If you’re searching for new windows for your home, it can seem pretty straightforward at the start. After all, a window is a window. If you can see out of it, you’re good. Right? But that’s before you get into the more technical aspects of shopping for a window.
Soon you run into terms like U-factor, composite frames and solar heat gain coefficient. It becomes apparent that it’s not so cut and dry.
At McCann, our 30 years of experience has taught us what clients like you need to know to be please with the end results. We also know how to educate you on the essentials for choosing windows that work for your home and your budget. While we make this a part of our free, in-home consultations, we also understand that you might want to do some research ahead of time. So here are our best nuggets of wisdom for choosing the best windows for your needs, your budget and your home.
You can also download this convenient guide from one of our preferred vendors, Marvin Windows: How to Choose New Windows.
How Do I Know If My New Windows Are Energy Efficient?
The most common questions we hear are about energy efficiency. While you should know that almost every new window on the market today is going to be energy-efficient, we understand the importance of asking the questions. After all, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that windows can increase a heating bill between 10 and 25 percent due to air leakage.
When assessing the energy efficiency of a window, here are some common terms to be aware of:
- U-Factor/U-Value: This is the amount of heat transfer through a window. Measurements typically go from 0.20 to 1.20. A higher U-Factor means a quicker flow of heat through a window, and a lower U-Factor means a slower heat transfer. The warmer the climate, the lower you want the U-Factor to be to mitigate heat getting into the home.
- Visible Transmittance: This is a measure of light transmitted, measured from 0 to 1. A higher number means more visible light.
- Air Leakage: This measures how much air passes through the cracks in the window’s construction, leading to heat gain and loss. A smaller reading is what you’re looking for, or 0.30 cfm/sq. ft. or less.
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): This is the measurement of how much solar heat is absorbed by the product in proportion to the amount of solar radiation, measured between 0 and 1. A higher rating will work best for colder climates to allow heat to be absorbed into the home, and a lower rating is good for warmer climates to mitigate heat absorption.
You’ll also want to check ENERGY STAR requirements. If the window passes those requirements, it’s a fast, easy way to tell that a window is energy-efficient.
What Are the Best Types of Window Frames?
Frames come in a variety of materials. Below are some of the most common materials you’ll see on the market, including their pros and cons:
- Wood Frames: Wood windows look beautiful and do not conduct heat, meaning they won’t draw heat in or out. This makes them a popular choice for both aesthetic and energy-efficiency reasons. While wooden windows used to require regular upkeep in the form of sanding and painting, that is no longer the case. The primary drawback for homeowners on a budget is that they do cost significantly more than vinyl windows. Read more on how we advise clients to choose between wood and vinyl windows.
- Vinyl Frames: Vinyl is a great choice in windows. At McCann, most of the windows we sell are vinyl or wood. Vinyl does not conduct heat, which makes them energy-efficient. Vinyl is also very low maintenance when it comes to upkeep, and they’re more budget friendly than wood windows.
- Wood Frames Covered with Aluminum or Vinyl: As the name implies, this type of frame combine the non-conductive properties of wood with vinyl and aluminum exteriors. Aluminum will decrease the energy efficiency when compared to wood and vinyl, however. Clad frames can also hide water damage, potentially leading to costly repairs down the line.
- Fiberglass Composite Frames: Fiberglass windows have grown in popularity because fiberglass is a sustainable building material (primarily made of sand), and they’re very strong and highly resistant to exterior weather conditions. However, fiberglass windows tend to be very costly in comparison to other window materials because the manufacturing is very labor intensive. Plus, over time, the dark-colored fiberglass windows can fade when exposed to direct sunlight.
- Aluminum Frames: Aluminum is a heat conductor, meaning you’ll want to look more closely at the energy-efficiency ratings. That being said, aluminum windows have come a long way recently and are similar to wood in vinyl windows when it comes to being maintenance-free, durable and long-lasting.
As you can see, each of these frames comes with pros and cons. Your choice will depend on your budget, your home and personal preference. At McCann, we’re here to answer all of your questions and to offer some of our expert advice to ensure you make the best decision for your specific circumstances.
Will My Windows Be Secure From Intruders?
Security is a top priority for many of our clients, and we want to caution you by saying that not all windows are created the same in terms of security. You want a window from a reliable manufacturer that uses a sturdy latch and locking mechanism that will stand up over time. Many windows from less reputable manufacturers have flimsy latches that break within a few years or don’t lock the window securely.
At McCann, we only work with name brand manufacturers with long, reputable histories. We know our manufacturers will stand behind their products to ensure quality latching mechanisms from the get-go and to stand behind them should one fail prematurely.
If you’re looking for specific types of locks, one of the top security features today are window or patio doors with multiple point lock systems. These make it more difficult for potential intruders to break in.
Some patio doors also contain steel bolts that secure the door properly into place. The door can also stay secure in the vented position while being locked in place by the bolt. Lockable night vent features are also available for windows.
How Long Does a Window Last?
Another key concern when purchasing a window for your home is how long that window will last. A good window, after all, may be with your home as long as you are.
A good window will last 20 to 30 years. Be cautious of windows on the lower end of the price range from unknown manufacturers. These won’t last as long and are more likely to have issues with locking, opening or closing. The old adage “you get what you pay for” often applies to windows, too.
At McCann, most of our windows come with a lifetime warranty, and we offer a comprehensive umbrella warranty that covers most anything for 5 years for installation and labor. We are 100 percent dedicated to your satisfaction. So if you ever have a warranty question or concern, please contact us directly.
If you’re in the market for new windows and want to discuss your options with one of our window and door experts, schedule your free in-home consultation online or call us at 847-562-1212. We’ll help you make the right choice for your lifestyle, home and budget.