Windows & Doors FAQs
If you are looking for replacement windows and doors, you probably have concerns and a lot of questions. Replacement windows can be a significant investment and hopefully this information can help you compare “apples to apples” so you can get the best windows for the money.
Window Construction and Maintenance
Why should I buy custom replacement windows?
Because custom windows fit perfectly. Stock windows, like those used by builders or sold in lumber yards, are available only in certain sizes. Since many window openings are not the same standard sizes as stock windows, you could be left with several inches of open space around the entire window. Gypsum board or molding is used to fill this open space. This not only reduces your view and detracts from your home’s beauty, but you have extra interior and exterior wall space to patch, paint and decorate. Custom windows are designed, engineered and manufactured to fit your home’s size, style and appearance without reducing your viewing area.
Can I install custom-made windows myself?
Yes, but the better question might be, “should I install custom-made windows myself?” Professional installers have all the necessary equipment to do the job right, like bending exterior trim panels to make them more visually appealing. Measuring the size of the window is also extremely important. If your measurements are off as little as 1/4″, a custom-made window may not fit. Also, the manufacturer may not warranty the window if it is not professionally installed by an authorized installing dealer.
What’s the difference between vinyl, wood, and aluminum windows?
Vinyl windows never need painting and won’t show scratches unlike aluminum or wood windows. It doesn’t conduct heat or cold like aluminum—a major source of lost heating/cooling energy. Vinyl maintains its shape, saves your heating/cooling dollars, and stays warmer to the touch. However, few manufactures have color choices and not all vinyl windows are the same. The design, engineering, and manufacturing of the window all help distinguish a poor window from a superior window. For superior quality look for a Vinyl window made from a high quality extruded vinyl.
Wood is the choice for elegance, although it costs more than vinyl and requires painting or staining and other maintenance. Wood windows are typically rated high in performance tests against keeping out cold air and rain. In consumer reports, it tested highest for energy efficiency as well as the aluminum clad windows.
Aluminum Clad is an Efficient, Comfortable Solution. It has the traditional warmth of wood interiors, and a higher quality window should have a low-maintenance extruded aluminum exterior. The extruded aluminum cladding is superior to roll form cladding and vinyl cladding to resist impact, abrasion and fading for the truest meaning of low maintenance. Also, the paint finish is important to longevity and being low to maintenance free.
What is the U-factor? Can it help me choose a better window?
The U-factor is a standard measure of heat transfer through an entire window unit. The methods for measuring U-factor ratings were developed by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NRFC) at the request of the US Department of Energy and the Federal Trade Commission. The lower the U-factor is, the better the window’s insulating ability. (A window’s U-factor is the reciprocal of its R-factor, they both measure its insulating ability.) Look for windows with a low U-factor and high R-values.
What are the R-factors for various window frames, and what is considered acceptable?
“R” stands for resistance. A measure of a product’s ability to resist the transfer of thermal energy. The higher the R-factor, the greater amount of insulation a window provides. The R-factor rating of a window frame, sash and glass is very important since it directly affects the cost of heating and cooling your home. As with any measure of energy efficiency, it’s not so much what’s considered acceptable, as what’s acceptable to you.
Where do I find what kind of window Performance I need in my region or climate?
You should choose windows that are designed for your region’s climate because you could buy too much window or too little. Cooling costs predominate in southern regions, so look for double-glazing and a low-e coating. Give first consideration to windows with a low solar-heat-gain coefficient. The Department of Energy recommends that the number be 0.4 or lower. Heating bills are of concern in northern regions. Give priority to well-insulated, double-glazed windows that are draft-free. A low-e coating isn’t essential in places where summers aren’t particularly hot. In Central regions, both heating and cooling are concerns. You’ll also want high insulating performance and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.55 or lower. You can go to www.effcientwindows.org and type in the specifics for your region.
Is all Low-E glass the same?
Definitely not. Performance and insulating factors are different in every window and in every region. In our region, we recommend that you look for windows with multi-layer, low-e glass for several reasons. It will block a higher percentage of harmful UV Rays that fade interior furnishings, increase energy efficiency with less surface condensation, as well as reduce heat gain in the summer months and heat loss in the winter months. Look for an Energy Star logo.
Why do use exotic gases in insulated glass units and are these gases safe?
High density Argon or Krypton gasses can be used between the glass of your insulated unit to provide increased energy efficiency and increased sound deadening properties. Both Argon and Krypton are safe, odorless, colorless gases that occur naturally in our atmosphere—in fact, you are breathing small amounts of them right now. But because, of their density, heat and cold do not pass through Argon and Krypton gases as easily as through air. When Argon or Krypton gas is used in an insulated unit with a soft coat of low-e glass, it is one of the most energy-efficient windows you can buy.
Can the right glass really reduce furniture and carpet fading?
Definitely. Ultraviolet rays are one of the best known causes of fading. Certain types of window glass can reduce the amount of UV Rays that pass through the glass. For example, soft coat Low E glass with argon blocks 64% of UV rays—a 42% reduction compared to clear window glass. But research has shown that factors beyond Ultraviolet light contribute to fading and damage. So, the usual tests for UV transmission may not give you the whole picture. (Besides, UV rays are not all bad, plants need a certain amount of UV light to thrive.) A more accurate estimate of fading protection is called the Krochmann Damage Function. This method expressed in percentages, measures the amount of all damaging radiation (ultraviolet, infared, visible light, and heat) transmitted through window glass. The added Argon and Krypton gas transmits as little as 16% of UV rays and has a Krochmann function of 20%. Conversely, tested Pyrolitic Low E products showed a transmissions as high as 47% with Krochmann percentages as high as 52%.
I want windows that will help eliminate the noise from outside? Is there such a thing?
Certainly. In fact, the same features that make a window more energy efficient also help cut down on the noise transmission from outdoors. An insulated glass with Krypton or Argon gases can reduce sound transmission as much as 300% compared to single pane windows.
Do I have to replace my windows with the same style windows, or can I choose a different style?
You can replace your windows with any color, style and shape that suits you. Change from double hung windows to casements, stationary windows, or a combination. You can give rooms a new look by replacing windows with a bay, bow or picture window, or add a garden window in the kitchen. A new window style can make you feel like you moved into a new home—Use your imagination!
What features should be considered standard when I buy replacement windows?
It depends on the manufacturer. Be sure you understand what is considered standard with the type of window you want, and which features are optional and may add to the cost. The manufacturer should make it easy for you with all the standard options listed upfront in there brochures. There are exterior color upgrades, as well as hardware color upgrades, and specialty glass options with all window manufacturers. Different woods will be at a higher cost, for example, oak will be substantially less than mahogany.
With so many standard features available today, you can customize your windows on any budget.
• Double Hung: Most popular due to the ease of cleaning.
• Casement: The most energy-efficient style offering the most airtight seal.
• Picture: Stationary windows often designed to match double hung or casement windows.
• Slider: Open by sliding one sash horizontally past the other.
• Awning: Hinge at the top allows window to open outward.
• Bay/Bow: Dramatic combinations that project outward from the house.
• Garden: Grow herbs or flowers in this “greenhouse” window.
• Geometric: These stationary windows can be cut to any shape to match your needs.
• Patio Doors: Gliding and hinged options open easily, beautifully.