Are Popular Brand Names Also Best?
The vinyl lineal certification program of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) bears witness to the quality of raw materials used in products such as windows. This independent trade organization of building product manufacturers conducts unannounced tests on the vinyl components used in windows. Test results clearly show that high quality vinyl windows exceed all industry standards for impact resistance, dimensional stability, and color fastness. All vinyl windows are low-maintenance, and high quality ones are gauged by vinyl thickness, metal reinforced frames for added strength and rigidity, and fusion welded corners that form an unbreakable joint. Unlike those available from improvement centers, vinyl window frames with these features last a lifetime and should come with lifetime warranties
The National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC) sets performance standards for window and door manufacturers. The NFRC label displays test values for U-Factor, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), Visible Light Transmittance (VT) and Condensation Resistance (CR). The ratings are very useful in evaluating the performance of similar products such as two brands of vinyl windows with low e glass, but not for comparing wood to metal windows or dissimilar products. Another important label is the U.S. government’s Energy Star® which makes short work of determining the products best suited to the zone you live in.
Patent No. 1-610-973-2500 for fibrex is a composite Andersen developed to reduce costs. Sawdust from its wood window production is added to polymers to create their replacement windows. Although the resulting product is not superior to vinyl windows, consumers might have benefitted if new pricing reflected the significantly lower production cost. It is far cheaper to reuse wood filler than to produce vinyl. For Andersen that filler is free and comprises almost half of their frame. Inherent in this process are contaminants such as glue, paint, and chemical residues that are not removed from the wood dust. The forwarding of contaminants and reduced production costs merit factoring in the price to consumers. These windows are consistently at the top of the price range, and with consumers posting reviews about marginal product performance and unsatisfactory warranties, price justification demands more than visual similarity. Moreover, if the by-product composite could outperform vinyl, the brand known for wood windows would profit substantially by selling its patent to vinyl window manufacturers instead of the improvident attempt to compete. As a matter of ethics, manufacturers should pass the savings from lower production costs to consumers, yet some redirect those dollars to advertising. Glossy magazine photos and television commercials keep consumers entertained—and overpaying. ‘You get what you pay for’ is true to the extent that the price for expensively advertised products has marketing costs built in. That adage is also true for inferior products at the lowest price point, giving price less importance in purchasing decisions for many consumers.
Big Names with Broad Shoulders
Consumer review sites are helpful to DIYers for ranking widely distributed products available at big box stores. Rarely do those rankings include brands that are only available to the trade. Trade professionals often partner with national brands while also promoting products developed privately or made available to them exclusively from a major manufacturer. The most established companies are granted exclusivity to a specialty line of products and are held to the highest standards for supporting the manufacturer’s product and warranty. Advantages include the legal right to offer higher quality items in limited production backed by substantial warranties that are unavailable elsewhere, and to distinguish the company as having the credentials to qualify for exclusive rights. Like other industries, thousands of contractors can offer the same products found at home improvement centers. Only those meeting requirements set by major manufacturers are awarded exclusivity. Nationally known manufacturers may limit exclusive products to their biggest dealers or allow any Chuck-in-a-Truck to sell them. That is not the case with the most prominent manufacturers. International corporations with global recognition have stringent requirements and reserve exclusive products for their business partners with the best reputation in select territories in order to preserve the integrity of those products.
When product performance and pricing are comparable, savvy consumers examine guarantees and warranties. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” can be a mere advertising slogan, or it can represent serious consumer protection when a company commits to it in writing. A written guarantee holds a business legally accountable for promises and representations made to customers, as does the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA) requiring contractors register with the Office of Attorney General.
Warranties should state how service issues are resolved, the party responsible, and duration. This document warrants close scrutiny for additional charges in the form of trip tickets, replacement parts, and exclusions. It is not uncommon for small companies to sell their service contracts to individuals who are not trained installers but can tackle tasks such as adjusting door hinges or caulking windows. This may not pose a problem until that service provider is no longer available or encounters complexities that require expertise. The best warranty makes clear who is responsible for what and for how long.
Products available from big box retailers typically have very limited warranties ranging from specific parts to minimal coverage for damage due to improper installation, and are usually void unless installed by a licensed professional or one certified by the manufacturer. The consumer is responsible for registering the warranty, and limitations apply to both components as well as duration. These warranties are typically pro-rated, decreasing the manufacturer’s liability over time. In principle this is akin to car dealerships selling extended warranties on new vehicles that rarely require service during the warranty period.
Reputable companies are distinguished by their warranty. For consumers the best warranty provides full coverage for every component and installation for life, and is transferable to the next owner. This type of warranty is expensive for companies but leaves lesser competitors in the dust. Selling a product that delivers on performance with expert installation means there will be few service calls or manufacturing defects, making a full, lifetime warranty good business sense and the ultimate consumer protection.