Window of opportunity
Marilyn D. Cavicchia
V-Kool’s high-tech window film saves energy and preserves product, without adding a heavy tint. All that remains is to get the word out.
What’s 1 1/2 millimeters thick, made from silver and gold and can save retailers plenty of green on energy, product loss and even labor?
According to Marty Watts, president of V-Kool, Houston, it’s his company’s window film, which blocks 99 percent of ultraviolet light and over 90 percent of infrared, while letting in visible light. At the recent National Association of Convenience Stores show, Watts says, visitors couldn’t tell the difference between clear glass–which has 88 percent light transmission–and glass treated with V-Kool, which offers 70 percent light transmission. Unlike other window films, V-Kool also makes glass just 1 percent more reflective, Watts adds.
What this means is that operators of such buildings as convenience stores, supermarkets, clothing stores, chocolate shops, florist shops and even architectural landmarks can reduce heat buildup and product fading without the dark tint and reflection that come with conventional window film.
So far, Exxon has had V-Kool installed in about 150 of its convenience stores; before that, the company used a dark film. “It didn’t block the heat like ours does, plus you couldn’t see in,” Watts says. “People thought the stores were closed.”
PAYBACK TIME DROPPING
Heat-blocking is V-Kool’s main selling point, even for an installation done in January in snowy Calgary, Alberta. Because of the position of the earth in relation to the sun, streams of light hit the southern side of buildings all day long in winter, meaning it’s not unusual for that side of the building to heat up to 90 degrees on a 20-degree day. Retailers spend a lot of money on air conditioning to get rid of all that built-up heat, Watts says; after installing V-Kool, Exxon found its air conditioning needs for one store went from 11 tons to 7 tons, and the film paid for itself in one year.
That kind of reduction is nothing to sneeze at, Watts says, particularly as deregulated utilities jack up their rates. Currently, the average payback period for V-Kool, which can cost twice as much as conventional film because it’s expensive to produce, is about four years, but that time decreases as energy rates increase. In Houston, for example, Watts says there’s already been a 12 percent rate increase, with another 11 percent yet to come, which means the payback period there is 3.55 years and falling. V-Kool has yet to calculate the savings that can be achieved when retailers switch from a dark film to the company’s clear film and thus require less lighting than they did before; Watts expects this can shorten the payback period considerably for those retailers.
Another way convenience-store and supermarket retailers can shave off some of the cost is by adding V-Kool only to the windows on the south side. The film’s clarity makes this possible, while conventional tinted film would create an unpleasant mismatch if installed on just one side.
One surprising benefit for some stores is that labor can be redirected from a menial task: “At Exxon, they stack their Cokes and Pepsis right up against the windows,” Watts says. “We asked the manager how the V-Kool was doing and he said, ‘Great, because I don’t have to rotate this stack of merchandise because the Pepsi logo turns pink.'”
V-Kool also makes an 8-millimeter film ideal for high-traffic areas such as convenience-store doors. Both films are installed much as conventional films are and, like those, should not be cleaned with anything abrasive. Because of employee turnover and the extreme clarity of the product, Watts says, retailers should be sure to tell to the person who washes the windows that there is film in place.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
V-Kool window film for stores and other buildings was previously marketed under the name of its manufacturer, Solis. In 1998, Watts left his family’s sign-making business–which created Wal-Mart’s “Falling Prices” signs 11 years ago–and brought his years of experience in the retail arena to V-Kool. Before that, the focus was mainly on selling to dealers; since his arrival, Watts has led a big push to directly grab retailers’ attention, which has been particularly successful in the convenience-Store sector.
Currently, V-Kool counts Exxon, RaceTrac, Chevron, Quick Trip, Kmart, Albertson’s and florist company Gerald Stevens among its retail customers; the film was also selected for the American Institute of Architects building in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles’ city hall building, because of its minimal change to a structure’s appearance.
But Watts isn’t satisfied yet, and feels his product still doesn’t have the high recognition it deserves. “It’s an awesome product,” he says. “Our problem is no one knows about it.”
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