Selecting Replacement Windows

By Todd Fratzel on Energy Conservation, Windows

Trying to decide what type and brand of replacement window to purchase is a difficult decision. There are so many different styles, manufactures, options and details that I suggest you spend quality time researching and evaluating different windows.

The most important feature will be the energy efficiency or rating for the window. Three key measures are used to report window energy performance. U-value (or “U-factor”) is the measure of the amount of heat (in Btus) that moves through a square foot of window in an hour for every degree Fahrenheit difference in temperature across the window. The lower the U-value rating, the better the overall insulating value of the window. Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) is the measure of the amount of solar energy that passes through the window; typical values range from 0.4 to 0.9, and the higher the SHGC the greater the solar energy that passes through the window system. Windows with high SHGC (above 0.7) are designed for colder climates, while windows with low coefficients are designed for hotter climates. Air infiltration or air leakage is given in terms of cubic feet of air per minute per foot of window edge. The best windows have air leakage rating between 0.01 and 0.06 cfm/ft.

Another important factor in selecting your windows is the existing style of your house and windows. You should try to match the type and style so as to not change the overall architectural look of your house. If you’re existing windows are double hung windows with grilles than it’s best to stick to the same design. Or maybe your house has replacement windows in it already that don’t match the original windows and architecture, in that case you may want to choose windows that will match the original design.

Maintenance is another important factor. Vinyl windows are a good solution for those who want the ease of low maintenance. Windows can now be bought with several grill options. The grilles can be permanent on top of the glass, removable, and between the glass. The new between the glass option is great for easy cleaning and maintenance. Another option is to have low-maintenance vinyl on the exterior and a natural wood on the interior. The wood then can be painted or stained to match your interior trim.

If you’re a stickler for authentic wood windows then don’t dispare. Most manufacturers are still producing all wood windows. However, today’s wood windows have insulated glass and much better weatherstripping. The downside of wood windows is they will have to be painted and maintained on a regular basis.

As you shop for replacement windows, pay attention to the manufacturer’s reputation and warranty. The warranty will spell out stipulations regarding replacement, ownership transfer restrictions and guarantees against failure of the glass, frame and sash. Most window warranties will only cover the product and not the “replacement” labor, so it’s important to look closely at the details.

Once you’ve decided on which window you’ll want to check with contractors on the amount of work required to replace the windows. All replacement window jobs are different and typically require a skilled carpenter to make on-site adjustments to fit the new windows to the existing sometimes out of square openings.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Todd great post. This information is very informative. I love the new glass option where you can easily clean whenever you would like. When selecting all wood windows wouldn’t this not be a long lasting option because the wood might expand, crack and rot over time? Just curious. Great information. Thank you.

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