There’s so much to consider when you’re thinking about replacing the windows in your home. Energy efficiency, light transparency, cost and upkeep can influence which windows are right for you.
You also have so many decisions to make: what materials you like, what styles you prefer, what frame you need and what features you’d like to add. The choices can be confusing, and you might not know how to communicate what you really want to your window contractor.
Because replacing the windows in your home can be an expensive and time-consuming project, it’s really important to know your options. Not only do your windows affect the look and feel of your home, but they can also help your home be more comfortable and energy efficient, and save you money on your energy bill.
If you’re in the process of getting new windows for your home, this guide explains some of the options available to you. When it comes to buying new windows, having an idea of your needs and preferences beforehand goes a long way to making sure you get the best ones for you.
What Types of Windows are Available?
There are several types of windows, and each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Double-hung windows are the most popular. They have an upper and lower panel, or sash. The bottom sash slides up when you open the window. The upper sash might be fixed, or might slide down to open. Some models have sashes that tilt into the house to make it easier to wash the outside of the window.
Picture windows are large, fixed panes of glass that don’t open. Their main purpose is to let light in and to give an expansive view of the outdoors. They come in different styles and add to the overall aesthetic of your home.
Bay windows are made up of three or more fixed panels. The two side panels are set at a 45-degree angle from the house, so the window extends outward from the house. A bay window lets in more light than a flat window does and makes the room feel more spacious.
Bow windows are similar to bay windows in that they protrude from the home and make a room seem larger. However, they’re composed of at least four panels.
Awning windows hinge open from the bottom. In wet weather, they allow in fresh air without letting in rain.
A patio door is made up of two panels that start at the floor and are usually 6 feet, 8 inches. They have a sliding door panel and a fixed panel.
While patio doors aren’t windows per se, they let in a lot of light like a window does. It’s like having a picture window you can slide open and step through. A patio door makes the room seem more spacious by borrowing the view beyond the door. Patio doors are essential for getting that “bring the outside in” design element.
Garden windows are essentially glass boxes attached to the house. The side, top and bottom panels are perpendicular to the house. They often showcase an assortment of potted plants.
Geometric windows are a type of picture window. They come in an array of different shapes. They can be half circles, triangles, pentagons, hexagons and many other shapes. They can add beauty and sophistication to your home.
End-Venting Slider Windows
End-venting slider windows have three side-by-side glass panels. The end panels slide horizontally and the center panel is fixed. They are great for letting light into your home and helping air to circulate from outside.
Double Slider Windows
Double slider windows have two side-by-side panels that slide horizontally. open from both sides like double-hung windows. However, they open horizontally. Their sashes can also be removed from the window easily for cleaning.
How Do Different Frames Affect Windows?
A window frame holds your window in place. It can also add to the efficiency of your window by occupying the space between your window and the wall. A good frame creates a seal that’s difficult for the elements to penetrate. In addition to adding to the quality of a window, a frame can add to the longevity.
While wood frames are often considered more aesthetically pleasing than other types of frames, they can also be more pricey. Unfortunately, while these frames may be better-looking, they also require quite a lot of upkeep. You’ll have to do things like paint and stain them periodically. If you buy wood frames with pre-painted interiors, you might have to pay up to $100 extra per window.
These frames can be vulnerable to issues like rot, especially if they’re not taken care of. They’re also not great for really wet environments. Through a process called cladding, you can add a protective layer to the outside of your wooden frame that can help it stand up to the weather and last longer. Wooden frames have a desirable style, but they won’t last quite as long as some other types.
Vinyl frames offer the same efficiency benefits as wooden frames with the added advantage of being easy to maintain. You don’t even have to paint them. However, the downside is that some people don’t like the look of windows with these frames, and the color and design options for them are very limited.
Aluminum frames are sturdy. They’re popular in coastal regions because their strength can help them stand up to extreme weather, like hurricanes. Unfortunately, aluminum isn’t a great insulator, and these window frames don’t protect from cold or hot weather as well as other types of frames.
Composite frames have a mixture of wood pieces and plastic. They can copy the look of wood frames but have the simplicity of care that vinyl frames do. If you’re environmentally conscious, you’ll be glad to hear that much of the plastic used to make these frames come from recycled materials.
Efficiency Ratings You Should Consider
If one of your goals is to optimize the efficiency of your windows, you’ll probably want to buy windows made by companies involved in the ENERGY STAR program. These windows will display stickers that show the energy ratings they’ve received from the National Fenestration Rating Council(NFRC). Here are a few important ratings that the NFRC tests for:
The U-factor is a measurement of how well a window will keep heat from escaping your home. The lower U-factor a window has, the better it will be at keeping the heat in. In this category, windows can score anywhere from 0.20 to 1.20.
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)
The solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) is a measurement of how well a window blocks heat from the sun. Once again, the lower a window scores in this category, the better it is at stopping heat from entering your home. These scores can range from 0 to 1.
Visible Transmittance (VT)
Visible transmittance (VT) is a measurement of the amount of light a window allows to enter your home. A higher VT score means that more light can pass through a window. A window can have a VT from 0 to 1.
Special Features That Can Increase Effectiveness
While you can purchase several visual features to beautify your windows, like different types of designer woods or intricate grills, other features can add to your windows’ efficiency and durability. These options will help you get the most out of your windows.
Double-glazed windows consist of two glass panes fused with gas, like air or argon, injected between them. Double glazing windows helps them keep you warmer during the winter and cooler during the summer while acting as an extra barrier against condensation. The extra layer also helps keep out outside noise.
Low-emissivity windows involve covering them with a sheet of metallic oxide from the inside that’s so thin you can’t see it with the naked eye. This soft coating effectively shields your home from harmful UV rays and limits the amount of infrared light that can enter or leave your house.
What to Know Before Getting Your Windows Installed
Picking the right professional to install your window can be the difference between a long-lasting, effective window, and one that will need a good deal of maintenance later on. A lot of window companies train contractors to work with their products. That’s why it can be a good idea to use window installers trained and certified by the same company that manufactures your windows.
Bad window insulation can cause problems like drafts, windows that are hard to open and close, water damage or fog. To ensure that you get a quality window installer, it might be a good idea to hire someone from an association. The American Window and Door Institute (AWDI) and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) are good sources for finding reputable installers. You can also use the experience of others by checking consumer reports.
Keep an eye out for signs that an installer might not be as professional as you’d like. For example, reputable installers won’t leave a giant mess while they’re working on your home, and they’ll know exactly why a certain type of window works for your situation.
Get the Best Windows at Great Prices
Getting the best windows for your home can be a process. We hope this guide has made it a bit easier for you to make the right choice. Knowing the aspects involved in purchasing windows and the benefits they can bring to your home will give you a leg up when it comes to picking them out. When you’re ready to get new windows, Sears Home Services is the place to go for quality materials and quality prices.
With a wide selection of different window styles to choose from and an assortment of installation experts to do the job right, we’ll make sure your window-buying experience goes as smoothly as possible. Learn how our services can help you.