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 Post subject: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:31 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:09 pm
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I am trying to decide between Soft-Lite Imperial LS DH and Unlimited Platinum 3000 series. I have seen discussions regarding Soft-Lite, but have not come accross any info on Unlimited which is based in Milwaukee area. Does anyone know if Unlimited is a good window?

I am really leaning towards Soft-Lite, but would welcome input on Unlimited if anyone has any thoughts.

I was quoted $7900 for 12 DH Soft-Lite Imperial LS with GBG, woodgrain vinyl, exterior wrap etc. The quote from Unlimited was virtually identical, so I just want to pick the better window. Thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:44 pm 
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I would say 100% for the Softlite Imperial LS. It is a better engineered window.
The Unlimited has a pocket sill that runs water, dirt, insects, etc. through the sill extrusion. Why in the world would anyone want a window that has water inside the frame after it rains?


windowsbyunlimited.com/3000series.htm


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:10 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:09 pm
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I found the hollow sash somewhat suspicious. The salesman said it was designed to allow air to flow through the sash and dry out any moisture as opposed to foam that can retain the moisture. I guess I should have asked him why it would get wet in there in the first place.

Your comments/observations on the Unlimited has solidified my choice of the Soft-Lite Imperial LS. Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 7:30 am 

Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 6:41 pm
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Soft-Lite make a very good window. thats a good price for woodgrain aswell..go with soft-lite.


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:15 am 

Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:25 am
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I worked for Unlimited as a factory installer for 8yrs before starting my own window business the fall of 2002. I installed over 8000 windows for them, so obviously I am very familiar with their windows! Which is why I still use them! I have so little service on them it is ridiculous. This discussion on water in the frame is misleading in that Unlimited is not the only window out there that uses a weep system instead of a sloped sill to move water and/or condensation out the the frame. It comes down to this: Pocket sill vs Slope sill design. Pocket sills use the same frame extrusion for the sill as the header and sides, sloped sills use a unique extrusion relative to the header and sides. Pocket sills are harder to break into, stronger on the horizontal plane(for wide windows), better at preventing water intrusion(during rain against the window) and a better design for air infiltration(due to the sash going into a pocket as opposed to resting on top of a sloped sill). Because of the need for an internal weep system, pocket sill designs cannot be foam-filled. They instead rely on multiple internal chambers for insulation. Since Unlimited windows score on par with the best foam filled windows out there efficiency-wise the decision is more about the installer!


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:30 am 
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Actually Rick, the only thing misleading is your commentary about pocket sill design. Yes the design does lend itself to superior performance, however directing water, dirt, bugs, gunk, etc through the frame is a fatal flaw. That is the reason that all premium window choices are made with welded, sloped sills, and in fact, they actually outperform the Ultimate and other outdated pocket sill designs. Look at products such as the aforementioned Softlite Imperial LS or the HiMark 800 series which are better in every thermal and structural area, and that is with a welded, sloped sill. :wink:
Does the Ultimate DH product achieve a DP60+? Air leakage of .02 or lower? U value of .26 or lower from a double pane?... If not, then your comment about it being "on par" with the best would be inaccurate.
For the record, I don't think it is a bad window, just not upper echelon as the ratings show.
I do agree on one thing though, and that is the importance of the installer. All of those numbers mean squat if the window is not installed properly.


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:49 am 

Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:25 am
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The Unlimited 3100 DH scores a .28 u-factor and the 2100 DH scores .27 u-factor. That is double pane with a single coat LowE and argon. I don't feel a .01 u-factor difference is indicative of and out dated design! :) Not sure on the air leakage number, looking into it... The reason I chimed in here is because in my opinion when the windows score that close to each other the service available and the installer become the deciding factor. And while you make some good points about specific design elements I don't think they are as dramatically different in performance as it was intimated in this thread! And Unlimited's service record is great! They have an A+ rating from the BBB because of it!


