Regarding windows for homeowners, it may seem like they are all the same, but understanding their evolution in design and cost can offer valuable considerations. In the past, windows were too expensive and inefficient to include in early homes, but they eventually became a popular design element, accounting for 15% to 20% of a house’s exterior wall surface.
Energy efficiency is now a crucial consideration alongside cost and aesthetics. When replacing windows, it’s important to consider whether a frame-in or full removal and replacement is desired, and whether units are custom-made for each opening.
Energy efficiency ratings, such as U-Factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, are also important factors to consider. The frame material has historically been steel or aluminum, but higher-end units use wood frames or fiberglass and high-quality vinyl.
Poor-quality windows and bad installations can lead to drafts and inefficient temperature control. Protective films can be effective, but they may affect the Visible Light Transmittance rating.
While original builder cost of windows and doors may have accounted for 3% to 5% of the total home construction cost, replacing those windows is a costly proposition with several considerations and alternatives available.
In replacing windows today, two alternative installation methods exist for homes. A replacement or pocket install is where the sash is removed from the old window and a new standard size or custom-made replacement window is installed. We always recommend a custom-made replacement window to ensure that we do not have to fill in around the window to get the standard sized window to fit. Either way this type of replacement will reduce glass area.
Your other option is to do a full-frame replacement or new construction replacement. This involves completely removing the old window sashes and frame, and installing a new window. The advantage of this is preserving glass area, however, it is a more expensive installation for a bigger window, jamb extensions and labor, as well as any wood refinishing that would need to
A main concern with replacing your windows is energy efficiency. The NFRC, National Fenestration and Ratings Council, and Energy Star, are independent third-party groups that provide information specific to energy efficiency.
The U-Factor is the measurement of heat transferred through a product and is a huge consideration when choosing windows and doors. The newly published 2022 US EPA Energy Star Ratings for windows in our Canton-Akron area state that U-Factor is less than or equal to
0.20 (R-value of 5.0) with a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient less than or equal to 0.20.
To accomplish this today with replacement windows, you must upgrade to triple-pane insulated glass units with Low-E film and argon gas. This replaces the previous 2017 US EPA Energy Star and the EECC values of 0.30 for windows and doors, which translates to an R value of 3.333.
As recent as the 1980s, single pane glass was the standard and double pane was a “special order.” Today the double pane is standard with options for applied Low-E Films or coatings, inert gas like argon or krypton in between the panes, and “warm-edge” vs “cold edge” technology in the
materials that separate the panes.
Triple pane is the new special-order option; however, you can also order windows with single or double pane with clear IGUs on less expensive windows. It should be noted that Krypton is rare due to its scarcity and it’s expensive to get on new windows.
Frame material in the modern era of the last 150 years has historically been steel or aluminum, both durable and strong and both are very energy inefficient. Higher-end units utilized wood frames, and in combination with exterior cladding of aluminum or vinyl, have been a luxury
choice for some.
Two of the more popular wood window brands in Pella and Anderson as well as non-wood options. Wood may be beautiful, but it can be a maintenance headache, as well as being difficult to operate due to the high humidity in the summer and leak air in the winter due to natural 1/16” or greater air gap that must exist to allow those windows to operate properly.
In more recent years, fiberglass and high-quality vinyl have been popularized as frame options. Vinyl is the most common window frame material used in this country.
Virgin, or first use product, is the premium material used. Recycled vinyl, while less expensive, will have a blueish
tint and tend to have issues with holding up to temperature extremes of the Midwest that can lead to cracking, warping and additional stress on the window’s insulated glass units that may lead to fogging of the glass.
Quality vs Cost
It is important to note the biggest names in the industry do not translate into the best products available for your home that will solve your home’s energy efficiency and window problems. Often these firms are franchisees that pay over $100,000 for their location along with 5% to
10% royalty fees of their sales revenue and have a set advertising budget of 15% to 25% of their revenue. This can translate into very expensive window replacement projects for consumers who do not shop their competition.
Easy Windows & Siding, Inc. in Perry Township (between Canton and Massillon) offers a limited lifetime material and labor warranty on their virgin vinyl and fiberglass windows. Our window warranty is the strongest in NE Ohio, and includes installation materials.
Low-quality windows can cause rapid heat loss, resulting in small drafts near the windows, and a subpar installation can worsen this problem by enabling significant air and/or water leakage around the windows. Poor quality windows will also have component issues that prevent the windows from staying open or closing properly.
It’s important to consider that a window that is inefficient in the winter can also be problematic in the summer, leading to increased difficulty in keeping the house cool and causing wood floors and fabrics to fade quickly. To address this, it’s recommended to look for windows with a
low U value and a low SHGC, which should ideally be around 0.8 or lower.
Protective films can also help, but it’s important to ask about the VT rating as they can impact Visible Light Transmittance.