The World Outside – Keeping It Outside
Windows can seem so simple – a piece of glass that fits into a hole in a wall. There is so much more to windows than that. From coatings to styles, your windows can be energy saving and enhance your home nicely.
Choosing the right windows for your home is a major decision. To begin with, they aren’t cheap. Good windows can be quite expensive, but in the long run they can save you a lot of money. There are so many options, in frames and coatings, that your windows can be a modern marvel in your home.
This article will walk you through some of the basics of windows, from the major framing materials to the variety of coatings available. We will also talk about how to handle window contractors and what to look out for.
Window Frames – The place to start
The frames on your windows can be as much about style as function. The right frames can save you money in energy and even tax credits.
Wood – The most basic frame is made from wood, but that shouldn’t mean that you look down on wooden frame windows. Put simply, there is a reason that we still use wood for most window frames. It is warm, is thermally relatively tough, and can be made to look like anything you want with a coating and some paint.
Vinyl – Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl windows keep the heat and cold, last for a long time, and are relatively inexpensive. Vinyl has the disadvantage of not being able to be painted, but they will hold their color forever since the color is in the plastic.
Aluminum – One of the most durable and popular types of window frames is aluminum. This silver metal is durable, versatile, and can be made in any shape. The biggest disadvantage to aluminum is that it conducts heat and cold from outside very easily. Manufacturers have gotten around this by putting gaps in between the inside and outside frame. They will also put low thermal coatings on the frames.
Composite – One of today’s most popular styles is wood frames that are protected on the outside with either aluminum or vinyl. This gives you the warmth of wood inside the home with the durability of aluminum or vinyl on the outside. Since wood is not a great thermal conductor, the aluminum doesn’t have an effect on the effectiveness of the frames.
Styles of Windows
There are different styles of windows for nearly any application. Here is brief list of the styles that are readily available. It is always possible to special order any window. With the right dimensions, even the largest window manufacturers will build you a window for any part of your home.
- Bay windows – These windows are designed to be large and let in a lot light. Often they have a seat built right into them. Bow windows are a similar style, but are associated with older, Victorian style homes. Bay windows come in many different sizes. They are usually put into the hole all at once. Putting in a bay or bow window requires reinforcing the wall to spread the weight of ceiling across the opening.
- Single hung or double hung – A single hung window only open one on end. For example, when the bottom of the window opens, but the top is fixed, that’s a single hung window. A double hung window is when both the top and bottom open. Most homes and especially apartments have single hung windows. They can be almost any size and are the most common type window available.
- Skylight windows – These are essentially fixed windows that are put into the ceiling and roof. They allow light directly from above. They need to be very well sealed since all of the weather hits them directly from above.
- Garden windows – These windows are often found in kitchen. They have an open shelf design that allow you to put plants and things on it. The window usually looks like a tiny sunroom with a slanted upper pane and a flat front.
- Hinged windows – These are windows that open like doors. They are great in space where you have a high vertical space. Many times they have another section above them called casement windows.
- Casement windows – Casement windows are fixed windows that are usually found high up above other windows or doors. They don’t open and are designed to allow in additional light.
Windows Coatings or Films
Windows films are designed to keep out certain types of radiation. They can also be decorative or designed to provide privacy.
The most common coatings keep out infrared radiation and UV rays. Infrared addition heats up the house. This can get very expensive if you are in a sunny location. UV rays are damaging to fabrics and carpets. If you have ever seen a place where there is a shadow of window where the carpet has faded, that was caused by long-term exposure to UV rays.
Other windows films can do anything from keep heat in to keep the window form exploding if it’s exposed to a bomb. Some films are designed to look like frosting or etching so that you can have a window in your bathroom, for example, without sacrificing your privacy.
Gas in My Window
Many windows come with gas in them. This doesn’t make a lot of sense until you have it explained. What the manufacturer will do is to inject a gas between two pieces of glass. The glass doesn’t touch. The gas, often argon, is an inert gas that doesn’t conduct heat easily. This provides a thermal barrier between the two panes and can save a lot of money on energy.
Considerations for Hiring a Window Contractor
Rule number one: Do not sign a contract or give money to someone who shows up at your house unannounced offering to put in new windows. There is a decent chance that it’s a scam.
When you’re ready to begin looking for a contractor to install new windows, start right here on www.qualitysmith.com . The listings of contractors are from all over the country.
The next step is to ask for some proposals. You should get at least 3 bids. Look at each bid to see if there are any significant outliers. If one of the bids is greatly different from the rest, talk to them to see what it is that makes them so different.
The next things to do is to get form the contractors some basic business information. Ask for their license number, their liability insurance information and their worker’s compensation information. Every contractor must be licensed and have liability insurance. This isn’t negotiable. In fact, in most states, it’s the law. If they are going to have employees helping them, they need worker’s compensation insurance. If they don’t have it and someone gets hurt on the job, you can be liable even though you never spoke to the person.
Look at online reviews to see if there are any significant concerns. Usually you find a smattering of rave reviews and some terrible reviews. What you’re really looking for are trends. If there are a number of complaints that they don’t finish the job, it’s worth steering clear.
There are dozens of brands of windows. Here are some article that you can read to see what each company offers and how they compare to each other.
Jeld-Wen Vinyl Windows – Learn about the U-factor of this leading manufacturer. Don’t worry, U-factor is explained in the article. Here is general article on their vinyl windows.
Pella Windows - Another leading brand, they have some extremely energy efficient styles. You can learn more here .
Andersen – This company offers tilt sash windows that are easy to clean, energy-efficient windows and their TruScene line of windows .
Do not be cheap with your windows. This might seem like a place where all things are equal, but, in reality, this less you pay for your windows, the more likely you are to pay for it in energy bills for decades.
Have your windows professionally installed. A window that is great at keeping out the weather will be useless if the area around it leaks. There are thousands of installers, including folks form the manufacturers themselves. It’s worth the money to pay to have professional crew install th windows for you. Also, imagine how bad your day will be if your drop a window rom the second floor and shatter it on the driveway.
Look at the energy efficiency of your windows. Every window sold in the US has a sticker that allows you to compare them easily to any other window. If there is no sticker on a new window, ask for it or look it up online. You are looking to make sure that the hole in your wall isn’t a place that all of your heating and cooling money flows.