Windows can bring new life to existing homes by letting in fresh air, flooding rooms with natural light and opening up beautiful views. They also come in all shapes, sizes and materials. Important considerations for selecting the right window are type, material, style, climate and budget.
A pocket window is perfect in situations where the home’s existing window frame and surrounding wall are in good condition, but the sash is in need of improvement. Installing a complete replacement window is a good choice for projects involving more substantial renovation.
The most common materials used for windows are vinyl, wood, clad-wood and aluminum. Your choice depends on what factors are most important to you.
• Vinyl — A strong PVC material that is used for its durability, energy efficiency and ability to stand up to the elements. This material resists fading and won’t flake, peel or rot.
• Wood — Wood comes from trees with a range of characteristics, such as grain, color and sap content. Cladding is a strong layer of metal over the wood, providing extra protection and low maintenance benefits with no exterior painting required.
• Aluminum — A lightweight and strong material that is a cost effective alternative to wood. This material is corrosion-resistant and performs well in most climates.
Awning, bay, bow, casement, double-hung, fixed, garden, single-hung, sliding and tilt and turn — windows are available in many shapes, sizes and combination units.
When it comes to budget, it’s important to factor in long-term value beyond the initial purchase price. Energy efficiency and a longer warranty can all help save maintenance and replacement costs over time. Resale value is also a key consideration — beautiful, more efficient windows are a big selling feature.
Wet, humid, hot, severe storms, salty air — different climates have different window needs when it comes to material and glass choices. Talk to a reputable contractor or window dealer in your particular area to help select products that may work best for you. He or she may recommend hardware for a coastal environment, rot-resistant wood or another of the following materials or options:
• Coastal climates, wet and damp and/or high humidity — Specially treated wood windows or vinyl windows offer good moisture protection. Because these conditions can require more maintenance, including regular repainting and touch-ups, windows that require less maintenance and won’t need painting, such as vinyl, and clad-wood windows, are a good choice.
• Energy efficiency — With more homeowners looking for ways to save energy and money with building and remodeling projects, the demand for energy efficient windows grows. The W-2500 window from JELD-WEN, can meet ENERGY STAR® criteria in all four climate zones in the U.S. and comes with an industry-leading warranty against wood rot. There are several criteria that must be met for a product to receive the ENERGY STAR designation. It is given in North, North Central and South Central climate zones with the standard glass package of Low-E270 with argon, and in the Southern zone when grilles are used. Without grilles, Southern zone ENERGY STAR criteria are achieved with Low-E366 and argon.
• Exceptionally hot/harsh sun exposure — Rather than window material type, glass and window location is key. The right glass can help protect against UV exposure and keep interior furnishings from fading. Choose insulated Low-E glass, which reduces the amount of heat entering the home and lowers cooling needs. It also blocks up to 85 percent of harmful UV rays that cause interior fading. Look for the ENERGY STAR label suitable for your region. Pay attention to window labels including the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), which indicates the ability to block heat generated by sunlight. The greater the protection, the lower the SHGC. U-factor is also important, which is the amount of heat flowing through a product. The lower the number, the more energy efficient it is. Proper overhangs and location of windows are also important. When building a home in a sunny region, place larger windows facing north.
• Severe, hurricane-force storms — In hurricane-prone regions, look for windows designed to meet local building codes. These windows come with options that resist impacts from wind borne debris and keep windows intact during storms.
Depending on location, new windows can save you money year after year. They can also increase your home’s value. Most importantly, new windows enhance the entire look of your home and add to priceless curb appeal — a must when it comes time to sell your home.
Don’t Let Money Go Out the Window
Windows have a significant impact on your heating and cooling bills. So, it’s extremely important to make the most energy-efficient choice for your home.
Replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR qualified windows can lower household energy bills by 7 to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lower energy consumption also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and shrinks a house’s carbon footprint. ENERGY STAR divides the U.S. into four climate zones, each with its own unique set of energy performance requirements. Energy efficiency for windows and doors is compared by using two important measurements:
• U-Factor: U-factor measures insulating value and indicates how much heat or cold transfers through the window or door. The lower the U-factor, the more energy efficient the product is.
• SHGC: Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) measures a window’s ability to block the sun’s heat. The more solar heat it blocks, the lower the SHGC number. Where air conditioning is prevalent, ENERGY STAR requires a lower SHGC. Where heating is more prevalent, opt for a higher SHGC so the sun’s rays can stream in on cold winter days.
In the northern zones, U-Factor and SHGC requirements focus on helping reduce the need for heating. In the southern zones, requirements generally aim to reduce the need for air conditioning. Special glass coatings help control how much of the sun’s heat enters and how much of the controlled air temperature inside escapes.
To earn the ENERGY STAR label, windows must meet rigorous energy performance levels. Qualified products must also have third-party certification based on testing in recognized laboratories.