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:07 pm 
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I am interested to see the structural ratings, as that it is what the sill design will have the most profound effect on, more than U-value. My comment on outdated design was in regard to the fact that nearly all newer designs have sloped sills, and actually best the performance of the old pocket sill designs. If pocket sills were great or even acceptable, don't you think that these manufacturers would take advantage of the fact that they(pocket sills) achieve those numbers more easily, and are far cheaper to manufacture? That fact is rather telling as to how undesirable a pocket sill is IMO, as manufacturers are willing to spend more money and work harder just to avoid the pocket sill. The fact is, the pocket sill has been nothing more than a cost cutting measure for vinyl windows from day one. You do not see wood windows (new or old) with pocket sill, nor do you from other materials.
Again I do agree that when windows are comparable, the installation and company become a major factor, however U value is not the only qualifier in separating a window that is well designed, built, and will offer superior performance. When all things are considered (thermal and structural ratings, design, etc) the Unlimited product is just not on the same level as the top choices... and again, I'm not saying it is poor, just not elite.


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 4:49 pm 
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Given the wide variety of windows available today with fantastic structure, water, and air numbers out of a sloped sill, if it were my home, I would always opt for a window with a sloped sill.

Rick...I am sorry if that eliminates your product from consideration, but I have seen more than a few pocket sill windows and I have seen what they are capable of. It is a non-starter for me because of that fact alone.


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:33 am 

Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:52 pm
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Location: SE PA & NJ; CT
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yep to many very good choices rather than a pocket sill.


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:36 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:56 pm
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I agree that sloped sills are the way to go. You will find this feature on any top quality manufacture's windows.


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:47 am 

Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:52 pm
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The Soft-lite Imp LS is a great window.
We have great success with it.


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:08 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:25 am
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Well I have not had personal experience with Soft-lite windows but as I said earlier I have an enormous amount of experience with Unlimited windows. Have any of you had personal experience with Unlimited's windows? Are you installers?
@Windows on Wash: What exactly are pocket sills capable of? In all the windows I have put in and of all the service I've seen(which is very little % wise) I've never seen a service problem related to the pocket sills design.

@HomeSealed: Unlimited's 2100 Double hung DP=35 and air infiltration =.08. Which are very respectable numbers. Structurally it's rated to a pressure level equivocal to 118mph, otherwise known as a category 3 hurricane! :) I'll have to take your word that Soft-lite double-hungs score DPs of 60, I can only find tests that rate them in the DP 30-40 range and 1(Imperial) that rated 55 with special glass. And since a window can leak air like a sieve and still achieve an excellent DP rating how does this matter unless you live in hurricane alley?
Actually, another benefit to pocket sill design is that in negative air pressure the sash cannot bow out as on the lee side of a house in heavy air.

As far as cost goes, pocket sills done the way Unlimited does them aren't less expensive then foam filling. They use more vinyl material per foot, the dies are more expensive and they have to replace the dies more often. Of course maybe the foam filled frames end up costing more due to waste since water is a catalyst to foam making humidity a difficult to control variable. That results in inconsistency in controlling how much foam to inject to not have gaps without causing warping or damage to the extrusions.

