CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For more than two years the WCNC-TV NewsChannel 36 I-Team has been following complaints of double-paned, energy efficient “Low E” windows bowing inward to create a concave surface focusing sunlight on adjacent surfaces, melting vinyl siding and other materials.
At first it looked like a vinyl siding problem. But the I-Team has received other complaints from as far away as California and Arizona of the windows damaging other nearby surfaces.
John Strandquist of Green Valley, Arizona, south of Tucson, documented the damage to a couch on his enclosed patio in rather dramatic fashion. He set up a digital camera on a tripod and adjusted the camera to take time lapse photos which he knitted together into a video. The result is unmistakable.
“It was doing an exposure every five seconds and I just let it go,” said Strandquist. “I go back and finish my coffee and I was like “Whoa!””
He came back to the patio to find a strip melted neatly across the fabric on his couch. The pictures revealed the culprit. The sunlight reflects off the adjacent double-paned windows and focuses into a distinctive “X” shape and melts the fabric like a laser beam.
“I was thinking I had seen these windows make little crosses on the wall and I really didn’t give it a second thought,” Strandquist said.
The windows had bowed inward, the result of differing pressure on the interior and exterior panes, and the resulting concave surface focused the March sunlight, low in the sky in Arizona.
“Then you start to have like a telescope a reflecting mirror in there,” said Strandquist.
The double-paned reflective windows are called for by some building codes because of their energy efficiency and used all over the U.S. and Canada. The I-Team documented dozens of complaints in the Charlotte area starting in December of 2009 when a homeowner in the Ballantyne area distributed a flyer to her neighbors reading, “My home is MELTING. Is yours?”
Mr. Strandquist said the windows’ manufacturer was -– in his words -– “a little iffy” about replacing the windows at first. Then he sent them the video.
“The company offered to replace them and I said, ‘Sure. Please do,’” Strandquist said.
He followed the I-Team’s first tip when it comes to this type of product defect complaint: document the damage. He got a clear picture of what he called “the problematic ‘X’ moving down the wall.”
And not just a picture -– a time-lapse video. When it came to getting action on his complaint, a picture can be worth a thousand e-mails.
If you’ve got a picture, or a consumer complaint you’d like the I-Team to investigate, just shoot as an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos welcome –- but don’t load up one e-mail with a bunch of them. We have limits on attached files.