When it comes to choosing the right high efficiency vinyl replacement windows, most homeowners are unsure of how to compare windows from various manufacturers. Some of the most common questions homeowners have when shopping for replacement windows are:
• What features should I look for in a window?
• How can I differentiate between a quality window and a poorly constructed one?
• What other factors should I consider before buying replacement windows?
Unfortunately, there are some businesses that prey upon unsuspecting homeowners and use their ignorance to sell them inferior replacement windows, costing them thousands. To help you avoid buying the wrong replacement windows for your home, here are a few tips.
There are a number of environmental factors you also need to take into account before you begin shopping for replacement windows. These factors include:
Elevation – In order for replacement windows to be as energy efficient as possible, it is crucial that they be produced relatively close to the elevation of your home. Windows that are produced more than 1000 feet higher or lower than your home’s elevation, have a high probability of failure due to the pressure of the insulating gas between the window panes.
Temperature – Do you live in a climate that is very hot or very cold? If so, you should look for windows with the best insulative properties in order to save the most on your heating and cooling bills. If you live in an area that regularly sees temperature fluxuations of 30 degrees or more in a 24 hour period, it is important to shop for a window designed to withstand those temperature fluxuations.
Ultraviolet Rays – Another factor to consider is how powerful the ultraviolet (UV) rays are where you live. Homeowners who live at higher elevations or close to the equator should look for windows built to withstand the stronger UV rays in the areas they live. Not only does the glass need to block more of these UV rays, but the window frames should also be able to withstand these powerful UV rays without peeling, cracking or fading.
Taking these elemental factors into consideration and eliminating the windows that don’t meet your environmental needs will help you find the ideal replacement windows for your home.
Once you have determined the environmental conditions your new replacement windows need to endure, a closer look at each window’s construction can help you determine how each window will perform in certain conditions. A few areas you should focus on when comparing the construction of each window include:
• Frame material – There are a number of different frame materials on the market today, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. A few of these materials include:
• Wood – Wood frame windows are the more expensive than most other frame materials. While they can be painted or stained to match almost any décor, they can rot if exposed to water for too long. They also expand and contract greatly with changes in humidity and temperature, which leads to drafts around the window frame. In addition, wooden window frames are highly susceptible to UV rays and can crack and fade with prolonged exposure.
• Aluminum – One of the least expensive window frame materials, aluminum is strong and doesn’t expand and contract like wood. However, it does conduct heat and cold. As a result, they are not very energy efficient.
• Vinyl – More expensive than aluminum but far less expensive than wood, vinyl has becoming one of the most popular window frame materials on the market. While they still expand and contract slightly with temperature changes, if installed properly they don’t suffer the draft issues wooden frames do. In areas with higher than normal UV radiation, look for window frames that have UV resistant coats to prevent cracking and fading.
• Glass – The glass that is used in your replacement windows is just as important as the window frame material. Breakthroughs in window technology have led to high efficiency glass know as low emissivity (lo-e) glass, which is coated with special metallic oxides that allow light in while reflecting heat. There are several varieties of lo-e glass, each of which provides different insulative properties for different climates. Although trying to understand the differences between the various grades of lo-e glass can be confusing, most replacement window dealers can tell you which is appropriate for your climate.
• Seals & Spacers – In order for replacement windows to be efficient, they need to keep drafts out and energy in. To do this, your replacement windows need to have quality seals not only in the window frame, but in the spaces between the glass panes as well. Known as spacers, these seals keep the special insulative gas between glass panes from escaping and prevent moisture from entering. Traditionally spacers have been constructed of metal, which is sturdy, but doesn’t flex with the glass. As a result, when exposed to extreme temperature changes, these seals were likely to fail. If you live in an area where the temperature fluctuates 30 degrees or more in a 24 hour period, look for non-metal spacers that can expand and contract with the glass to prevent seal failure.
Last but not least, it is vital that you read and understand the warranty that comes with your replacement windows, especially the fine print. It is important to know exactly what the manufacturer covers and what they don’t. For example, if you live in an area with more intense UV rays, be sure your windows are warranted against fading or cracking from UV radiation damage. Because most window manufacturers don’t use UV resistant chemicals in their window frames, most warranties don’t cover UV damage. If you don’t read the window warranty, it could cost you a lot of money in the end
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