Air Leakage of Newly Installed Residential Windows

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The air-leakage characteristics of five major window designs were measured in a field survey conducted in Twin Cities, Minnesota. A total of 192 windows (16 manufacturers) were tested at 58 sites representing a cross-section of single-family homes, townhouses, low- and high-rise apartments, and condominiums. Air-leakage measurements of the installed windows were compared with the current standard used by industry and government of 0.50 cubic feet per minute per linear foot of crack. Other parameters studied were: effect of sash and frame material, effect of leakage between window frame and wall, differences among the product lines of a single manufacturer and between manufacturers, effect of installation practices, effect of cold weather on performance, change in performance over time for older windows, and performance of fixed glazing. Based on industry and government standards, 40% of all windows tested showed air-leakage characteristics higher than the 0.50 cfm/lfc standard, and 60% exceeded manufacturers specifications for performance which in some cases were lower than the general industry standard. Analysis of the impact of various parameters on air-leakage performance showed that the operational design of the window was the most critical determinant although the ranking changes if performance is expressed in cfm/unit area or cfm/opening area. Air leakage was measured using a portable pressurization chamber. Smoke pencils, thermographic techniques and extensive photographic documentation provided additional data as to the location and cause of air leakage problems.

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