Plavecsky's Ponderings By Jim Plavecsky
by Jim Plavecsky
February 15th, 2024

Krypton is Poised for a Comeback

Krypton gas has been taking a hit in the fenestration market over the last several years. Years ago, it was selling for as high as $1.50 per liter and window companies were paying that price. I know that to be true because at the time, I was selling it as an independent agent. But despite current prices that are well below a dollar per liter, I have found that the number of fabricators using it seems to be dropping significantly. I believe that one of the main reasons is due to the emergence of surface four low-E coatings.

With surface four low-E coatings, it is still possible to meet the new Energy Star 7.0 ratings—even in the Northern climate zone—without having to resort to the use of a triple-pane configuration. Without a triple-pane configuration, Krypton loses its “mojo,” so to speak, because krypton works its magic in smaller air gaps, like those associated with triple-pane insulating glass (IG). It has much less of a thermal benefit in larger air gaps, such as ½- to 5/8-inch, which are typically found in double-pane units. So, in the absence of triple-pane IG fabrication, Krypton serves no cost-effective purpose.

But I believe that four factors will create a rally in the upcoming years for the re-emergence of Krypton gas.

1. Modernized Frame Designs – Modern vinyl frame designs are now available which accommodate glazing units up to 1-1/8-inch thick, which means that triple-pane configurations will be right at home in these new windows. Given the fact that krypton does its thing best in triple-pane configurations, it is only natural that its usage will follow the increase in triple-pane units.

2. Skinny Triples – Owens Corning and PGT Innovations (PGTI) recently announced the launch of Diamond Glass, a new form of thin, laminated glass for use in skinny triples. PGTI Revamped a Former Jet Engine Plant to Produce Skinny Triples. This plant, in Prince George, Virginia, will be the site for the fabrication of not only Diamond Glass but also a thin triple product called Tri-Ultra, which will be lighter and thinner than conventional triple pane units. While there is no specific mention of using Krypton in these new skinny triples, it certainly would make sense to offer it at least as an option. Other companies are sure to jump on the skinny triple trend in the industry and I believe the automated equipment suppliers are most likely working on fabrication lines which can produce these thin triples in the most cost-effective manner. Gas filling with Krypton is sure to become an option on these automated lines.

3. Energy Star Evolution – Energy Star requirements are getting more stringent with each successive revision. Every few years the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raises the bar, and many do not expect this trend to let up. The EPA has also designated a Most Efficient Category with U-value requirements of less than or equal to 0.20 in every climate zone except the Southern, and this is where triple-pane IG configurations filled with Krypton will shine.

4. The Increasing Importance of Condensation Resistance – Condensation resistance has always been a concern over the years with many window dealers having to respond to complaints in the winter months when moisture is trapped inside of homes and condenses on cold window surfaces. The ironic thing here is that with the emergence of tougher (lower) U-value requirements that have come into play as a result of Energy Star, the frequency of condensation complaints has actually risen over the years, due to the use of surface four low-E coatings. In case you missed it, check out my recent blog entitled Condensation Conundrum. Now, a surefire way to improve both U-Value and condensation resistance, instead of accomplishing the former at the expense of the latter, is to go with a triple-pane IG using low-E on an inside surface or surfaces, along with a healthy dose of Krypton gas. This is what we will likely see in the Most Efficient category and consumers will then have their cake and eat it too with fantastic U-values and superior condensation resistance (CR) ratings.

But what about the expense of using Krypton gas? With so many other industries, such as automotive, lighting, semi-conductor and aerospace, using Krypton, will it become in even shorter supply with prices rising even further? I asked a top executive at one of the leading gas suppliers this question last week, and he assured me that the gas industry is making investments to increase production in the years ahead based upon a slight but steady rise in demand for Krypton. According to a study by Fortune Business Insights, the global Krypton market is projected to grow from $57.31 million in 2022 to $60.95 million by 2029, at a CAGR of 0.9% in forecast period, 2022-29. The window glazing market segment is expected to lead the way, with another emerging trend to be increased usage in the aerospace industry, where Krypton is a propellant for satellites.

So, there you have it. Due to the trends discussed here, the usage of Krypton gas is not about to dissipate any time soon. It will serve a valuable role in the door and window industry for years to come. Perhaps that is another reason why it’s called a “Noble Gas.”

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