Because nearly all homes are built in locations where the view is a big part of the decision to purchase the property, prospective homeowners want to select appropriate windows. But they don’t want to be short-sighted and cause a heating or air conditioning bill that breaks the bank either. So what kinds of questions should be asked during the planning stage?
How important is the “U factor” in selecting windows?
Just as you hear the term “R factor” thrown about in discussions of insulating materials, you’re likely to hear contractors or suppliers discussing the “U factor” of windows. Like “R,” “U” is quite simply a measurement. Windows are tested and assigned a number, the lower being better. Some regions and locales, in fact, have requirements.
Should I look for the EnergyStar label?
EnergyStar is a governmental certification that is expected to save the homeowner money on future energy bills. You may also be eligible for a tax deduction in certain specific circumstances. There’s plenty of good information about energy awareness at www.energystar.gov and it proves that beautiful windows don’t have to steal from your wallet over the life of your home when you plan well.
Do they make windows that won’t have condensation?
Depending upon where you live, temperature ranges and humidity levels, the answer is “probably not.” Condensation on the exterior of a window means simply that there is a contrast between temperatures of interior and exterior panes that occurred quickly, and it will evaporate on its own. This is more common in spring and fall. Interior condensation normally means the home has too much humidity. Your manufacturer can tell you what the ideal levels are to maintain a better balance that will reduce or eliminate this problem. But if the condensation appears in a middle pane, you’ve probably had a seal failure or glass collapse, and you’ll need professional help to fix it.
I want wood-framed windows, but what’s it going to mean about maintenance? And long-term life?
The good news is that even though windows take a beating from Mother Nature, the care is no more difficult for window frames and trim than any good wood requires. Manufacturers today have figured out how to seal and protect the wood without losing any of its appeal, but special products are required and periodic refinishing may be needed, too. Again, talk to your supplier, but long-term life of a window that’s been well cared for is as assured for wood as for the other good building materials used now.
I find the old time chain-and-pulley windows appealing, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time and money repairing windows through the years. Is that possible?
Modern manufacturers have figured out how to improve on this style by marrying modern window-construction technology with the charm of earlier hardware and functionality. Several of the national builders offer this option.
Do the window manufacturers who belong to professional organizations build better products?
Results are always subjective, and membership in these groups shouldn’t be the only consideration, but the advantage is in knowing that they have published standards to which members must adhere. Among the several groups are the Window & Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) and the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). There are others, and most will have several programs or standards to which members can aspire. More is probably better in this case.
Most hardware in movable windows is made from metal. Is it possible to get metal that doesn’t tarnish?
All true metal is going to react to elements in the air over time, but keeping it clean and polished is key. Again, the manufacturer provides information and on-going support to keep the hardware’s appearance in top form.
What happens if I get a scratch or gouge in a window pane, especially a large fixed pane, after it’s installed?
Begin by checking the depth of the scratch. A rule of thumb is that if it can catch the edge of your fingernail, it’s too deep to fix and will likely require replacement. There are several products on the market that fill in lesser scratches, but it’s not easy. Talk to your window manufacturer or supplier before attempting a repair.
How can I be sure that my windows will really go with the style of my home, and retain the home’s value?
It’s hard to make a mistake by including plenty of windows. Homes that have large expanses of solid walls usually appeal less to prospective home buyers than homes with lots of windows. But if you are uncertain about the balance of window versus wall, speak with an architect, contractor, or other building professional for guidance.