How to Choose and Buy New Windows for Your Home
Windows are architecture’s great multitaskers. They’re supreme decorators, adding natural panoramas and lighting to your interior. They seal your home from the elements and let the breeze inside on sweltering summer days. Their power-saving talents optimize your energy usage, dampen outdoor acoustics, and distribute light.
They have important aesthetic duties, too, of course. Windows add architectural interest to your home and boost your curb appeal along the way. They are, quite simply, one of the most important architectural features in any home, so take your window replacement choices seriously. They will affect both your quality of life and resale value. Let’s look at the questions you need to ask before you spend your savings on those brand-new bay windows you saw on Pinterest.
Do you need new or replacement windows?
A new window installation assures you of a tight, weather-proof fit, but if you’re updating an existing structure, replacement windows can save you a few pennies in material costs. They’re installed into an existing opening, so they require the frame to be free of decay and leakage. A rotting frame sets you up for serious hazards down the road, so it’s best to request an assessment from a professional before you make any decisions. You can tell that your frames need replacement if:
- They’re doing a poor job of soundproofing your home.
- You often see condensation between your window panes.
- Your wooden frames are starting to decay.
- You see pooling beneath your interior windows.
What aesthetic are you looking for?
Windows have come a long way since their origins in ancient Egypt. In those days, your only choice was an empty rectangle. Architecture has evolved, and now your aesthetic choices are virtually infinite. Choose your style well, and you can expect an ROI of over 75%.
Bay, bow, and double hung windows have become timeless. Their effortless charm will never date, so they’re exceptional investments. Those gorgeous double hung vinyl windows might be expensive, but they repay you in terms of both beauty and return on investment. Your other options include:
- Casement windows, which open on a hinge and provide exceptional ventilation.
- Single hung windows, which have a single operable sash for vertical movement.
- Slider windows, which operate like double hung products, but open horizontally.
- Garden windows, which have a deep setting that creates space for an indoor garden.
- Awning windows, which are hinged at the top. This design is perfect for hot, rainy summers.
What features do you need from your frame and sash?
Your window frame brings important properties to your home. The right material will determine your insulating, sound dampening, and weatherstripping powers. When the mercury drops below zero, cheap weatherstripping turns brittle and cracked, so quality matters. You should choose your frames by:
- R-value and U-factor. Powerful insulators like vinyl can prevent heat transfer, keeping your home warm in winter.
- Solar gain. Low solar gain will keep your home cool in summer.
- Air leakage: Your V strip, felt, and other weatherstripping will keep cold air outdoors. Fiberglass performs well in this area because it’s dimensionally stable and has the right cavities to house insulation. Insulated vinyl frames perform equally well.
- Longevity: Aluminum, vinyl, and vinyl-clad frames can last 35 to 40 years. Wooden frames can last up to 60 years.
- Eco-friendliness: Composites are sustainable and energy-efficient.
- Aesthetics: Composites and vinyl clad frames can mimic the rich look of wood without the disadvantages. Wood is, nonetheless, still an excellent insulator that adds natural beauty to your architecture.
How much UV protection do you need?
Ironically, glass is one of the most under-appreciated facets of window design. Your choice will build UV-resistance into your construction while preventing temperature transfer, so it’s an important contributor to your U-value. Low emissivity glass has become the hero of the window scene for its superb reduction in thermal emissivity.
These magical coatings can reflect heat into or away from your home, so they can support your HVAC unit’s effects while preventing the sun from bleaching your furniture. When combined with double or tripe glazing, they can reduce your solar gain exponentially, reflecting 86% of solar energy away from your property.
How cold are your winters?
If your climate is worthy of its own Frozen movie, double or triple glazed windows can add 3 W/m2K to your home’s U-value. If you combine inert gas, low-e coatings, and the best triple glazing, you can reduce your insulation powers even more. This powerhouse of a combination can achieve a U value of 0.8 W/m2K—enough for a cozy winter.
In days of yore, windows were the gaps Mother Nature exploited to break through to your interior. Modern technology has fixed those vulnerabilities, so those sparkling new windows will do more than just beautify your property. They’ll keep the weather where it belongs: Outside.
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