Choosing Windows for Your Home
“Let the light shine in” goes the song, but choosing where and how to let that light shine takes a walk down window lane.
Windows have come a long way in both function and design. There are plenty of manufacturers to choose from with price ranges to go along with the multitude of choices. Whether it’s window replacement with vinyl replacement windows or installing replacement windows of a combination of materials…well, the styles are many…so research and determine what’s right for you.
Windows now have style, meaning fashion, to go with its function. Windows are making a statement in the design and style of homes these days. Placement for the function is its primary role, but it’s important to maintain balance for aesthetic reasons. They no longer have to line up with each other, one above the other, for example, but maintaining a sense of balance and proportion on the exterior is what makes the overall effect pleasing. Adult supervision is required. If I see one more poorly balanced arch window, I’m going to scream!
Manufacturers make window styles such as double hung, casement, awning, fixed, skylights, and specialty windows, with wood, vinyl, and aluminum clad finishes. And you can mix those combinations! Keeping wood on the interior to maintain a “warm feeling” and non-wood on the exterior for ease of maintenance has come to be the norm. Not to mention you can paint or stain the wood interior in any color and finish you choose.
Windows can come with internal blinds, meaning between the panes of glass, and screens that retract when not needed. Easy access for cleaning is also part of the plan. Tilt-in units make cleaning the exterior from the interior a snap. Hey, what’s this world coming to?
Visiting a showroom and seeing the units firsthand is recommended. You should go to more than one showroom because all manufacturers will not be represented in one location. Knowledgeable salespeople can demonstrate the functions of the windows you’re interested in and you can get hands-on experience with the products. It’s a must-visit. Prices vary of course so be sure to ask.
Many windows offer exterior color choices to complement and/or contrast with your house and trim colors. Depending on the manufacturer there are many color choices on both the windows and doors. The non-wood exterior provides for a low to no maintenance window for years to come. They can be repainted if needed with proper preparation.
I love the sun tunnel skylights that require no electricity and bring light into small spaces where windows are not feasible. They bring in a remarkable amount of natural light and can be part of your green building desires. No power is required!
Energy efficiency and glazing. Let’s not get too excited!
On the performance level, the U-value measures a window’s ability to resist heat transfer. One wants low U-values. The Department of Energy established an Energy Star program that shows the U-values on a sticker on the window. It’s a volunteer program but manufacturers are using this system to strut their stuff.
Low-E glass reduces the UV rays from the sun which helps reduce the fading of interior materials. It dramatically reduces the infrared and ultraviolet rays coming into the house. Low-E also reduces the heat transfer through the glass.
Inert Argon gas between the glass panels helps to reduce the conductive heat transfer, thereby improving the U-value and energy efficiency. These different options have a price tag. Decide which ones you need. Windows have notoriously been big losses of heat compared to the rest of the building and having as many energy-saving options as you can afford is recommended.
There have been grand improvements for reducing air infiltration from windows with better weather stripping and operational function over the years. Some units create noise reduction and energy efficiency with their third-pane option. If you live in an area where sound is an issue, these units could be quite desirable. It’s a competitive business and the manufacturers have been working to improve their products and they have succeeded.
There are warranties on the insulated glass that vary in the years of replacement. Caradco windows offer a 20-year warranty on their single-lite insulated glass. Ask about the warranties. The warranties help establish how the manufacturers value their own products. So pay attention to those details.
There are now grill inserts available that closely simulate the old-style true divided lights.
Of course, these are insulated units. Those who want the true divided lite with insulated glass can have that at a premium price. Many manufacturers have upgraded their choice of grills. Anderson windows have a variety of choices these days, as do many of the other manufacturers. You can have these grills or muntin bars, as they are referred to in the trade, between the layers of glass, on the interior or exterior of the glass.
There are lots of choices these days over the style of grills available. One of my favorites is the surrounding grill from Marvin that snaps in from the interior and has a real old-time muntin bar look. They can be removed for easy cleaning.
The manufacturers have done a good job of improving insulation values and reducing air infiltration with sealing systems. I’m afraid the adage, “you get what you pay for” applies to windows. So shop around to determine the look, style, features, and pricing you want. And a little professional help can go a long way in determining the best value for your situation. So let that light shine in!