Seitz Windows 101: Pros, Cons and their Operation

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#1
Since I have read a few other threads about who to get the Seitz windows from (Darrin at RUF) but one thing I have not been able to find any pictures of is how the shade/screen system works. . . . . Can you get me some pics of how they work and your opinions/thoughts on these? Things like how well do they keep out bugs, durability, etc.?
Here you go . . . Seitz Windows 101

. . . in which I'll try to describe how these interesting windows work and why an overlander might or might not want to use them.

And, BTW, before someone has to point it out, there are a couple other manufacturers of this style of window in Europe, but Seitz is by far the market leader and thus gets to be, kinda like "Kleenex", the placeholder for the category.

It's worth noting that I'm only commenting on Seitz's awning window style, which is the more common form. Seitz does make slider windows, but the differences of the Seitz windows from typical RV windows are most obvious in awning form.

PROS:
  • When you cut a hole of x square feet in your cabin, the window gives you x square feet of ventilation and an unobstructed view. A typical slider would be only open up half the area; a t-slider even less.
  • Can be opened in rain.
  • Double insulated, so no condensation and not cold to lean against.
  • Screens are not blocking the view unless you're using them.
  • Window shades exteriors are reflective.
  • Generally cost less than double-insulated glass windows (though sometimes more than single panes).
  • Available in many expo-cabin-friendly sizes.
  • Lightweight things; might save as much as a couple hundred pounds over glass in a large cabin build.
  • Not too tricky to install; screw the outer half to the inner half with lots of gooey sealant in between. (But see the "con" below about framing.)

CONS:
  • The plastic scratches easily. And though they can be kept in good shape with polishing, I doubt anyone bothers. ;)
  • The flexible screen material ride in tracks on each side and the fit is bug-deterring rather than bug-proof. The screens work in most normal conditions, but they could not be trusted in epic bug situations. In such cases, you'll need to close the windows, which are bug proof, or, if you need the ventilation, use duct tape to seal the screen edges to the window frame. What's more, the screen mesh is probably too coarse for most no-see-um conditions, though nothing stops you from carrying cut pieces of fine mesh to layer onto the screen for these situations.
  • The various mechanisms (rollers, hinges, latches) are engineered to work well enough with users who aren't too ham-fisted. But you couldn't characterize the windows as robust or overengineered. Of course, any failure you had would not be critical (and could be temporarily worked around with duct tape) and I personally have not had a problem in five-plus years of use. But the windows are 90% plastic, and fairly lightweight plastic at that.
  • The edges of the screens and shades will come out the side tracks if you lean on them, though they go back in easily enough. And when the windows are open, you obviously have nothing to lean against, whereas a slider would have left half the window area solid.
  • The gap between the outside and inside halves can't be reduced beyond about an inch. So installation is easy if you're putting them into a cabin sidewall panel, but if you want them in something like a sheet metal van wall, you have to build a frame of appropriate thickness around your opening. And while this isn't that tough, it looks a bit weird unless you then trim out the rest of the van interior to approximately the same depth. In point of fact, these windows probably aren't a good choice for thin-wall applications unless part of a complete interior finishing (as is the case in my Sprinter).
  • You have to take care to get the right size. There are inside, outside, and nominal heights and widths on the order sheet and you need to be careful not to confuse measurements. The best advice is probably not to cut the holes until after the windows arrive.
  • Everything about getting them is a pain in the butt. Dometic became the US distributor several years ago, which improved the situation somewhat; I had to get mine from Germany. But for a product you can get without a hassle from dozens of places (even on-line) in Europe, there are too many issues in North America. Most of the window sales are direct to manufacturers who are using the windows in RVs, so approaching your average Dometic-connected RV parts supplier will get a "no clue" response. But even when you find someone to order them, the delivery is slow and there is a history of sending the wrong sizes and having the windows, which were, and I believe still are, shipped in ordinary single-layer carbboard boxes, arrive broken. And, as Murphy would point out, if you're up against a deadline, they'll surely arrive broken or wrong; if you have lots of time, you're order will likely be fine. All kidding aside, it would not be a mistake to start to get the windows four or more months before you wanted to install them.

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So, how do they work? Here's a picture of the exterior half of an average-sized window:



The bottom is to the left in the picture. The window "glass" is acrylic plastic sealed all around the edges but with most of the area being a double-layer section with an airspace in-between. Thus the edges are pretty thin, about a quarter inch, while the middle is closer to an inch thick. Interestingly, from the interior, the window pooches outwards so that there's about two inches between the interior edge of the frame and the surface of the glass. This actually worked to great advatage in my Sprinter, making the width between the window glass about four inches wider than the van interior, which created more length for sleeping on my crosswise bed.

Notice the single latch at the bottom (wide windows have two bottom latches) and the harder-to-see latches on each side a little ways up from the bottom. Each latch rotates a quarter turn to let the "glass" raise up; you can see the metal top hinge, into which the top edge of the glass slides, on the right of the picture. The two metal things on the sides are the "hold-it-up" mechanisms. They click into place at three places along the rod, allowing the window to stay open at, more or less, one-third, two-thirds and fully opened, fully opened being perpendicular to the closed position. Once you've gone to or beyond the first position, you close the window by raising it past fully opened position (to about 110 degrees), which releases the rod and lets the window close. There's no pressure-assist, and no way to open the windows to anything except the fixed positions, unless you choose to carry a set of custom-length prop rods.

