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Energy Efficient Window Evaluation

Windows Help Frame Your World, So Consider All the Available Options
by: ARA Content

(ARA) -  While window shopping may seem as clear as glass, there a number of things that homeowners should consider when determining the window that best meets their building or remodeling project needs. Different styles of windows and types of frames and glass create a myriad of choices. Simplify the window shopping process by understanding the three basic components of a window and how they impact the design, feel and energy efficiency of a home.

1. Styles

Determine the most appropriate style of window for a home by considering the style of the home and how the window should function given its location. First, become familiar with six basic styles:

  •   Picture -- A large window that does not open.

  •   Gliding -- A window with two sashes, at least one of which slides horizontally past the other.

  •   Single or Double-Hung -- A window with one or two vertically sliding sashes in a single frame.

  •   Casement -- A hinged window with a sash that cranks outward.

  •   Awning -- A window, hinged at the top that opens outward. Similar to a casement window.

  •   Bay or Bow -- A combination of three or more windows projecting out from a room.

"A house's facade can be transformed from boring to beautiful with the right style windows," suggests Barbara Winfield, editor for Woman's Day Home Remodeling and Makeovers Magazine. "Deciding on the shape and size of your windows requires an understanding of both the style and scale of your home. For example: a casement window lends itself to a Prairie, Tudor or Ranch-style home, single or double-hung works well for a classic Cape-Cod or New England Saltbox. Don't forget to keep your the exterior view in mind as well while planning your window theme."

Finally, keep in mind the location of the new window and how it will need to function. Consider using a double-hung window for a window that will be installed adjacent to patios, decks and walkways as they remain flush with the wall when open.

2. Frames

As the most visible component of a window, the frame is a key element that shapes the aesthetic both inside and outside of the home. But there is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to finding the right type of frame, such as its insulation, durability and required maintenance. There are four main materials used to construct frames -- vinyl, wood, clad wood and composite. Vinyl is the most inexpensive framing option and requires relatively low maintenance. However, vinyl frames may deteriorate over time and could be less durable than other materials. While requiring more of an investment and upkeep than vinyl frames, wood frames inherently offer superior insulation and strength. Cladding, a technique pioneered by Andersen Windows in 1966, allows a homeowner to have the beauty of a wood-finished interior, but with the durability of a low-maintenance exterior, like vinyl or aluminum. Composite frames blend both synthetic and natural materials and create windows that require little upkeep.

3. Glazing

Glazing, simply put, is the glass in a window. While seemingly transparent, there are a number of different options when it comes to glass - from the number of panes of glass to special coatings -- all of which make a significant impact on a window's performance and ultimately, a homeowners' energy bill. For homeowners following historical construction guidelines for older homes, single-pane windows are often times the only option. However, given their relatively low energy efficiency, single-pane windows slowly are disappearing from the market. A double-pane window, today's standard, is made with two sheets of glass and provides better energy efficiency than a single pane because of a gas that is sealed between the two layers of glass. A third glazing option is triple-pane glass. It uses the same technology as a double-pane window but includes a second layer of gas between its second and third pane. It is generally more expensive, heavier and less common in today's windows.

Things to Consider

A window worth purchasing will bear a National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label. NFRC is a non-profit organization that provides accurate, "apple-to-apple" information to measure and compare the energy performance of windows and doors. Energy efficiency of a window based on four ratings:

  •   U-Factor -- measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping. The lower the number, the more the window will help reduce heating bills.

  •   Solar Heat Gain Coefficient -- metric for how well a product blocks heat caused by sunlight. The lower the number, the more it will help reduce air conditioning bills.

  •   Visible Transmittance -- measures how much light comes through a product. The closer to 1, the more light is transmitted.

  •   Air Leakage -- measures how much air can seep through window cracks and is measured in cubic feet of air that penetrates a square foot of window surface per minute.

Other Important Factors

Warranty -- Remember to review the warranty policy of a window before making a purchase. A quality window should come equipped with a warranty that covers all materials including the glass and frame. Some manufacturers, like Andersen, also provide transferable warranties, which can add value to a home when a homeowner decides to sell it.

Helpful Resources

There are a number of helpful Web sites for homeowners on the market for new windows, such as NFRC's site at www.nfrc.com. Also, consider going directly to the source and visit a manufacturer's site, such as www.andersenwindows.com or a retailer's site, such as The Home Depot (www.homedepot.com).

Courtesy of ARA Content

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