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New windows

Posted by Rona Fischman July 22, 2011 01:48 PM

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I know you are not thinking about heating costs right now. But, maybe you should be. Summer is a good time to do renovations that will conserve your houseís heat next winter. This year, I am getting to it.

Window replacement is pretty expensive and it doesnít yield a lot of savings on your energy bill, dollar for dollar. Insulating your attic or even your walls is a much better deal, for money conservation. I am doing it for my creature comfort, with only a side benefit of burning less fossil fuel over the next twenty years. Good windows are a pleasure. Bad windows are a trial. After many years of struggling with badly fitting storms and screens and drafty windows, it is time to treat my house to an upgrade.

For those of you who are considering windows, here is some advice:

Know the lingo. The salesman is going to try to baffle you just how complicated a window can be. Pay attention to how you are going to get a window that is airtight around itís edges and how insulated the glazing is. Everything else is, umm, window dressing.

The add-ons are going to add up. Be clear about what you want ahead of time, so you can compare apples to apples when you choose your window.
Insulation around the window.

In old houses, there is an empty space behind the window frame where the old rope and weights used to be. If you leave that space empty, you are leaving a great place for drafts to get in. Find out what you will be charged for filling that gap when the new window is installed.

Insulating quality of the window. Windows that are Energy Star rating are efficient, but they are not all efficient enough for the tax credit. U-factor is a measure of heat transfer through windows. The lower the better. I saw a lot of windows that were .33. In order to qualify for the tax credit (which is 10 percent of the purchase price, up to $200), you need to have a rating of .30 or lower. The credit does not cover the price premium for the better insulating windows.

Safety. Windows that are near stairs, in a way that someone can fall into them should be safety glass. French doors should be safety glass. Windows that are along bathtub walls, where people may shower should be safety glass. You guessed it, safety glass costs more.

For looks. There are upcharges changing the look of the window.
A. Some people prefer wood on the inside and vinyl on the outside.
B. The part that makes a grid on the window so that the window looks like it has little panes is called a muntin. Some insulated windows have a frame between the glass, some have a plastic frame that you stick on top of the glass.

Did you change your windows and are you glad you did?

There are lots of builders, developers and property managers reading this, what do you want to add?

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

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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