Below is the interior view of the interior half. Sadly, my photo model held the window upside down in the picture; the holes in real life are at the bottom.



The shade part is on a spring-loaded roller. The shade is normally retracted into the bottom edge of the cassette (as they call it) and held by the spring. The edges of the shade run in tracks on the sides of the cassette. The top-edge of the shade has squeeze-type latches on each edge. To raise the shade, squeeze the latches, pull up against the roller's spring pressure and, when the shade is raised to the amount you want, stop squeezing. The shade latches will click into a groove about where you let it go. The shade will not hold ajust anywhere, but there are grooves about every two inches, so there's decent adjustability.

The screening is the reciprocal of the shade. It's on a spring-loaded roller in the top of the cassette, also with edges that run in the tracks. The screening is a mesh fabric. It only gets tensioned by being on the spring roller at the top and being latched at the bottom. The screen latches into position by attaching to the top edge of the shade. The screen will not stay extended unless it is latched to the top of the shade, which is, in turn, held into the side grooves by the squeeze latches. Connecting the bottom of the screen to the top of the shade is done with one or two (on wide windows) latches, and the shade-top/screen-bottom connection is made tight because there's an interlocking groove arrangement between the screen and shade metal edges.

The picture shows the interconnection and from it, perhaps you can get the idea of how
(percent covered by shade) + (percent covered by screen) = 100%.
If you want more screen, you get less shade and vice versa. This might be initially be considered a negative, since you essentially don't get ventilation when the shades are fully drawn. In practice, you often have the shades drawn when it's dark, and when it's dark, it's often cooler and the ventilation doesn't matter. More to the point, though, this isn't any worse than any other setup; put a roller shade across a typical RV slider window and you won't do any better.

The shade material is quite opaque, but some light will leak around the side edges and so the shades won't work to get the cabin pitch dark. To the good, though, the exterior side of the shades is reflective and undoubtedly does some good at keeping things slightly cooler.

-------

As a personal summary . . . I was very pleased with the Roxio plastic awning windows in my Unimog camper, and I'm very happy that experience led to the decision to put the similar Seitz windows in my Sprinter. In my situation, the advantages considerably outweigh the disadvantages. By far the two biggest benefits are the lack of condensation and cold spots and the amount of unobstructed light and view available. In fact, I have a hard time getting excited about most of the current Class B Sprinter conversions because of their inferior window setups.

But the Seitz windows are not for everyone, and the hassle of getting them demands more effort and patience than it should. Still, for most expedition cabin builders, they deserve a lot of consideration.

If there are any questions prompted by this lecture, please post them here and I'll try to answer them.
 
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ExpoMike

American Adventurist
#3
Man that was an awesome write up. Just what I wanted to hear and see. I owe you a cold one.

Now I am not 100% sold on them as I really will need something that will keep bugs out. Wife doesn't like bugs but they sure like her. I'll have her read this write up and decide if we want to continue down this road.

Thanks again!
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#5
Now I am not 100% sold on them as I really will need something that will keep bugs out. Wife doesn't like bugs but they sure like her. I'll have her read this write up and decide if we want to continue down this road.
A lot of it's going to depend where you're going. Don't get the idea that the screens totally suck; we haven't had problems with the normal bugs at normal places. The screens work well enough to keep out the bug of average determination. Not surprisingly, when the cabin lights are on, the bugs are actively working to get in and the loose screen fit can be an issue. (Plus it's modestly gross to have a few hundred bugs clinging to your screen, though that applies to any screening.) When the lights are out, they don't care and the Seitz screens work pretty well to keep them out. However, you absolutely do want to temporarily turn the lights off and thwap the window screens before opening the screen to close or adjust the window.

Anyway, it's true that I'd be getting the duct tape ready if I was in one of those places like Alaska or Northwest BC or the UP where they print up t-shirts bragging about the bugs. But in general conditions, you can get by fine . . . and remember, too, that even a snap-in RV screen likely won't be up to clouds of no-see-ums.

Tough deciion, I know. A lot of your choice will depend on how well the alternatives meet your needs. With the crappy weather we have, for instance, being able to have windows open in the rain outweighed mediocre bug protection. For another overlander, the balance would be different. Good luck.
 

ExpoMike

American Adventurist
#6
Good perspective. We mainly do desert areas of the southwest. The bug issue might not be that bad as more humid area. I reality, it is likely we won't have the windows open during dark hours as we will definitely be trying to keep the heat in. All of our camping is fall thru spring. I really like the fact that they don't transfer cold like single pane glass would.

Much to weigh. On a different note, how well do they keep sound out?

Thanks again.
 