So again I beg to differ on your assessments that the Unlimited window is not on par with Soft-lite. IMHO it is. In all of the NFRC tests I looked up they scored exactly the same or so close as to be negligible in all categories.
If in fact the design differences affected the performance as dramatically as you gentleman have implied here why haven't the testes had dramatic differences? Why haven't I seen service issues related to water in the sill like have been implied here? Remember, I used to work for the factory doing installs and service so I feel if those problems existed I would have seen them!
BTW: I enjoy discussing windows with people who are actually knowledgeable about them! Thank you! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:34 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:14 pm
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Location: Milwaukee, Madison areas
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Responses in blue.
WindowmanRick wrote:
Well I have not had personal experience with Soft-lite windows but as I said earlier I have an enormous amount of experience with Unlimited windows. Have any of you had personal experience with Unlimited's windows? Are you installers?
My background is installation, yes. I have not personally installed the Unlimited window, but I owned a home that had them previously installed, and I am familiar with their design and features. As I've said before, decent window.
@Windows on Wash: What exactly are pocket sills capable of? In all the windows I have put in and of all the service I've seen(which is very little % wise) I've never seen a service problem related to the pocket sills design.
WoW can certainly answer for himself, but I have seen water back up due to clogging. In a climate such as this, it is not a stretch (as there are documented cases) for that water to freeze, cracking the frame and then leaking into the wall.
@HomeSealed: Unlimited's 2100 Double hung DP=35 and air infiltration =.08. Which are very respectable numbers. Structurally it's rated to a pressure level equivocal to 118mph, otherwise known as a category 3 hurricane! :) I'll have to take your word that Soft-lite double-hungs score DPs of 60, I can only find tests that rate them in the DP 30-40 range and 1(Imperial) that rated 55 with special glass. And since a window can leak air like a sieve and still achieve an excellent DP rating how does this matter unless you live in hurricane alley?
They are okay numbers. Pretty average actually. You are correct that we do not live in a hurricane zone, however those numbers are very much indicative of the quality of the design and structure of a window. The Imperial LS in question rates at 60 or 65 if I am not mistaken (I know that the Elements, its cousin, does for sure). That is with standard glass packages. The HiMark 500 series gets a DP50 with no reinforcement whatsoever, and the 800 takes it to DP60.
Actually, another benefit to pocket sill design is that in negative air pressure the sash cannot bow out as on the lee side of a house in heavy air.
Most quality sloped sill designs have provision for that as well. They would not reach those DP ratings if they did not.

As far as cost goes, pocket sills done the way Unlimited does them aren't less expensive then foam filling. They use more vinyl material per foot, the dies are more expensive and they have to replace the dies more often. Of course maybe the foam filled frames end up costing more due to waste since water is a catalyst to foam making humidity a difficult to control variable. That results in inconsistency in controlling how much foam to inject to not have gaps without causing warping or damage to the extrusions.
What does foam filling have to do with this discussion? It has no bearing on the structural ratings, and a small effect on thermal. The above mentioned HiMark 500 will give you a .28 u-value, DP50, .02AI and that is with a welded sloped sill and no foam in the frame. (foam takes it to .25 u-value). I am not as well versed on the intricacies of the Softlite equivalent, but the LS would be pretty close.

So again I beg to differ on your assessments that the Unlimited window is not on par with Soft-lite. IMHO it is. In all of the NFRC tests I looked up they scored exactly the same or so close as to be negligible in all categories.
You are not looking at the Imperial LS that was referred to in this thread. It is a top performer, and bests the Unlimited in every area. The Unlimited is probably not far off from the lower lines of Softlite on performance, however they achieve those numbers with a sloped sill.
If in fact the design differences affected the performance as dramatically as you gentleman have implied here why haven't the testes had dramatic differences? I'm not sure about that one. Sounds like a medical questions to me. :lol: Why haven't I seen service issues related to water in the sill like have been implied here? Remember, I used to work for the factory doing installs and service so I feel if those problems existed I would have seen them!
Can't speak for your own experience, only from what I've seen and heard myself.
BTW: I enjoy discussing windows with people who are actually knowledgeable about them! Thank you! :)

The feeling is mutual. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Unlimited vs Soft-Lite
PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:56 am 
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Rick,

Great to have a discussion with you about this as well.

We certainly appreciate information and talking to folks that are ultimately concerned with serving the customers better.

As HomeSealed mentioned, there is a potential for both overflow and internal leaks as a result of freeze thaw cracks with a pocket sill window.

In the past year, I have looked at about 4 homes that demonstrated this potential flaw of the window and the customers had wood rott repairs and other damage as a result.

As I stated earlier, it may be a great window and I am sure that it is, I would just prefer a sloped sill window given what is out there for options in sloped sill windows.

Thanks and good talking to you as well.


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