Buyer's Guide: Replacement Windows
Wholesale Home Improvements, Denver, Colorado
Replacement windows can be a major home investment and a major headache. With over 240 window manufacturers producing a multitude of various models, arming yourself with the proper knowledge is the first step in figuring out which windows work best for your home.
At Wholesale Home Improvements, we've been in the window business for over two decades and have gathered our insight to help you choose the right windows for your home, style and budget. This Buyer's Guide will walk you through everything you need to know and then some.
Of course, if you have any questions along the way, we're here to help. Simply contact WHI for a free, no-obligation consultation.
How to Choose the Best Windows for Your Home
Replacement windows for your home or business come with countless options and opportunities for customization. Size and style are a good place to start. It's also important to think about how long you plan on staying in the home and if you wish to capitalize on energy and bill savings.
Here's a quick step-by-step for buying and installing replacement windows:
- Before You Buy, Know Your Quality
- Find the Right Style for Your Home
- Select a Window Material and Finish
- Don't Forget the Energy Star Rating
- Customize Any Window with Grilles
- Don't Forget Proper Installation
Before You Buy, Know Your Quality
Replacement windows come in a multitude of types and grades, all suited best for different purposes. While some of the least expensive windows, often referred to as "builder grade", come with lifetime warranties, a higher grade of window will pay for itself in the long run.
Higher grades of windows tend to have a better insulation level ("R" level) and deteriorate less rapidly than lower grades. Beware however, that poorly constructed windows can seem as functional as higher quality windows when they're brand new because it's difficult to tell the difference by appearances only. This leads to a common problem where the homeowner replaces a drafty old window with another sub-standard product, leading to wasted time and money. Be sure you buy what suits your needs the best.
- Low performance windows, or builder grade windows, are designed for new home construction or where performance and durability are not as important as cost. The investment on builder grade windows can generally be paid back in less than 2 years.
- Medium performance windows combine price and durability to create a versatile window that is both long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing. About 7 years or less is the time it takes for a homeowner to fully realize the cost effectiveness of medium grade windows. This option can deliver noticeable energy savings while not emptying your pocketbook.
- High performance windows add a touch of artistry to a functional design by enhancing the beauty of the home with unique designs. At the same time, these windows offer superior insulating value, including up to R-10 on the glass and R-25 on the frames. They also block up to 98% of UV radiation. With a higher price tag than other grades, staying in a home 7 or more years is suggested to fully reap the financial investment of these windows.
Be wary of companies that try to pass off builder grade windows as medium or high as they can appear to be the same. Be sure you're getting what you pay for by asking questions like, "What's the R level?"
Find the Right Style for Your Home
There are four basic designs of windows, all of which suit different styles of homes and buildings. While you may think that a certain era of home should dictate the window style, we've seen customers mix it up to create a unique look and complement a more modern way of living.
- Hung and Slider windows open down-to-up or side-to-side respectively. Easy to operate with few moving parts, they are some of the most common window styles due to their cost-effectiveness. They can suffer from excessive heat loss if not constructed with a high wind rating or reinforced properly.
- Casement windows, otherwise known as awning or hopper windows, these use a crank to open and close. Generally, casement windows have a higher cost due to more moving parts but are sturdier and can withstand wind better as it can actually reinforce a window's insulation instead of degrading it.
- Fixed or Picture windows offer the greatest insulation value due to their fixed position. Because of this, cleaning may be more difficult than with other window styles. However, they make a great statement in any home and offer an easy way to showcase Colorado's stunning landscape.
- Bay or Bow windows can be fixed or a combination of fixed and ventilation. They provide a lot of natural light and help spaces feel more open, especially in living rooms. On the interior of the home, they can be paired with an added seating area for reading or simply relaxing.
Select a Window Material and Finish
Windows come in a variety of materials. Let's take a look at the benefits of wood, fiberglass and other windows and doors. In addition to the frame material, there are multiple options for colors and finishes.
- Fiberglass windows are strong, durable, low maintenance, and provide good insulation. Fiberglass frames can be either hollow or filled with foam insulation.
- Vinyl windows are low maintenance and provide good thermal insulation. Sections may be hollow or filled with foam insulation, and vinyl sills may be reinforced with metal or wood.
