We’ve been talking through a series of five questions that we’ve found most homeowners want an answer to when researching replacing the windows in their home.
Previously we’ve discussed the cost of replacement windows, as well as the number one issue with replacement windows. Today, let’s talk about how to define what you ultimately want: the best replacement window for your personal situation.
We’ve always believed that our best customer is an educated one, so rather than extolling the virtues of Sunrise Windows themselves, let’s talk about three areas of importance that can help you define what the best replacement window is for you.
Three Things That Can Help You Pick The Best Replacement Window
Let’s categorize these three things as beauty, comfort and craftsmanship.
The Best Is Beautiful
While how your windows look may or may not be your main reason for replacing them, beauty is an important consideration for your new windows.
Here are some of the things you want to look for:
Glass area—As mentioned in a previous conversation, the number one complaint about vinyl replacement windows is a loss of glass area.
Most windows of this type have boxy, bulky frames that can contribute to a significant reduction in viewing area, as compared to your original windows.
Explained away as a necessity from a strength standpoint, these bulky frames are often the result of a lack of frame insulation or other design decisions intended to save a manufacturer money.
What to look for in the best replacement windows: Aesthetics that are engineered into the product that allow for the maximum possible glass area.
Options for personalization—Replacement windows that are considered among the best always offer the homeowners choices, in the form of options, to make a project more personal.
Certainly, there is a correlation between cost and availability of options. The products that tout themselves as the cheapest are almost always the ones that offer the least amount of choice.
But, just offering customization isn’t enough to qualify as the best. The quality of the options matters as well. For example, many vinyl window manufacturers offer an interior simulated wood grain option that is laminated to the vinyl. There’s a world of difference in one that looks like real wood and another that looks like an iron-on transfer.
What to look for in the best replacement windows: Many choices in colors, grids and other options that allow you to make the project more unique to your personal tastes. After all, you probably only want to do this once, so doesn’t it make sense to get it done the way you want?
Want to know more about what goes into making the best replacement window? Read "How To Buy Vinyl Replacement Windows"
You Deserve To Be Comfortable In Your Castle
Somewhere within the “comfort” conversation is typically where the main reason that most homeowners replace their windows falls. Obviously, the whole energy efficiency conversation is part of their thought process, but most folks just want to be comfortable in their home.
Here’s some things that affect your level of comfort…
Drafty windows—This is the number one reason that people replace the windows in their home. Drafty windows affect comfort levels year round.
I remember a number of years ago going into a customers home to see if I could help them with their windows. We toured the home looking at their existing windows and when we got to the bedroom I noticed two space heaters on either side of the bed.
I was puzzled as to why the heaters were on, as it appeared the windows must have been open because the drapes were moving. As it turned out the windows were closed. Those folks just weren’t comfortable in their own bedroom without those space heaters.
But, the dirtiest little secret in the replacement window world is that buying just any brand new window may not solve that problem.
What to look for in the best available replacement windows: One of the most important “comfort” ratings is called the Air Leakage rate. While it’s a fairly technical conversation that you can find out more about here, make sure you see proof (not just company literature) of the. Air Leakage ratings for the. Window products you evaluate for your home. As a general guide, most vinyl replacement windows have a rating of around .30, but the best replacement windows are up to 10 times better, with ratings for a double hung window as low as .02.
Just as the definition of comfort is a personal thing, the efficiency component of comfort should be as well.
Beware of one size fits all efficiency offerings. Energy Star certification requirements vary based on what part of the country you live in.
For example, if you live in the South, a triple pane window is probably not just overkill in the winter, but could allow more summer heat into your home than you bargained for.
What to look for in the best replacement windows: Energy Star certified product for every climate, but, most importantly, ones for where you live. If someone offers you a triple pane product, make sure that it qualifies in the climate zone that you live in.
Although it's another technical conversation, the spacer system is an important element of long term comfort. The spacer performs several different functions and your window dealer needs to be able to talk intelligently about each of them.
Maybe the most important of these is protecting against seal failure. All brand new windows provide a certain level of comfort, but long lasting comfort requires a spacer system that guards against seal failure.
What to look for in the best replacement windows: The best spacer systems for long lasting comfort use a dual sealed system. The other ‘must have” is a spacer system that takes advantage of edge deletion. This technique requires that the low e coating along the edge of the glass that will come into contact with the sealant is ground off. This insures a proper seal with the glass and no adverse interactions between the low e coatings and the seal.
Put Together With Love
To me, “craftsmanship” implies a higher sense of the word "assembly", and assumes a different level of commitment and care in the construction of the product. The best built replacement windows are constructed with care and a long term view.
Here are a couple of ways to judge craftsmanship…
Attention to detail…Let’s face it, once you’ve looked at several white vinyl replacement windows, they all began to look the same, right?
One of the great ways to tell the difference is looking for an attention to detail.
Take the window screen for example. Typically a throw away item on cheap replacement windows, a window screen is often the first thing that goes bad on a window.
The difference is just any replacement window screen and the ones that are most often rated as the best is the frame and how the pieces of frame are joined at the corners.
The cheaper way to do it is to make the frame out of rolled formed aluminum (think soda can) and use plastic corner keys inserted and glued into the corners. If you held one of these screens at the corners and tried to rack in back and forth, you’d find it rather easy to do so.
Another place you can check for attention to detail is the way the glazing beads are made. Glazing beads are, in essence, strips of vinyl that help to hold the insulated glass unit inside the frame. In your standard replacement window products, these glazing beads typically are just rectangular pieces of vinyl that look plain.
As you can see from this image (orange arrow), the best replacement windows cope their glazing beads to look like a piece of fine, milled wood, and even go so far as to mitre the corners just like the interior window and door trim in your home.
What to look for in the best replacement windows: Look at the details. Take the screen and try to rack it back it forth. It should feel tight. Ask them to show you a cutaway of the screen frame. If they can’t, or it’s really thin material, it’s a sign that you are dealing with a lower quality product.
Look at the glazing beads (be aware that some are on the inside of the window and some are on the outside). Do they add to the overall aesthetics of the window, or do they take away from it?
Maybe the best way to determine the overall quality of the replacement window product that you are considering is an thorough evaluation of the warranty.
Words like “limited,” differing amounts of warranty availability dependent upon the age of the product (proration) and strict limits on transferability of the warranty are all signs of products that don’t meet the “best of” smell test.
Also long warranties with lots of fine print should be concerning, as they’re more interested in protecting the producer than the consumer.
What to look for in the best replacement windows: Lifetime (without the word limited in front of it), non-prorated and fully transferrable (to a second homeowner) warranties represent the best of the best when it comes to new windows.
You should also look for the word “limited” under the hardware part of the warranty, as the hardware is typically one of the first things to go. The best of the best protect the consumer from even breakage, or other non wear failure.
Finding the best replacement window for your home is your ultimate goal. Looking at these components (beauty, comfort and craftsmanship) with specifics in mind is the way to get there.