#7
Thanks for this write up Mike, Many dont realize how efficient the Seitz windows are over traditional Single Pane Windows that come in most stock campers/RVs/Vehicles

These are a huge upgrade from stock, and if building a new camper/rig, they're a must have when preparing for the final build

Side Note: I contacted Mike a year or so ago after reading about his Sprinter build when he said he had installed the Seitz windows. I asked him about them and where he got them.

Here is a guy who doesnt know me from Adam, yet replies with a multi page email explaining a review much like this and gives me every piece of info he has on them.

I was amazingly impressed and have since held him in such a high standard amongst fellow EXPO members.

I ended up contacting the company he put me into contact with, but couldnt afford to get the windows replaced in my current camper, so they're still on the top of my list of upgrades

Thanks again Mike
 
#8
Obviously size/source/etc. factor in but does anyone have an order of magnitude for a given window size they are able to share? Not sure if the Darrin source allows stuff to be publically said or if he gets in trouble.
 
#9
Do not under estimate the benefit of being able to leave the Seitz windows open in the rain. This is a big plus.

There is also a feature that allows you to leave the window open just a crack but still locked.

This is great for driving or leaving the camper parked in hot weather.

I might have mis read part of your great write up, but my narrow windows have 2 latches and my wide windows have 3 latches.
 

brianjwilson

Some sort of lost...
#10
Thanks for the reminder! I'm having a small slide-in built and the manufacturer was suppose to be get back to me about fitting these windows. May be too late anyway...
 
#11
We have had 2 Seitz windows in the sides of our Sprinter van for almost a year and I can second pretty much everything Mike says.

I'll add that Mike was gracious enough to help us figure out the right size to order since we were installing in the same size Sprinter he has - which given the turn-around time of several months was obviously pretty important. Didn't want to wait three months for the windows and then have them be wrong.

We tend to open the windows up to 90 degrees for maximum ventilation when camping and they really are like awnings in that sense. Really a wonderful feature. The inside of the van feels like a screened porch when these are open, the roof vent is open and the back windows are open too.

We haven't noticed any bug issues, but maybe haven't tested the screens the way some explorers might.

Everything is lightweight so you do have to watch how you handle the shades/screens/latches, but the light weight is also great for the total weight of the van and the slight flexibility of the window makes installation a bit easier. Still, my husband had to shim all the way around the windows, both inside and out, as the Sprinter sidewall is not the thickness the windows are designed for and the Sprinter sides have some curvature. If I had kids handling the screens/shades I might be concerned, though. They need a light, informed adult touch.
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#12
On a different note, how well do they keep sound out?
Very well, to my mind. Significantly better than you could expect from anything less than a well-built double pane glass window that would cost much more. I should have stressed their noise attenuation as an advantage.
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#13
Obviously size/source/etc. factor in but does anyone have an order of magnitude for a given window size they are able to share? Not sure if the Darrin source allows stuff to be publically said or if he gets in trouble.
Darrin is a fully-authorized Dometic dealer, so it's not a problem to reference him. The reason to use him is that he works harder than most to try to get the orders right. However, Darrin gets frustrated with the incorrect and broken orders, as anyone would, and sorting things out for customers is an aggravation he doesn't need.

I guarantee you that Darrin doesn't need the modest profit he makes on the windows, and he is not trying to make a living selling Seitz windows. As I've pointed out in the past, he's done it--don't know if he still would--as a "for good of the community" thing and he'd be just as happy if you can find another good source. Unfortunately, Darrin is likely the most knowledgeable dealer in the US and likely the one most devoted to getting you what you want.

So it's good to contact him and good to have him handle your order if you have no other good alternative . . . but just keep in mind that unlike someone who's actually "in the business," he's largely doing you a favor. And when he warns you that things may not go smoothly, realize that he knows this from experience and has no virtually no control over the situation.

And when, as he has threatened to do, he throws up his hands at the problems and says he won't take any more orders, post up that news here. Similarly, if anyone has a smooth experience from some source other than RUF, let us know that, too.

http://www.ruf-inc.com/index.htm
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#14
I might have mis read part of your great write up, but my narrow windows have 2 latches and my wide windows have 3 latches.
Seems to vary by length. My narrower windows, which actually aren't all that narrow (about the size shown in the top pictures), have one bottom latch and two side latches for the "glass." My long windows have three bottom latches and two side latches. On the Mog cabin (circa 1995), I had a small kitchen window with two bottom latches and no side latches.

FWIW, the latches actually "lock," in that they have a pushbutton on the handle that snaps into place when closed and has to be depressed to turn the handle. Not that we're talking vault-like security here, but the windows seem to me to be about as secure as regular RV windows, maybe even a little better because of the multiple latches or, if we're talking the low-skill route, two layers of plastic being a tiny bit harder to break than a pane of glass.
 
#15
Cool write up!

I would say a negative point is how far they protrude from the body, asking to be ripped off on tight vegetation perhaps!?

We've also found some bugs are quite good at both walking around the edge if the blind isn't quite seated, or though the vent gaps at the edges. So we have a velcro continuous strip around the outside edge of the internal frame, and a "custom" panel of noseeum net with matching velcro. They can be pulled of, sealed entirely or rolled up (more tightly than in the pics) out of the way, and other then the effort of making cost very little.

Jason

:)
 

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