What you should know before replacing your windows

Homeowners replacing their windows have more options available than ever before. New technology has decreased the amount of window upkeep needed and increased window’s energy efficiency. However, more choice means that replacing your windows has become more difficult in recent years. Choosing the right kind of window is important; it can help you reduce energy costs, as well as improve your homes energy efficiency.

Here are three factors you should consider when choosing energy efficient windows for your home:

TYPE OF FRAME

When replacing old windows, youll find quite a variety of frames to choose from. Frames come in many materials: wood, aluminum, and vinyl. These materials are often combined in wood-clad frames, which have a wood-encased interior with a low-maintenance exterior made of aluminum or vinyl. Frame technology has remained relatively the same over the last 50 years in terms of energy efficiency.

Wood frames are generally seen as the most visually appealing of the common framing materials. Wood is less prone to transferring heat or cold than aluminum, as metals conduct temperature easier than wood. However, wood requires more upkeep than the other materials. If your home is located in a very humid or rainy climate, you’ll be contending with rot unless you purchase high-quality, expensive wood.

Aluminum is a more practical option in humid or rainy climates, as well as hurricane-prone areas. However, it aluminum is a poor insulator and can cause higher heating bills that vinyl or wood.

Vinyl frames are a weather-resistant, low-maintenance alternative to wood frames. However, vinyl is often used as a protective cladding on wood windows, combining the resiliency of a vinyl exterior with the strength and beauty of a wood frame.

Wood-clad windows use waterproof rubber membranes around the cladding, in the sills, and in the jambs to prevent water intrusion. These windows also need to add a stand-alone flashing assembly called a sill pan. The pan collects water and prevents it from building up around the wood frame. This protects the frame from water damage by minimizing moisture intrusion.

TYPE OF GLASS

The next consideration for homeowners is the type of glass. This is where we’ve seen great strides in window energy efficiency in recent years. Currently, an insulated glass unit (IGU) is the ideal selection for homeowners looking to purchase energy efficient windows. IGU glass is made with 2 or more pieces of annealed glass with a thermal spacer between sheets the pieces of glass. The space between the panes is filled with either argon or krypton gas, which are harmless, odorless, and relatively dense gases than act as a barrier against harmful UV rays and extreme temperatures. These two gases exist naturally in the environment and are completely safe to breathe. IGU windows insulate your home much more effectively than single pane windows.

An IGU upgrade can costs approximately $40 more per window, but you save that and then some in energy costs. Builders have found that adding a third glass pane only minimally increases efficiency, and is unlikely to offset the additional cost of adding an additional pane. Additionally, adding triple-pane glass will diminish window visibility.

Finally, you might also want to consider switchable smart film technology. A thin film can be added to your windows that can changes the transparency or tint of the window in response to either variations in the environment (i.e., a darker tint on sunnier days) or a manual switch.  These smart films can be applied on existing windows, are easy to install, won’t limit your window design, are LEED Certified, and are extremely versatile. While more common in the office and medical settings, smart films are becoming more popular with today’s technology-savvy homeowners.  

PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION

Once you feel comfortable with a frame material and glass type, you will need to find a window installer you can trust. Proper installation of windows can save money on your annual heating and air conditioning costs, but poor workmanship can cost you big time and cause headaches.  If the technician does not have the proper understanding of the basic requirements of the above-mentioned items before installation begins it can cause issues, delays, and additional, unanticipated expenses before the project is completed correctly.

We advise working with a local, bonded, and insured contractor with years of experience installing energy efficient windows. Request references, find online reviews, and ask questions. Contractors should also be able to give you examples of their previous work.

With all the options available today, choosing the right windows for your needs can be difficult. It pays to do a little research before shelling out your hard-earned cash. When shopping for energy-efficient windows, knowing the trade offs between window cost and energy bill savings is crucial. A certified local contractor should be able to walk you through these calculations and help you make the best choice for your home.