Examine the most important features while shopping for replacement windows
Windows are some of the only design elements that have a significant impact on both the interior and exterior designs of your home. But windows don’t just play double duty as pieces of design. They also work to protect your home from the outdoors, insulate your space and bring in light and air.
Over time, windows can deteriorate or lose effectiveness for some people. For others, their windows may never have been correctly installed or efficient in the first place. Regardless of the reason, installing replacement windows can hold a number of benefits for your energy bill as well as your home’s look, but selecting replacement windows is no easy task.
Alure Home Improvements’ exterior design expert Mike Serra, who specializes in work with windows, siding, roofing and decking, advised homeowners on some of the most important aspects to look for in replacement windows.
Style and aesthetics
The style and look of the windows in your home are important for the way your entire home is viewed by you and others. A bad window can distract from your interior design, while a fitting window can really add a significant amount. In an interview, Serra explained that the most popular option for many homeowners is double-hung windows because they can come out looking great.
“If we speak about the aesthetic, the double-hung [window] seems to be more of a common look out there today, more of a traditional look. It’s very convenient to open and to operate for ventilation,” he said.
Double-hung windows allow homeowners to move both sashes vertically in either direction, whereas single-hung windows traditionally only let people move the bottom panes. Double-hung windows can also tilt, making the once-taxing task of cleaning your windows a breeze.
Many people opt for a grid pattern in their double-hung windows. This look was first made popular many years ago when small glass panes were surrounded by wooden grid frames, but now the grid has no functional purpose and is in between the panes of dual-pane glass. Although they’re just for aesthetics, grids can give homes a more traditional look.
The second most popular window choices are casement windows, Serra explained. These open outward, usually with a crank arm. Instead of leaving them as bare panes, many people go with a Queen Anne or prairie-style grid that almost borders the window. Serra explained that people often like this option because it doesn’t cover the center of the pane, allowing for more light and visibility.
“One of the main reasons that people change their windows today is for energy reasons,” Serra said. “People really look at their oil bills, their gas heating bills and they want to find a way to save it. And it can improve the comfort in the home.”
Because cutting costs and preventing waste is so important to homeowners, it should be a major aspect of what you look for in a replacement window. Serra advised people thinking about replacement windows to look at the National Fenestration Rating Council’s window guide to find out which windows will have the best energy rating. In addition to the NFRC, you want to find a low U-value – one under 0.29. A U-value is a measurement of the unit heat loss rate, or how much heat a window conducts to the other side.
Manufacturers can also coat the glass with silver oxide glazes and inject gases between the panes, which can add significant insulation, Serra explained.
“What these oxides do is they actually reflect the heat back into the home,” Serra said. “They redirect heat back into the home [during the winter], and reflect some heat away from the home in the summertime “¦ They also found that by injecting a gas between the two sealed panes of glass – an argon gas or a krypton gas – what that does is slow down the path of heat escaping out the window, or, in summertime, the heat coming in.”
Using foam-filled vinyl window frames can also add an extra layer of insulation.
Construction and installation
Even when you find a window that has a great energy rating and matches your home’s decor, it’s important to dig deeper and make sure that you get the best warranty, construction and installation.
Serra reminded homeowners to select their windows from a business that specializes in windows and doesn’t make a wide array of products – windows and doors may be best. People should also make sure that they’re getting a good warranty. Some warranties only cover manufacturer defects rather than wear and tear. Serra advised homeowners to push for more comprehensive coverage, although the warranty process is “tricky.”
It’s also important to get a solid frame so that the sash and panes can last for a long time, Serra recommended. Vinyl frames used to be made with screws, but now welding has shown itself to be the best construction.
“What’s looked at as a higher quality, more durable frame today is a fusion welded frame where all the corners of the frame and the sash are fused together,” Serra outlined. “This allows the window to independently operate on its own frame. This will allow the window to hold up and not lose its performance as time goes on.”
A better frame can help a window stay square and true, which is important for durability, function and keeping aspects like weatherstripping in place.
But, regardless of how solid the construction from the manufacturer is, installation is absolutely key.
“One thing that my father used to say that’s very important is that ‘A window is only as good as its insulation.’ It’s really key. You want to find a company that’s certified by the manufacturer for the installation. This will prevent any voids in the warranty and really ensure that you’re getting the proper installation,” Serra advised.
If you’re considering replacement windows, talk to reliable installers like Alure Home Improvements to get help in finding the best window for your style, insulation and manufacturing needs.
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