7 On Your Side: Energy efficient windows posing fire hazard for some homeowners

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, New York (WABC) -- Billions of low emission (Low E) windows are installed each year. But, some homeowners are saying these energy efficient windows are causing a significant fire hazard.

One homeowner's vinyl siding dimpled, then blistered and warped into waves. But the homeowners could not figure out why it was happening until their research turned up some scary video.

The problem? Energy efficient or "Low E" windows that reflect the rays of the sun like a magnifying glass.

In California, a homeowner says her Low E windows reflected the sun, burning and blackening her patio furniture cushions.

In North Carolina, a homeowner blamed a neighbor's windows for igniting dried mulch. Her surveillance video capture creeping flames that almost engulf a propane tank. Luckily landscapers stamped it out.

Later, she put a meat thermometer into the reflection off the low e windows. In seconds, the temperature pinned to 200 degrees.

"This is keeping me up at night, I am so upset about it," Jeanne Meldrim, a homeowner.

Jeanne and Matt Meldrim say their house is literally melting from the next door neighbor's newly installed windows.

7 On Your Side asked Hastings-On-Hudson Fire Chief Martin Gunther to examine the damage.

"We've never seen this before in this village," Chief Gunther said.

He says, the potential hazard spurred the him to call in his fire inspectors and the village Buildings Department to evaluate.

"The sun's rays are hitting the windows next door, reflecting down and causing the siding to blister," Chief Gunther said.

The burn pattern across house follows the path of the setting sun.

"Obviously there's a problem and we don't want to be coming here when there's a fire," Chief Gunther said.

The fire chief estimates the reflection of the suns rays off the neighbor's windows at over 160 degrees in order to blister the siding.

The windows, designed to reflect heat, perform like magnifying glass to concentrate the beams with damaging, hazardous results. Matt, who is a firefighter, says screens or deflectors can diffuse the heat, but their neighbors haven't cooperated.

7 On Your Side paid the neighbors a visit, requesting they contact the fire department about the potential hazard caused by energy efficient windows. Within a few weeks, screens were installed, but the damage to the Meldrin's was already done.

A representative from The Window And Door Manufacturers Association told 7 On Your Side this type of damage is uncommon. And Low E window reflection "isn't the only contributing factor" to these problems. The fire chief in Hastings-on-Hudson had his fire investigators notify the International Energy Council about the potential for danger. But, so far, there is no change to the village regulations yet. For now, the village adheres to the state rules allowing Low E windows.

"Thank you for your inquiry regarding low-e windows. Tens of millions of low-e windows are installed in new and existing homes and buildings each year in the U.S. alone as they are a proven measure for significantly improving home and building energy efficiency. They are a durable, effective, and affordable method for meeting today's ever increasingly stringent energy efficiency requirements and have been in use since the early 1980's. With respect to incidents of "melting" vinyl siding, or other damage being attributed to low-e windows and as such, low-e windows being a hazard, this type of damage is uncommon and if solar reflection from low-e windows is involved, it is not the only contributing factor. If such incidents do occur, each situation should be assessed separately in response. We appreciate your contacting us with your inquiry and the opportunity to respond. Thank you again."
-Jeff Inks, Senior Vice President, Advocacy, Window and Door Manufacturer's Association
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.