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What’s what with windows

By: Ellen Lampe


Just as you don’t want drafts blowing into your home in the dead of winter, it’s equally as important to keep the persistent heat at bay in the summer and protect your home from the elements. These are the days when it pays to have good windows and window coverings. A good set of windows and shades or blinds on a home not only makes the home look significantly nicer, but it keeps costs down and ups the value of the home.

Homeowners have two options for weathered windows: repair or replace. 

A complete window replacement offers many benefits to a homeowner. New windows are easier to operate and clean, low maintenance, conserve energy and, the vast majority of the time, they will look better than whatever they are replacing. However, they can be a pricey investment, so it’s important to evaluate the long-term benefits that would come with new windows and weigh that against what it would take to repair old windows. 

Evaluate your old windows: Do they open and close with ease? Are they easy to clean? Do you avoid maneuvering them altogether? Are they cloudy? Do they collect condensation easily? Are they painted and is that paint chipping or wood rotting? Are they well-insulated? Does the hardware need to be replaced and how hard is the hardware to find? 

If you’re having a hard time determining whether to repair or replace, have an expert visit your home, listen to your needs and concerns, and help you make the right choice. 

If you decide on new windows, there are several materials, colors and styles to choose from.

Window styles include double-hung, slider, picture, casement, bay, awning, etc. and they can come in varying degrees of quality, depending on your budget. Choose whichever window style you feel best matches the look of your home [a designer could be of use in this department].

Note that double-hung windows are the safest option for a home with small children. With double-hung windows, the top operates up and down as well as the bottom, so you can let air in from the top without creating a safety hazard. If child safety is not a concern, single-hung windows are a more affordable option and have fewer moving parts, meaning they are less likely to have problems. 

As for materials, vinyl window frames are a highly ranked option. They are inexpensive; energy-efficient; low maintenance; easy to keep clean; don’t need to be painted; and won’t fade, warp, crack or rot. However, vinyl is a weaker material and can deteriorate over time. 

Wood windows are a good-looking, energy-efficient option. However, they are high maintenance and more expensive. 

Aluminum windows are solid, strong and inexpensive, but they are not as energy-efficient. It should also be noted that aluminum windows are no longer allowed in some areas due to building codes and energy standards. 

Composite and fiberglass frames are thin, highly energy-efficient, durable options, but often carry the highest price tag. 

As far as single- or double-pane glass, double-pane is the way to go. Double-pane windows provide better protection from outside elements, and they keep the indoor humidity higher for a more comfortable environment.  

Other things to keep in mind when looking for new windows are their overall energy efficiency. Check to see if the window you’re considering is Energy Star certified. This means a window has been tested and meets certain Environmental Protection Agency standards. It’s also worth looking at windows that block UV rays, as these can prevent fading of carpet, floors and items in rooms that get the most sunlight. If you choose high-quality windows and have them installed by a professional, you could see significant energy savings each month. 

When thinking about new windows, people often wonder if they should replace just the one or two that are the worst, or whether they should replace them all at once. Sound advice would be to balance your home’s appearance with your budget. No matter how close of a match you try for, new windows will look slightly different than what they’re replacing. So, if you’re not ready to replace all of the home’s windows, a good option would be to replace all the windows on one side of the home or all the windows on one level of the home. This will provide consistency in the home’s appearance and make the difference in windows less obvious. Usually, the windows on one side of a home will deteriorate quicker due to the pattern of the sun, so it may work out that those are the only windows that need replacements. 

When caring for your home’s windows, don’t forget about installing quality window coverings as well. Think beyond your run-of-the-mill fabric curtain. Shades, blinds, draperies, curtains and even shutters have become advanced and serve useful purposes beyond aesthetics. 

Homeowners can choose between operable [open and close manually] or automatic [controlled with a remote or switch] window coverings. 

Coverings to consider are ones that are heat- and cold-repellent – offering an extra layer of protection for a home and further boosting energy savings. The innovative fabric construction of those curtains insulates a room against heat and cold and blocks out noise, sunlight and harmful UV rays. 

A good option in this department is a solar shade or roller shade that offers a one-way view. While the shades are closed, people inside the home can see out through the shades, but people outside of the home cannot see in. This provides protection and privacy without compromising the view or natural light. Solar shades also reduce glare and solar heat. The downside to some of these types of shades is that, once nighttime comes and lights are on inside the home, the view is reversed. Be sure to ask your local shade retailer about privacy shade options to ensure you are getting an effective window covering without compromising your safety.

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