- Aluminum windows are durable, low maintenance, recyclable and typically have at least 15% recycled content. Frame design includes thermal breaks to reduce heat loss through the metal.
- Wood windows are strong, provide good insulation, and are generally favored in historical neighborhoods. Wood windows are infinitely customizable and can be painted to match the interior and exterior of your home. The exterior surfaces of many wood windows are clad (or covered) with aluminum or vinyl to reduce maintenance.
- Combination windows use different materials separately throughout the frame and sash to provide optimal performance. For example, the exterior half of a frame could be vinyl while the interior half could be wood.
- Composite windows are made of various materials that have been blended together through manufacturing processes to create durable, low maintenance, well-insulated windows.
Don't Forget the Energy Star® Rating
Choosing the right glass for your windows and doors is another important decision. Energy Star products are independently certified to save energy without sacrificing features or functionality. With advanced technology, today's Energy Star qualified windows, doors and skylights offer greater savings than ever.
Replacing old windows with Energy Star qualified windows could potentially lower household energy bills by 7-15%. Lower energy consumption also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and your carbon footprint. Here are the components and measurements Energy Star uses:
- Argon Gas – Used to insulate double-pane glass, argon is a colorless, odorless, non-toxic, inert gas. When used in conjunction with Low-E glass, it dramatically improves a window's insulating ability with a U-factor (heat flow) 50% better than clear insulated glass and 13% better than insulated glass with Low-E glass only.
- Argon also improves a window's condensation resistance factor (CRF), resulting in a warmer inside glass surface and reduced potential for condensation. Argon-filled glass units also reduce sound transmission by three to four decibels compared to a unit without argon.
- Low E-Glass – Low emissivity, or Low-E glass has a thin metallic coating applied to the glass in a vacuum chamber. Low-E reflects radiant and solar heat back to their sources. This results in interior heat being reflected back into the house during winter and exterior heat reflected away in the summer. Combined with argon, Low-E glass significantly reduces air conditioning loads and energy bills. Low-E also helps block UV rays, limiting fading of carpets, furniture and drapes.
- R-Value – A measure of thermal resistance, this quantity is used to determine how well material resists the flow of heat through it. The higher the R-Value, the more heat is reflected away from the material and less heat is retained, an especially good value to have in windows.
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) – The solar heat gain coefficient refers to the amount of heat that radiates through the window from the outdoors. It is calculated in decimal form from 0.0 to 1.0. The lower the SHGC, the better the windows are at limiting the sun's solar energy.
- U-Factor – This is the measurement of the non-solar heat flow through a window and one of the three measurements that experts use in evaluating a window's performance. It is also calculated in decimal points from 0.0 to 1.0. Low-E glass and argon gas configurations are advisable in most regions of the United States to reduce the U-Factor of new windows.
- Visible Transmittance – Otherwise known as the amount of visible light entering a room, Visible Transmittance is measured in decimal points from 0.0 to 1.0, similar to SHGC and U-Factor. The higher the value, the more natural light that enters.
Customize Any Window with Grilles
Grilles give the look of individual windowpanes. Window manufactures offer many different window and door grille types, so you can choose one that best fits your home's architectural style. For example, a Craftsman home will likely use grilles to create several individual, small windowpanes over one larger.
Grilles also come in different materials and finishes for further customization, from vinyl to wood. They can be located either between the panes of glass or on the interior and exterior of the window. Grille pieces between the panes of glass create style while preserving the smooth, easy-to-clean glass surface inside and out. Of course, you can also opt to remove all grills to maximize light and your view.
Don't Forget Proper Installation
There's no point investing in high performance, Energy Star windows if you go with a cut-rate contractor for installation. It's the fastest way to reduce window performance and even cause expensive damage to your home or commercial building.
The right installer will take accurate measurements to ensure the window fits snugly against the frame. And they won't order a smaller window just to make sure it fits if their measurements are off.
The right installer will ensure your window goes in with proper insulation and caulking, that everything is plumb and level and that all parts and mechanisms are working properly.
With Wholesale Home Improvements, you'll get all of this and more. In fact, we typically install products to a higher standard than industry norms. We know that buying and installing replacement windows are an investment, and we believe in doing it right the first time – every time.
Feel free to visit our remodeling page to learn more about our installation services.