When it comes to window replacement, you have your work cut out for you. There are so many style options to choose from that replacing your windows can seem like an overwhelming task. From different materials to energy ratings to prices, the world of windows is at your fingertips. The most cost effective windows might not be the best window choice for you, but if you do your research, you should find a window that fits your needs and your budget.
Energy Efficient Windows
Most people who are shopping for window replacement list the efficiency of the windows as a primary concern. It’s important to consider how much energy you lose out of your window seals when determining the best windows for your house. Windows are key to saving money on heating and cooling bills.
A lot of manufacturers have increased the energy efficiency of their windows by including argon-filled glazing or low-E coatings, and because these features are common, they are less expensive than they used to be.
With the recent federal tax credit, upgrading windows is one of the most popular home improvement projects today. However, some types of windows claim to be energy efficient when they’re not. Always check to see if the window meets the criteria for the government’s Energy Star program by looking for the Energy Star label.
Vinyl windows comprise almost sixty-seven percent of the residential window market. Vinyl windows are relatively inexpensive, durable, reliable, and many have energy performance ratings. It is nearly indestructible, resistant to moisture, and insect and rot proof.
It would seem that vinyl is one of the most cost-effective windows and the best choice for your window replacement. However, one downside to vinyl is its appearance. The fusion-welded seams are unattractive, and the material is visibly synthetic. Off-the-shelf vinyl choices only include white and tan, so customization is necessary if you need additional colors.
Vinyl also isn’t the most environmentally sustainable choice. PVC produces toxins, and the materials can last hundreds of years in the landfill. However, this durability translates to years of efficiency for you and your home. So, the long replacement cycle makes it one of the best types of windows for longevity.
A very small percentage of the population currently uses fiberglass windows, but they are gaining in popularity because of their reputation for durability and low maintenance. The prices are average, and it’s stronger than vinyl, so it provides a good value for most homeowners. Fiberglass doesn’t warp, rot, or crack.
While they come in a limited number of colors, you can paint them, and the surface provides great paint adhesion. Other brands produce a wood finish that looks natural. You can also get real wood frames that you can stain any color you want.
Fiberglass window production is relatively green because they don’t require a lot of energy to produce. Manufacturers often fill the frame with foam insulation to increase the thermal performance of the window, making them more energy efficient.
Aluminum is decreasing in popularity because of the availability of cheaper options. Aluminum windows still have some features that make them the best for some residential window replacement projects. Aluminum is strong, so windows made with thin frames can still withstand harsh conditions, requiring the use of less material.
Less aluminum in their composition makes more room for glass, making these windows look bigger and providing more sunlight and visibility. Architects use these windows a lot to make their buildings look more beautiful and open. They are also manufactured in a large variety of colors.
However, aluminum is a poor thermal performer, and so it isn’t well insulated. Because it expands and contracts easily, it puts a lot of strain on the seals. It doesn’t rot or react to moisture, but it does suffer from corrosion, making it a terrible choice for people living near the coast.
If you have your heart set on aluminum, you can choose an aluminum clad option featuring a wood core wrapped in aluminum. These are better insulated, but they still don’t provide the level of energy efficiency that vinyl or fiberglass does.
Wood windows aren’t as durable, they are prone to insects and rot, and they require constant attention. Not only that, but they cost far more. However, no other material provides the same beauty or comfort. Wood is still the preferred choice for homeowners looking for a natural, traditional looking window.
Wood windows have improved their insulation over the years, making them more energy efficient than they used to be, and they are easy to stain and paint, so they are ideal for custom needs. Wood is often used in restoration projects because you can make it look old and match other styles easily.
Because wood doesn’t weather well, it needs regular maintenance, so they are more time consuming and may cost more up front and in the long run. Some manufacturers produce wood windows made from repurposed supplies, making them environmentally friendly.
Fiberglass is your best window replacement choice if you are looking for a balance of price, longevity, and energy efficiency. If you want something that gives you a more expansive portrait of the backyard, aluminum provides uncompromised views with more glass. If you are working on a restoration project or something that needs more customization, wood provides more options. Ultimately, it is up to you to choose the best window for your project and to achieve your window replacement goals.