Two inventions

Storm Stud: A patented fastening system is built into window frames and used to secure storm protection panels. The fasteners can be covered with a snap-out trim strip that matches the window framing and hides the fastening system.Energy Impact Glass: A patent-pending laminated window glass meets building code regulations for storm-resistant windows but is lighter than typical storm-resistant glass and is energy efficient.

The Muhler Company has been selling storm protection systems for many years, but company owner Henry M. Hay III said many systems to protect windows from high winds and debris had some drawbacks.

So he decided to invent better ones, and now has one U.S. patent and a second one pending.

Hay said some existing storm-protection systems for windows involve installing exterior tracks that are used to mount metal panels over the windows, and those tracks have an unappealing look.

Muhler installed lots of those systems in the mid-2000s.

“The homeowners didn’t like how they looked,” Hay said. “The builders didn’t like the way they looked.”

In one subdivision, he said, a homeowners association ordered them removed. “I really got to thinking that it would be better to have the storm protection in the window,” said Hay.

There have long been systems involving mounting hardware that can be drilled into window frames, and used to attach pre-drilled plywood panels. But Hay said the hardware sticks out and looks bad, and metal hardware tends to rust.

So Hay and Bruce Weber, Muhler’s director of engineering, got to work developing a system to mount storm protection panels that could be built into window frames and covered with trim when not in use.

They were awarded a U.S. patent for their resulting invention, the Storm Stud attachment system, and it is now being used in new construction and replacement windows.

The system uses injection-molded hardware that’s built into a window frame. The hardware is covered by snap-out trim, making the system hard to notice when it’s not in use.

The system allows homeowners to quickly install Fabric Shield storm panels, manufactured by Wayne Dalton, that attach to the Storm Studs with screws.

“We sell the component to the manufacturer, who builds it into the window,” Hay said. “We got it tested, approved, and just got our patent.”

While the patent was pending, Storm Stud was awarded the grand prize in the 2009 S.C. New Ideas competition, sponsored by a consortium of business development groups.

Beazer Homes is using the system in new single-family and multifamily homes at Bolton’s Landing in West Ashley, and the system is also available in replacement windows.

Hay said the windows are good for builders because they reduce labor costs. The storm protection is built in, so workers don’t have to come and install a system after the window goes in.

The builder cost is about $200 for a standard window outfitted with Storm Studs, Hay said. For remodeling projects, the system adds less than $100 to the cost of a typical window, he said.

But the big deal for Hay and the invention he created with Weber is the fact that building codes are changing, and all new construction and replacement windows for Charleston-area homes will soon be required to have protection from wind-borne debris.

“When I invented this, I had no idea the (building) code was changing,” Hay said. “We believe it will create a groundswell of interest in our product.”

Storm protection can take many forms, from high-cost hurricane-resistant windows to a variety of ways to cover window openings with shutters, panels, or flexible material.

The Storm Stud and Fabric Shield system covers window opening with a tough but translucent covering that’s intended to keep wind and debris out. It’s among the less-expensive storm protection measures, which would also include pre-drilled plywood with mounting systems, and track-mounted metal panels.

More costly options include traditional and Bahama shutters, and storm-resistant windows.

Storm Stud is Hay’s first patent, but he has another patent pending on a lower-cost storm-resistant window glass called Energy Impact.

“It’s less expensive than traditional hurricane-rated glass, with some better features,” Hay said.

His company produces the laminated glass at a North Charleston factory and sells it to window manufacturers.

“We’re very close to a patent on that,” he said.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.