Replacement Windows ANSWERS!
Replacement Windows 101
A) When should I replace windows?
Windows in a home can increase comfort, aesthetics, and value. They allow in natural light and fresh air, and provide outdoor views for those inside. They help reduce sound, pollutants and other allergens. They also help insulate your home and, in the process, reduce your overall energy costs. The US Department of Energy indicates that 40% of your annual heating and cooling bill can be affected by your windows!
So how do I know it's time to replace them? Here are a few indicators:
1) The existing windows are single pane. This is the least efficient type of window glass.
Allowing heat in, and cold out!
2) The frames are made of aluminum. Aluminum is a good conductor of cool & heat, which is NOT what you want in a window frame. In fact up to 28% of your energy waste can be due to the window frames!
3) Draftiness. This indicates a poor installation and allows free flowing air in & out. Often poor installation can
have the same effect as missing a brick or two in a wall!
4) High Energy Bills! If you see unusual increases not caused by unusual weather or utility rate hikes, it may be an indicator that your existing windows have become ineffective. This can be evidenced by broken seals, condensation between panes, frost on the inside, shattered or cracked glass, and even jammed windows (indicating the house may have settled and now the windows are pinched or off center).
5) Sometimes it's just a need for more convenience. Old hard to clean windows can be replaced with new tilt-in types that allow for easy cleaning and maintenance.
B) Okay! What is a good window?
There are many misconceptions that homeowners have about replacement windows. Let's sift through some of them!
1) Anyone can install them. NOT SO! While it is not rocket science, installing a window is an acquired skill. A window will only perform well if it is installed correctly. A poorly installed window can be difficult to open & close, it can leak, and be drafty, just to name a few. You should be as comfortable with the installer as you are the salesman.
2) Vinyl coated is as good as vinyl made; Aluminum is the longest lasting, Wood is too much work. NOT SO! Climate has a lot to do with what windows work best for you. In Arizona virgin vinyl or wood coated vinyl perform best. Aluminum is like a brick missing in your wall!
3) They are very expensive! NOT SO! While expense is often relative to your pocketbook, overall, replacing windows costs very little because you are paying for them in high energy bills anyway! Might as well get new ones and save money in the long run as they will repay the expense in 5-8 years of lower energy bills, and increased home value!
4) If single pane is bad, double pane is good, then triple pane must be better!
NOT SO! Consistently double pane outperforms all other window types. Typically there are 7 elements to think about on replacement windows. a) Cost, b) Materials, c) Install Process, d) U Value, e) SHGC Solar Heat Gain Coefficient f) Visible Light Transmittance, and g) Sound Reduction.
C) Cost & Materials
Cost If you are replacing only the glass (because you already have vinyl frames, just a broken pane of glass) you can get a double pane window with inert gas done for about $200. Note: with Eco Advantage every purchased window also comes with a Screen & Glass Replacement Warranty so the glass replacement cost is zero!). Otherwise you are looking at approx $700 per 59 x 36 window. If the price offered is too good to be true ... don't buy! You are likely getting windows that are not efficient, and/or they are not replacing the frame, just building a new window to fit into the existing frame. Make sure you know what you are getting. If they don't remove the old frame and start over from the studs, you are not getting energy efficiency. Up to 28% of energy loss is through aluminum frames!
Materials: In Arizona, builders like to use aluminum because it is least expensive, and THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY THE A/C BILL! The proper choice for Arizona is either Virgin Vinyl, or Vinyl Coated Wood frames. The wood frames are more maintenance, and more expensive for a slightly better energy performance. Virgin Vinyl frames are the best value for cost & efficiency. Properly coated double pane windows are less expensive and outperform triple pane windows, so don't get carried away thinking more is better! Single pane windows are simply useless so don't even replace if they are the only choice.
Let's start with how messy is it?
Surprising to most folks, replacing windows is relatively quick (up to about 8 windows in a day) and very clean! Typically the professional installer will work one window at a time. He removes the old window panes, then uses a saw to cut through one side of the existing window frame. Then a crow bar or pry tool to pull the frame away from the stud, and presto! the frame is out. Now a little sanding and vacuuming makes the opening ready for the new window. The new window is placed in the opening and secured with screws into the stud. Then calk around the inside and outside edges, and if necessary, a little drywall or stucco patching and on to the next window!
Remember, the time to be creative is when you are ORDERING your new windows. Visualize that the existing window is gone and you now have to fill the opening. Use your imagination! You can change from a single hung (up & down) to a single slider (side to side), or double hung / double slider, or a picture window, or a picture window over a small slider, etc..... costs to fill the opening are different based on HOW you fill it, but not too prohibitive to get creative!
Also keep in mind that a company that just makes a new window to go into your old frame is NOT doing you any favors by saving on installation costs because the old frame will continue to be a trouble spot for energy loss unless it is already virgin vinyl!
E) Energy Efficiency:
NOT ALL WINDOWS ARE CREATED EQUAL!
ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. For Windows & Patio Doors they have created a rating system that defines good performance in these products. In fact all government rebate programs make Energy Star guidelines the minimum for qualifying.
So What Are The Ratings?
The first element is U FACTOR. This is a measurement of the amount of heat escaping a home. Windows must have a minimum rating of .30 to be Energy Star endorsed. (Lower .29, .28., etc is better). U FACTOR would be the most important element in COLDER Climates where heat loss is more a concern than heat gain.
Element two is SOLAR HEAT GAIN COEFFICIENT (SHGC). This is a measurement of the amount of heat blocked from the sun. Windows must have a minimum rating of .30 to be Energy Star endorsed. (Lower .29, .28., etc is better). SHGC would be the most important factor is WARMER Climates where heat gain is more of a concern. A difference of .01 can mean an additional 2 degrees coming in.
The other elements of interest are Visible Transmittance (VT) which measures the amount of light allowed in. Air Leakage (AL) which measures the amount of outside air coming into a home. Sound Transmittance (ST) which measures the amount of sound blocked from outside. These elements do not have a minimum rating by Energy Star but generally VT should be .50 or above, AL should be lower than .3, and ST should be 27 or higher.