20 years. Higher quality windows may last 20-30 years but few will outlast that. If your window has far exceeded its life expectancy, it’s not surprising that the seal has broken.
What Can You Do About Seal Failure?
Seal failure in your windows is more than just an aesthetic problem. It also punctures your home’s energy efficiency, and makes you more vulnerable to pests or leaks. So, what then? Can you do anything about seal failure other than replacing the window? In most cases, you will need to replace the window, but you may have a few options.
First, check the warranty on the window. If it isn’t expired, you can simply cash it in and have the glass replaced. You could also call a defogging company to clear up the hazy appearance between the glass, but keep in mind that this option is treating a symptom and not the problem itself. If neither of these options apply, you will need a replacement window.
You can also prevent seal failure by doing regular, gentle maintenance, checking on the perimeter seal, and placing trees or window shutters to offer the window shade away from the sun.
Have more questions about seal failure? Need a replacement window because of a recent seal failure? Zen Windows in Des Moines is here for you. Contact us today for a free 5 minute quote.