How to Choose the Best Replacement Windows for Your Home

When it comes time to improve the windows in your home, you have several choices. You can replace just the window sash, one of its moveable panels, or the sash and the frame or the entire window.

If the window unit is not too compromised to fix, then it can be worth keeping the existing window and simply making the needed repairs. If, however, the unit is compromised beyond repair, then replacing the entire window is likely in order.

Even if your existing windows are functioning just fine, there are many reasons why you may decide it is worth replacing them. Your reasons, in fact, can be your first determinants in the types of replacement windows best suited for your needs. For example, you may want new windows that are more quiet, less drafty, easier to clean or better curb appeal in your home. The best types of windows to serve each of these objectives may vary. Then, there are some qualities to look for in replacement windows no matter what their main selling point might be.

Window Features to Look For

When looking for the best replacement windows for your home, there are several qualities to look for. You want a window set in a sturdy, solid frame that has reinforced corners. All the window’s hardware and other mechanisms must be as high-quality as the window glass itself. The sashes must be easy to operate and, ideally, tilting, for easiest maintenance and cleaning.

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You also want a window you can install with flashing rather than caulking to help manage water protection. Beyond these factors, the best replacement windows you can buy are truly the best you can afford, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Given an estimated $35 billion in energy-loss yearly occurs through windows, the DOE advises investing in top quality windows.

Energy-Efficiency

Even if saving money on your energy bills, keeping your house warmer in winter and cooler in summer and cutting down on drafts overall are not your main reasons for replacing your windows, they are still worth considering when choosing new windows. All sizes, types and styles of windows come in energy-efficient models.

Energy-efficient windows, like Energy Star-approved ones, can reduce your energy bills from seven to 15 percent. When evaluating the energy efficiency of various windows, look for the following numbers, found on National Fenestration Rating Council and Energy Star window labels:

  • U-value or U-factor – A measure of how well the window keeps in heat, ranging from 0.20 to 1.20 with the lower the number, the better the heat-retention.
  • Visible transmittance – A measure of the amount of visible light penetrating a window, ranging from zero to one, with a higher number representing more visible light coming through the window.
  • Solar heat gain coefficient – A measure of a window’s ability to block unwanted solar heat, ranging between zero and one with a lower number representing a window better at retaining heat. In cooler climates, you want a higher solar heat gain coefficient, and, in warmer climates, you want a lower one.

Types of Windows

There are several different types of windows to choose from, the most common being casement style windows and double-hung windows. Casement windows hinge on a single side, using a crank to open outward and close back inward. They give an unobstructed view, are more airtight than double-hung windows yet permit ventilation and are simple to clean. They do not, however, support window-mounted air conditioners.

Double-hung windows have a lower sash that slides up into an outer one that slides down. They are easy to clean and air conditioner friendly.  They can also be better than casement windows at keeping out wind and water. Beyond these two are window types like the following:

  • Awning-style windows
  • Fixed windows
  • Hopper-style windows
  • Single-hung windows

Amenities to Consider

While extra features and amenities ought not to be the determinative factors in choosing the best replacement windows for your home, once you have found windows meeting your main criteria, extra amenities can be fun to consider as part of your home makeover project. They can help you decide between two comparable windows or you can add them as upgrades to any window you pick.

Such amenities include higher-grade window screens and between-the-glass blinds. Other common replacement window amenities worth considering include the following:

  • Triple insulating glass (Triple IG)
  • Simulated divided light grilles (SDL)
  • Prefinished interiors (on wood windows)
  • Nonstandard exterior cladding colors
  • Jamb extensions
  • Impact-resistant glass.
  • Upgraded hardware finish.
  • Between-the-glass grilles.

Remember, each amenity adds extra cost to your bottom line, so be sure each one you add is worth to you what you are paying for it. If amenity costs seem to spiral out of control, then use your original reasons for wanting to replace your windows as the guide for narrowing amenities down to the most worthwhile.

Parts and Accessories

Remember, to replace a window, you will need to remove the casings and trim of the old window. This means your home will be exposed to the outside until you get the replacement installed. That is why it is so important to choose the right replacement windows from the outset, so the process of replacing your old ones and installing the new ones can go as quickly and effectively as possible.

In addition, whether you try to remove some of the old trim and casings carefully enough to reuse them or buy all new trim and casings, you must be prepared with those materials plus the flashing, insulation and sealants you will need on hand to complete the task. Otherwise, your home remains exposed in the interim, while the window could get damaged or fall out. The parts to consider when performing any home window replacement are as follows:

  • Insulated glass – A sealed space filled with air or argon gas between two panes of double-glazed glass
  • Frame – Holding the glass in place
  • Cladding – Made of fiberglass, aluminum or vinyl and used to protect a wood or composite window’s exterior while preventing the need for painting
  • Sash – The window’s moving element
  • Grilles – Decorative options crossing over the window glass in a range of patterns to accommodate different architectural styles
  • Low-E coating – A transparent coating on the window glass that helps improve its efficiency by letting light enter while reflecting out heat, which may be applied on the interior (to retain heat) or exterior (to keep out heat) of the glass depending on the climate where you live

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