Our guide to everything windows:
Where do I begin?
First, consider your goals: will your new windows be a matter of beauty, energy efficiency, or both? How much maintenance are you willing to do? Will you do a simple replacement, or go for a totally different style? Take a walk around the house – inside and out – and assess your priorities.
How do I start shopping?
Which windows to replace?
It all depends on your objectives. To maximize beauty, energy efficiency and maintenance freedom. It’s best to replace them all. If that’s not an option, consider the rooms in which new windows will do the most good. The ones you use most, or are most drafty, should be priorities.
What kind of windows to buy?
The most important consideration is materials. Windows are made of vinyl, vinyl/composite, aluminum, or wood. If you’re looking for options, customization, and maintenance freedom. Vinyl is the way to go. You’ll be able to replace exactly what you have, or go for dramatic new combinations with bays, bows, or any other shape you can imagine.
Do the windows qualify for the Government Tax Credit?
In order for the windows to qualify for the tax credit you must have a U-Factor of .27 or less and be energy star qualified.
What is your Warranties and Service Call policy?
Always ask your contractor about the warranties on their windows and service call policies. Lifetime warranties that are transferable are the best. Be sure to ask if the warranties are prorated.
What ratings mean:
What is U-Factor?
U-Factor measures how will a product prevents heat from escaping a home or building. U-Factor ratings generally fall between 0.20 and 1.20. The lower the U-Factor, the better a product is at keeping heat in. U-Factor is particularly important during the winter heating season. The important thing to know about the U-Factor is that it measures how well the window will keep heat in your house, not how well the window will keep the cold out. When the U-Factor rating is taken there is no wind or air movement taken in account for how well the window insulates. Therefore if cold air (wind) can make it through the seals on the window the U-Factor alone is ineffective. This is why Air Leakage is also important.
What is Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)?
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) measures how well a product blocks heat from the sun from coming in your house. SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The lower the SHGC, the better a product is at blocking unwanted heat gain. Blocking solar heat gain is particularly important during the summer cooling season. The important thing to know about SHGC is that it measures how well the window is at keeping heat from the sun out of your house, not how well the window will keep the heat in.
What is Visible Transmittance (VT)?
Visible Transmittance (VT) measures how much light comes through a product. VT is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The higher the VT, the higher the potential for daylight.
What is Air Leakage (AL)?
Air Leakage (AL) measures how much outside air comes into a home through a product. AL rates typically fall in a range between 0.1 and 0.3. The lower the AL, the better a product is at keeping the outside air out. AL is an optional rating, and manufacturers can choose not to have the rating taken, or to include it on their NFRC labels. The important thing to keep in mind about the AL is that it measures how well the window is at keeping air and blowing wind out of your house. Even with a U-Factor rating of .01 with a poor AL rating your windows would let in cold wind and air making your window feel drafty. When the U-Factor rating is taken there is no wind or air movement taken in account for how well the window insulates.
What is condensation Resistance (CR)?
Condensation Resistance (CR) measures how well a product resists the formation of condensation. CR is expressed as a number between 1 and 100. The higher the number, the better a product is able to resist condensation. CR is an optional rating, and manufacturers can choose not to have the rating taken, or to include it on their NFRC labels.