In the windows replacement field, there are prefabricated windows built for direct replacements, and then there are custom dealers who can design almost any kind of window you’d like. To learn more about the latter, we sat down with a Marvin windows dealer in Austin, Texas, to talk energy efficiency, window trends, and of course, custom remodels.
How can homeowners tell that it’s time to replace their windows?
The most obvious sign is seal failure, when you can’t see through the windows anymore because of condensation between the glass. That accounts for probably about 20 percent of the people that we see.
Air leakage is another really easy one. If it’s really cold in a room and you can feel the cold coming through the windows, or if it’s really hot in a room and you can feel the heat coming through the windows, it probably means your windows are outdated or just not high quality.
Do you work directly with contractors, or do homeowners have to find an installer for themselves?
At Marvin, we have three programs. First is “Infinity for Marvin”—which means we sell, furnish, and install. We’ll take it from the very beginning, all the way through installation and warranty. Next, we service builders and architects, and we’ll typically sell directly to them. We also have the occasional homeowner who’s more of a do-it-yourselfer. Those are the very small minority of our sales, people trying to do it themselves. Usually either we’re the expert, or we’re selling to somebody else who’s an expert in the field.
What does the process look like for a homeowner who’s just walked into your showroom? What can they expect?
We try to vary it as far as what we showcase in the showroom. Marvin’s the biggest manufacturer in the country, so we make things that nobody else really makes in the industry—and we try to show those. Everyone in town has a double hung window, so if we just had a double hung window, it wouldn’t be all that exciting.
It’s like when you go to a car lot. Not everyone can afford a $300,000 Ford GT. We have Ford GTs sitting in the showroom—almost nobody ever buys them, but they like to look at them and play with them, and every once in a blue moon, we sell those, too.
What are some of your most unique products?
Especially here in Austin, with the views of the lake and Texas Hill Country, people want to maximize views. So we can now make doors up to 60 feet wide and 12 feet tall. They’re just huge when you compare them to what we were doing five years ago. They come in on crates, and we have to use forklifts for the first time. It’s just a whole new arena in visibility. Houses are becoming more glass and less wall structure, and we’re making products that no one else can make to fit those large openings.
With that in mind, do you offer any specialized energy-efficiency products?
Marvin is a green-rated company, ENERGY-STAR rated, even passive house approved in European markets—and since we’re a worldwide company, we also sell outside of the Unites States. With different factors such as historical buildings, or green- or LEED-building requirements, there’s going to be criteria for exactly what we have to do, and we can meet those requirements.
We can meet Austin city requirements, but we can also go all the way up to some of the most hardcore requirements in the entire industry.
Can you tell us about any previous projects you’ve done that had those stringent requirements?
Yes, we’re doing more a lot more triple-pane krypton. The heavier the gas, the more energy-efficient it’s going to be. Krypton’s about 180 percent heavier than air, so it’s about 140 percent heavier than argon, which is the number one gas. It’s not readily available, though—most of the krypton we get is mined in Poland and then exported here before we put it in the windows. We’re seeing a rise—especially as energy prices around the country increase—in these really heavy gases. Xenon is out there, which is even heavier than krypton, but you’re talking about a whole other price point with that. Our market is dictated by energy pricing. So as the price-per-kilowatt goes up, the technology of what we do in the window industry goes up. We can make a window more energy-efficient than a wall, but there’s no reason to pay $5,000 for a window right now.
As energy prices increase, our technology prices will decrease, so we’ll finally meet somewhere in the middle. But right now, we’re making windows more energy-efficient than we’ve ever made them before.
What about glass options?
We have hundreds of glass options, from decorative options to stained glass—you name it, we can pretty much do anything. Just draw a picture and we’ll make a window to match.
We just shipped out to Spain with some very intricately crafted windows for the capitol building in Gibraltar. Four windows to the tune of $250,000. We can do anything from five to six hundred bucks all the way to that.
Walk us through the quote process. What happens when a homeowner wants a quote?
Typically, one of our guys goes out there, and usually, he can figure it out. We have an engineer on staff, and we have measurement techs on staff—the people who go beyond a consultant’s expertise. For most homeowners, the first guy that comes out—this is the consultant, who’s been through extensive training himself—will figure out what they need and what can go in those openings—and he’ll give a homeowner all of their options.
How do the consultants help customers make decisions—for instance, to make an architectural change?
We have some people working with us that have been with the company for more than 25 years, and since they’ve done thousands of houses, they know what looks good and what’s popular. You usually have two types of homeowners. First, there’s the person who wants just a replica of what’s already there, along with an energy-efficient update. Then there’s the homeowner who treats it like a blank palette, and we give them the moon when they want it.
How long do your jobs normally last?
It depends. There’s nothing typical, but we tell people typically about an hour to two hours per window. We work regular eight-hour days, so you can kind of do the math depending on how many windows you have.
What kind of coatings do you have for the windows?
On the dual pane, we have multiple coatings. We use silver as our radiant barrier, which is baked onto the glass. That’s our low-E coating. We decide how many coats we’re going to put on, and we can decide by location—what faces north, what faces south, or what faces west—hot rooms, cold rooms, trees, shade, patio covers, things like that. Some don’t need to go as efficient as we can go because of where they’re located in the house.