A window into the world of window replacements
It's easy to understand the significance of windows in home design, not least because they affect both the interior and exterior of a property. And this is one upgrade when investing in a well-made product is critical. Quality windows have a greater initial cost and are a big investment, but they can pay for themselves in terms of increased aesthetics and energy savings over time.
Replacing outdated windows with new, energy-efficient models can pay for themselves in terms of both aesthetics and electricity savings. To help you assess your window options and choose which styles and materials will work best for your home, consult our guide.
Energy efficiency of replacement windows
Energy-efficient windows can limit heat transfer by up to 65 percent, according to AFG Industries, a manufacturer of high-performance window glass. This means that energy-efficient windows can assist in maintaining a pleasant temperature in your house, resulting in lower heating and cooling expenditures.
The Energy Star label, which can be found on products from all of the leading manufacturers, including Andersen, Pella, and Marvin, is the first thing to check for when searching for replacement windows. A window must meet stringent government-defined specifications to achieve a green certification, and as a result, an Energy Star rating is one of the most useful barometers a homeowner can use to compare different windows on the market.
The National Fenestration Rating Council's ratings are also useful for anyone looking for new windows (NFRC). The council's ratings differ from Energy Star's in one significant way: they consider a product's ability to endure extreme weather as well as its energy efficiency. Any window that has received an NFRC rating is likely to perform well in temperatures ranging from -20°F to 180°F and winds up to 155 mph.
"A fundamental step in window selection is choosing the glazing—the window glass—for light transmission and energy efficiency," says Rick Keller of Keller Glass in Jeffersonville, New York. "Today's replacement windows are commonly two- or three-paned," because a single pane provides insufficient insulation.
Multiple panes provide better insulation on their own, but modern window glass also has a low-emissivity coating (also known as a low-e coating), which "reduces total direct sun rays by 13%." Low-e glass can also help you save money on your energy bills by reducing heat gain in the summer and retaining heat in the winter.
"Inert gasses often fill the crevices between the panes, providing extra thermal qualities," Keller says of multi-paned windows. The insulation factor increases with each additional glass and layer of gas. Better-insulated windows are normally more expensive, but their energy efficiency lowers monthly electricity bills, allowing a homeowner to recoup the additional cost and possibly even come out ahead in the long run.
While the materials used to construct a window frame have an impact on its thermal capabilities, they have a considerably greater impact on its physical features, such as thickness, weight, and durability. The following are some of the most common standard window frame choices:
Wood: Wood-framed windows come in a range of shapes and sizes and are admired for their aesthetic appeal. They may last a long time if properly maintained, rewarding energy-conscious homeowners with a high R-value (a measure of thermal resistance).
Wood clad: If one disadvantage of traditional wood-framed windows is their high care needs, vinyl- or aluminum-clad wood windows provide the best of both worlds—a warm interior appearance and increased weather resistance on the exterior.
Aluminum: Aluminum windows are strong, lightweight, and long-lasting, and they are far less expensive than their wood-framed counterparts. Not only is there a style tradeoff here, but also a performance tradeoff: Aluminum is prone to condensation, which can lead to mold in some circumstances.
Vinyl: Vinyl is a long-lasting, low-maintenance window material that resists moisture. Vinyl windows are less expensive than wood and, despite the fact that they cannot be painted, come in a wide selection of standard colors and an almost endless number of bespoke hues.
Fiberglass composite: Another alternative for homeowners who desire the look of wood but not the maintenance, fiberglass composite windows perform well in harsh environments. In extreme heat, they do not warp or droop, and in extreme cold, they do not shrink or become brittle.
Composite: Composite windows are made out of a mix of plastic and organic components and are often sturdy and energy efficient. Custom orders are feasible if you want to achieve a certain look and none of the stock colors appeal to you.
Different types of windows use distinct operating mechanisms and have different layouts. The following are a few of the most common:
Single-hung or double-hung: Both have two sashes in a single frame, but the sashes in a double-hung window slide up and down.
Casement: This window opens from the side and is hinged like a door, while top-opening casements (with a cranked knob) are also available.
Sliding windows: Sliding windows slide horizontally along a track made of plastic or metal. They have two sashes that can be opened and closed, one or both.
Awning: Awning windows have one panel of glass and open outward from a top hinge. They are frequently used in conjunction with other window styles.
Hopper: Hopper windows, which are bottom-hinged and top-opening, are most commonly used for basement ventilation.
Clerestory: Clerestory windows are frequently installed in a sequence along the top portion of high walls to allow in plenty of natural light.
Rotating windows: Rotating windows have continuous glass panels that pivot partially open from a central axis, making them popular for framing vistas.
Arch: Arch-topped windows, also known as radius windows, are normally fixed in place but are also available in operable varieties.
Bow: A bow window protrudes outward from the wall rather than sitting flush with it, and is made out of multiple identical glass panels joined into a gentle curve.
Bay: Bays combine two angled side windows with one bigger central window to create another projecting window structure.
Should you do it yourself or hire a pro?
"When it comes to installing windows, it's vital to pick a reputable firm that is properly insured," says Sean Boyes of Boyes & Torrens Construction in Neversink, New York. "If you employ a professional, you can rest assured that the window will be installed correctly. Furthermore, a reliable company will maintain the installation if it is needed in the future."
"Choosing excellent windows and competent installation would normally cost anywhere from $500 to $1,200 per unit, depending on the style," Boyes says. The expense of picture windows, bays, and bows would be higher."