Replacing windows that have seen better days with energy efficient windows can significantly reduce cooling and heating bills and add curb appeal and value to a home. In addition to the many features offered in new windows, there are numerous materials and styles from which to choose. But how do you choose the right style of window for your home?
No doubt that replacing windows with the right ones can be overwhelming. It is a significant investment that is expected to last as long as 20 years. Doing your homework before deciding saves headaches down the road.
New or Replacement
The first decision is to choose replacement or brand new windows. When a homeowner wants to change the shape or size of the window opening, new windows are put in place of the old. Typically, a contractor has to be hired to complete the installation and carpentry that surrounds the windows.
New windows are no more expensive than replacement windows. The overall price is higher due to additional labor costs. The advantage is completely changing the feel and appearance of a home both outside and in.
The surrounding frame and trim are not disturbed when replacement windows are installed. An old window is replaced with a window or sash designed to fit into the opening that exists. While replacing windows cost as much as new windows, the total cost is less because there is no labor involved. Replacement windows come in stock sizes or custom ordered to fit an opening. The choice varies by manufacturer.
The type or style of window is the next decision. The four most popular or basic styles are:
- Single or Double Hung
The most common are the windows that are single or double hung. They consist of upper and lower sashes that have the glass panes in the inner frame. These windows open and close by sliding them up or down. Single hung windows open only from the bottom. They slide up.
Double hung windows open from the bottom or the top. Lowering the top sash is an ideal way to create airflow through the house. They are well-suited for homes with small children. Double hung windows prevent a child from climbing out of a lower window as window screens do not support the weight of a child.
Casement windows typically consist of a broad sash that is vertically hinged and swings out to open. A mechanism such as a lever opens this style window. Casement windows allow for great ventilation because of how they open. They are easy to open and close.
Awning windows are horizontally hinged and open by tilting them out from the bottom. As the name suggests, when opened they create an awning appearance. Awning windows are frequently found in bathrooms and coastal areas because when shut, awning windows have a tighter seal due to its locking mechanism. This is beneficial for moist environments.
Slider windows have a side to side opening. When outside space to swing open a window is limited, slider windows are an excellent choice.
Frame and Sash Material
Next to consider is the material used to make the windows. Vinyl and wood are the most often chosen materials. Some variations include clad windows. Aluminum and fiberglass frames are also available, but less popular. Aluminum is not as energy efficient as wood or vinyl. Fiberglass is more costly than vinyl.
Wood has excellent insulating properties that resist cold and heat. Wood windows are also beautiful. Consider though that the natural wood look involves considerable maintenance. To protect them from rot, movement, and moisture, they must be periodically painted or stained.
Like vinyl fencing, vinyl windows are a popular choice for homeowners. They are nearly maintenance-free. Vinyl windows look great, are reasonably priced, and provide excellent insulation.
Vinyl clad windows have a wood frame on the outside that is vinyl coated. The inside of these windows has the beauty of wood. The windows give the natural feel and charm of painted or stained wood on the inside and offer a maintenance-free feature on the outside.
Recent technology advancements have expanded the available options in window glass. You can choose from double-, triple-, or quadruple-paned glass. The distance between panes is also a decision you get to make.
Typically homeowners choose 2-3 panes of glass when replacing windows. You will need to consider budget when choosing the number of panes. Energy efficiency, noise reduction and UV ray protection are provided by the panes.
Additional insulation is provided by the air between the glass panes. The majority of manufacturers use an inert gas, such as argon, between the glass panes, which provides better insulation than air alone.
To reduce the heat that flows through the glass, a material that is microscopically thin and virtually invisible is used on the glass surface. It is referred to as Low-E, which stands for Low-Emissivity.
Whether or not to choose impact-resistant or shatterproof glass is also an option in replacing windows. If you hit an impact-resistant glass with a baseball bat it breaks, but will not shatter it. Glass shards are not spread all over the area. Impact resistant glass holds up beautifully under extreme weather conditions. If the glass is broken, there is no big mess to clean up.
- U-factor, or U-value
- Solar heat gain coefficient
- Visual transmittance
The U-factor indicates the rate of heat loss and typically has a range of 0.20 to 1.20. A lower number means the window keeps heat in better than a higher number. The solar coefficient measures the solar radiation that passes through a window ranges from 0 to 1. Again, a smaller number is a better indication of the ability to block unwanted heat caused by the sun. A low number is best in warm climates. In colder areas, it is best if the number is higher. The visible transmittance measures the light that passes through a window. It ranges 0 to 1. The amount of light increases as the indicator increases.
Getting what you pay for is an appropriate rule of thumb when choosing windows. Not only is cost important but choosing a product manufactured by a well-known and well-reviewed company is significant.
Well-made windows provide low maintenance that stands the test of time, ease of use, and energy savings.
Examine the warranty offered by the manufacturer, particularly concerning the glass. Fogging is a common complaint of insulated glass windows. A well-known, reputable company will serve you well. Companies that have been in business for a long time are likely to be in business in the future if the windows need a sash, replacement parts, or some other problem.
The best method of choosing a contractor is to wait until you have selected your windows. Manufacturers train contractors to install their windows. Look for a contractor who knows how to install the windows you’ve chosen. Another means of finding window installation contractors is to call the local Home Builders Association in your area.