When you only replace your windows every 33 years, it’s easy to get confused by the jargon and misconceptions surrounding windows. We know that informed customers are happy customers and ones who are more likely to make the decisions that are right for them. That’s why we’ve put together the top 5 things you need to know before purchasing replacement windows.
1. More expensive isn’t necessarily better.
Most windows in the United States are made in the same factories by the same manufacturers using the same materials. They’re also held to the same standards and evaluated the same way no matter who manufactures them. Different companies might be selling you windows that are essentially the same at drastically different prices. Some of our competitors charge hundreds of dollars more for the same windows that we sell for less. A window’s price isn’t based solely on its insulation properties. The seller might mark up the price for any number of reasons, which means that a higher price doesn’t always equal a better window.
2. The NFRC label is the best tool for comparing windows.
So if you can’t rely on the price to determine which window is better, what are you supposed to do? Use the NFRC label to fairly and accurately compare two windows, even windows by different manufacturers. All major window manufacturers in the United States submit their windows to the non-biased National Fenestration Rating Council to be examined and rated for their energy efficiency.
The NFRC label contains 4 measures of energy efficiency: the U-Factor, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, Visible Transmittance, and Air Leakage. Comparing these four numbers between windows by any manufacturer will give you a balanced, objective comparison.
Perhaps the most important measure of energy efficiency is the window’s U-Factor, which is a measure of how much heat loss occurs through a window. A lower U-Factor means a better-insulated window. A good way to figure out how much value you’re getting for your dollar is with this formula.
Price of Window/U-Factor=Insulation Value Ratio
3. You might not even need the more expensive triple-pane windows.
While it’s true that multi-pane windows provide much better insulation than single-pane windows, more panes don’t always equal better value. A triple-pane window provides better insulation than a double-pane window, but the benefit of that extra insulation may not be worth the extra upfront cost. In areas with extreme high or low temperatures, the benefit of that extra insulation can be completely worth the investment, but in more moderate climates, extra insulation may not be as necessary. Energy Star has published a chart of recommended U-Factors for different regions. You can use this to determine how much insulation is sufficient for your area and whether you want to invest in that third pane.
4. The material of the window frame is very important.
The top three materials for window frames are vinyl, wood, and metals (like aluminum). These materials all have strengths and weaknesses that play a big part in how the window performs.
Vinyl is a common material today, and its strengths make it a good choice for replacement windows. Synthetic vinyl is non-porous, which means air and water can’t penetrate it. It doesn’t expand much with changes in temperature, keeping its shape and rigidity and maintaining the integrity of the frame. It conducts heat less than metal does, which makes it a better insulation material. It is also easily molded, so it can be made with advanced chambering and grooves within the frame, which improves insulation even more and restricts unwanted airflow.
If you like the benefits of vinyl but not the look of it, you can get vinyl window frames in a variety of wood grain veneers that mimic the appearance of real wood frames or have the vinyl frame installed behind your existing wooden trim.
Wooden window frames are often admired for their appearance, and they insulate better than metal frames do, but they also expand and contract with changes in temperature and can rot when exposed to the elements for too long. You also can’t add advanced features to wooden frames because it cannot be molded during manufacturing.
Metal window frames are frequently aluminum, and they are inexpensive, but you get what you pay for. Metal is a heat conductor, so your window frame will heat and cool rapidly and the heat loss will be greater. They also tend to have more unwanted airflow because they must be welded or screwed together.
5. The installation is just as important as the window itself.
Even a great window won’t be effective if it is poorly installed. Poor seals around your window frame can cause more energy loss than the rest of the window. Find out from your window provider how much experience your installers have, and make sure they are using low-expansion spray foam to close off any gaps between the frame and your home. Give us a call if you think poor installation could be costing you money. We can send one of our technicians out to check on it and test it for leaks. A great window that is properly installed can save you hundreds of dollars on your energy bills.