Besides just simply letting light inside and giving you a view of the outside world, your home’s windows are a crucial component in maintaining an energy-efficient home.
At one point or another, most homeowners will reach a point where they have to decide on whether to make a lasting investment in their home by either upgrading their replacement windows or go cheap and hope they don’t waste many away on energy from the poor quality. Depending on the type and style of windows you choose, you can create a significant impact on your heating and cooling bills.
Of course, we always recommend getting the most bang for your dollars, whatever your budget may be. With that said, it is crucial that you do your homework on the company that produces your replacement windows. You will surprised by the differences in quality from one company to the next.
You want to have tight seals, with a more advanced construction of many modern windows in order to prevent cold and hot air from escaping easily. This will help maintain a more comfortable, consistent indoor climate without wasting energy and help you increase the value of your home.
Window Materials & Composition
Head: The piece that runs horizontally across the top.
Sill: The piece that runs horizontally across the bottom.
Jamb: Runs vertically up the sides.
Frame: Made up of the top (head), bottom (sill) and side pieces (jambs). The frame can be made of various materials.
Panes: The glass pieces of a window; usually transparent, sometimes translucent or textured.
Sash: A border that frames the panes and holds them in place; made of the stiles and rails.
Rail: Horizontal part of a sash.
Stile: Vertical part of a sash.
Once you get familiar with the different parts of a replacement windows, you will find that you have many choices in window designs available. The most popular choices for homeowners are typically:
Casement Windows – A vertical window that opens outward to the left or right and may feature locks on both the upper and lower parts. Often opened with a crank handle, these provide ample light by offering a large viewing area. They are for difficult-to-reach areas, such as over a sink or countertop.
Storm Windows – Used in conjunction with existing windows, these are popular along the coasts and in the North where extreme cold weather is more common. Storm windows help increase energy efficiency during extreme weather conditions by adding an additional layer of protection.
Fixed Windows – Used for a variety of purposes from picture windows to small, decorative windows. Obviously these do not open and do not provide any ventilation but can be useful for older homes and homes with more than 3 floors.
Single Hung – Traditional style window with the top sash fixed in place. The bottom moves up to open and down to close.
Double Hung – Traditional style window that opens by raising the lower half or lowering the upper half. Ideal for installing next to patios or porches.
Bay Windows – A series of three or more windows that juts outward from the house. The central window may be fixed while the side windows are typically double-hung or casement windows. With a wider viewing angle, these make rooms appear more spacious and are good for adding depth to a breakfast nook or a bedroom. Bay windows have a great return on investment (ROI) for homeowners and are very attractive.
Awning Style – Horizontal window with hinge at the top that opens outward, usually using a crank handle. These provide ample light, often installed above doors or other
windows, the main advantage of awning style windows is that you can get ventilation during rain.
The Top 10 US Window Manufacturers
Andersen Windows Corp
Carried by Home Depot, including their exclusive builder’s series of Silverline windows.
Headquarters: Bayport, Minn.
Product Lines: Wood windows and patio doors. Composite replacement windows. Vinyl windows and doors.
Andersen was founded in 1903 and is privately owned, as a part of the Andersen Corporation; the largest window and door manufacturer in North America. In addition to the Andersen Windows Inc. brand, Andersen Corporation includes Renewal by Andersen window replacement, Silver Line, and American Craftsman brand windows and doors sold exclusively at The Home Depot.
Harvey Windows is the leading manufacturer of insulating windows in the Northeast. Whether it be vinyl replacement windows, wood replacement windows, or new construction wood or vinyl windows, they have something that will work for any home.
All Harvey Windows are custom-sized to fit virtually any opening and offer a vast array of options to compliment the style of your home.
Product lines: Aluminum and vinyl windows and patio doors.
Atrium specialize in impact resistant products including windows, patio doors, fabric and shutters. Acoustic windows are one of their best sellers and a big request from homeowners. The company operates multiple manufacturing facilities and distribution centers throughout the country with a multi-channel distribution network. The company’s flagship Atrium brand of windows and doors is produced in manufacturing plants in Dallas; Denver; Welcome, N.C.; Anaheim, Calif.; and Union Gap, Wash.
Headquarters: Parkersburg, WV
Product lines: Vinyl windows and doors. Acrylic block windows. Decorative millwork products.
Simonton has manufacturing facilities in Pennsboro, Harrisville and Ellenboro, West Virginia, Paris, Illinois and Vacaville, California. Simonton now offers many distinct lines of vinyl retrofit and new construction windows and doors, including ENERGY STAR compliant products, and even a full line of impact-resistant windows and doors designed for coastal applications.
Choosing The Right Replacements Windows For Your Home
Aesthetics will always be up to you, but one thing we want to reiterate is the importance of purchasing energy-efficient windows. Windows with the ENERGY STAR approval will save money on heating and cooling bills — as much as $125 to $450 annually, compared to units that do not have the rating.
The two most important factors when looking for energy efficient replacement windows are U-value and solar heat gain coefficient.
U-value is a measure of how well a window prevents heat transfer. The lower the value, the more effective the window is at stopping heat from passing through. This also helps makes cleaning your windows easier too.
Solar heat gain coefficient measures how much heat from sunlight passes through windows. As with U-value, lower values indicate higher resistance.
Other Energy Considerations:
- Double- and triple-pane windows are more efficient than single-pane windows and may reduce outside noise
- Low-emissivity (or low-E) window coatings minimize the amount of UV rays that can get through glass, letting light in while reducing heat transfer and helping to prevent fading
- Tinted windows and window shades help reduce fading
- Make sure windows are properly sealed to prevent air from leaking through
- Air leakage should be less than 0.3 cfm/ft²
- For new construction, position windows so they won’t be subjected to direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day, particularly in warm climates
No matter which manufacturer you choose, it is important to clean them regularly. For reference, the Fairway Window Cleaning web site has valuable tips on how and when to clean your windows.