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Thinking of Installing Replacement Windows?

Posted by Chris Devin  March 25, 2014 07:49 AM

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By: Wayne Czybora

If you have an older house with single-paned windows you may be wondering whether you should replace them with modern double-paned windows. To get right to the point, the answer is “yes”.

Although your single-paned windows may be in good shape and operate well, they are simply no match for today’s modern technology. A single-paned window can only do so much, as far as keeping the heat from escaping to the exterior (and keep the solar heat from coming in in the summertime). And if your windows need a lot of repairs (ie: glazing putty deteriorating, cracked panes, broken sash cords, windows operate with difficulty, etc.), it does not make sense to sink money into fixing these problems when you can put that money towards the installation of brand new double-paned windows (no-brainer!). These replacement windows will pay for themselves over time when you consider how much money you will be saving on your heating bills.

When shopping for replacement windows, some people go straight to the “true and tried” popular brands like Anderson and Pella and for good reason, you can’t go wrong with these brands. However, keep in mind “they don’t come cheap”. The most important thing (by far) you should be concerned about is the window’s U-factor. The U-factor measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping a home and the lower the number, the better the results. There are also other factors that will determine the overall level of energy efficiency and you should pay attention to them, as well. These factors are: air leakage (measures how much outside air comes into a home through a product), sunlight transmittance (measures how much light comes through a window) and solar heat-gain coefficient (measures how well a product blocks heat caused by sunlight). And just like the U-factor rating, the lower the number, the more efficient they are.

You may have heard of “Energy Star”. Their website provides information about the federal tax credits for energy efficiency. Click on windows and doors for information specifically about windows.

Ask for the NFRC sticker verifying the window's U-factor from your contractor. The NFRC is the National Fenestration Rating Council. "Fenestration" is a term that means "the openings in the walls of a structure." Those openings get filled with windows and doors, thus the NFRC rates windows and doors. I our cold northern climate, I would choose a window U-factor of 0.30 or less because the colder the climate, the more essential it is for energy efficiency.
Another thing to consider is the choice of glass. There are three choices of glass. One of the most popular is called low-emissivity or low-e glass. It uses a special coating to keep heat either in or out, depending on the time of year. Another option is heat-absorbing glass, which keeps the solar energy and therefore the heat out. It also helps prevent sunlight from fading out carpets, drapes and furniture. The third common window glass is reflective glass, which does the same job as heat-absorbing glass but uses a film to reflect the harmful UV rays.
Here is some information on frames. Replacement window frames come in five basic types.
Aluminum frames have become less popular in recent years because they are not the most energy efficient and can invite condensation.
Fiberglass replacement windows are a fairly new addition to the industry. They are typically the most expensive but boast a very high R-value, which means you’ll save more on your heating bill.
Wood frames also have great R-values because wood is a natural insulator. Condensation isn’t much of a problem but maintenance is high because these frames require periodic scraping and painting.
Vinyl has become popular because there are many styles to choose from and they are very energy efficient. If condensation has been a problem, look at vinyl windows, which actually keep the edges of the window warm. Because condensation is created by the temperature difference between inside and outside, this problem can be virtually eliminated.
Fibrex is a combination of wood and vinyl, using the best features of both to create a window that’s highly energy-efficient but still low maintenance.

Always talk to more than one installer and get estimates! To make the best decision possible, make a list of pros and cons for each company, including its installation method, installed cost, its warranty and online customer reviews.

Be sure your estimates are comparable and include both materials and labor. Don’t be afraid to call references. Ask previous customers about their experience and if there were problems and, if so, how they were resolved.

Finally, make sure you understand the company’s warranty. A “lifetime” warranty is not always for the life of the home. Some warranties do not cover installation method or cannot be transferred to a new owner.

And remember, the cost of the windows is only part of the equation. You also need to consider the removal of the old windows, and the finish work because the trim and the interior sills may also need to be replaced.

For more information or for any questions regarding home inspections you can connect with Wayne directly by clicking here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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