Replace your windows if they are not working well, leaking, drafty, single pane, or damaged. New windows will make your home more attractive, quieter, and more energy efficient. You can replace either the sash, the sash in an unitary frame, or the whole window. This decision will depend on the condition of your old windows.
Tips for Choosing Windows
When shopping for windows, you should decide what features listed below that you want, such as energy efficiency, easy maintenance, and an attractive appearance. Then, you should determine the costs of these features, and see what fits in your budget. Be sure that the windows you buy have been certified by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and rated by the National Fenestration Rating Council. Also, see if the dealer has been certified by Installation Masters or the American Windows and Door Institute.
The Window Glass
Windows can have one, two, or three layers of glass and are referred to as single-pane, double-pane, or triple-pane. The extra layers of glass and the argon gas that fills the air-pocket between the layers of glass make double-pane and triple-pane windows better insulators from the cold and heat. They also prevent condensation and are better protection from break-ins and from objects blown by the wind or thrown by kids.
Double-pane windows are usually sufficient unless you live in an area that can get extremely cold. A low-emissivity coating can be applied to windows to reduce the transfer of heat. In warm climates, it is applied to the outside of the window to keep the heat out. In cold climates, it is applied to the inside of the window to keep the heat in. It also protects furniture, drapes, and carpet from fading. You can also have a UV-repellent film applied. It provides an indiscernible, tinted window that further keeps out heat and prevents fading of furnishings. It is definitely recommended for sunny and warm climates.
On the window, you should find it’s u-value, solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), and visible transmittance. A low U-value indicates that the window provides good insulation and high energy efficiency. The SHGC has a range between zero and one. It shows how much heat enters through the window. In warm climates, look for a number closer to zero. In cold climates, look for a number closer to one. The visible transmittance measures how much light enters through the window. It also has a range between zero and one. Look for a number closer to one for the best natural lighting
The Window Frame
Frames are vinyl, wood, aluminum, wood-clad, composite, and fiber glass. Vinyl frames are the least expensive, but if they are well-constructed, they can be energy efficient. However, they come in a limited selection of colors, and some people do not like the look of vinyl windows. Wood frames are the best insulating frames and look good, but they require the most maintenance. While wood frames have proven to last on older homes, they are more susceptible to damage in humid or rainy climates. Aluminum frames are not the best in energy efficiency, but they are great in humid and rainy climates and in hurricane-prone areas. Wood-clad frames are the most expensive. With vinyl exteriors and wood interiors, they are easy to maintain and good insulators but have to be installed to protect against water intrusion to prevent rotting. Made with resin and wood shavings, composite frames resemble wood without the maintenance. Made with resin and glass fibers, fiberglass frames are more expensive but they are good insulators. They are durable and do not warp.
So, when choosing windows consider your climate and budget, along with the other features.