Top 7 Questions to ask when Buying Windows

There are lots of questions when it comes to windows. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Windows are both simple and extremely complex. Their basic function has not changed since the pioneer days when greased paper was used to cover holes in the walls and allow light indoors. Thankfully, modern technology has led to great improvement in window design and function, which has resulted in an array of window options, as well as some new questions. Learning answers to those questions will ease the work of maintaining windows or the process of shopping for new ones.

Is there a difference between replacement windows and windows for new construction?

Yes. Windows for new construction are designed to be installed during the construction process, usually prior to siding installation. Most have flanges that are fastened to the window framing. Replacement windows are sized to be fastened into an existing window opening without needing to remove any siding.

What types of windows do I have to choose from?

You’ll find a dozen or more general types of windows offered by manufacturers, but most windows installed in homes fall into six basic categories:

Double Hung Windows Consisting of two sash that slide up and down in tracks, double hung windows are very familiar and very popular. They offer excellent ventilation that can be adjusted according to which sash is opened. Airflow, however, is limited to half of the window opening area. Single-hung windows have a fixed top sash and an operable bottom sash.

Casement Windows Sometimes called crank-out windows, casements are single-frame windows hinged on one side, so they open outward, usually by means of a hand crank mounted in the frame sill. They offer full ventilation when open and seal very tightly closed.

Awning Windows Hinged on top, awning windows swing outward, usually by means of a crank. Mostly horizontal in configuration, they are often installed high on the wall and are popular in basements. Hopper windows are similar, but open inward.

Bay and Bow Windows These multi-window units project out from the wall, increasing light introduction and providing a horizontal surface for plants or even a window seat. Bay windows are more angular, with one large picture window in the center and a tall, narrow side window at each end. Bow windows usually include at least four similar-sized windows that create a more curvilinear projection than the angular bays. Traditional bay and bow windows include an attached roof structure for exterior shelter. The Marvin Skycove is a new and innovative take on this, replacing the roof with overhead glass for an immersive experience that can expand usable living space by up to 20 feet. Certified and warrantied, the Skycove is much easier to install than another custom-built option.

Picture Windows A non-operable window, generally large in size and installed in a prominent spot. Usually square or rectangular, but available shapes include round-top, octagon, and other specialty shapes.

How are windows rated for energy efficiency?

Every window or glass door has numeric energy efficiency ratings assigned to it by oversight agencies.

The best-known of these is the ENERGY STAR program run by the US EPA and the Department of Energy and verified by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). Windows are tested and rated according to two measures: The U-Factor and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). The U-Factor tells you how well the window keeps heat indoors. The ratings range from 0.20 to 1.20. The lower the number the better, especially in Northern Climates.

The SHGC describes how well the window keeps heat out. It ranges from 0 to 1, with lower numbers indicating higher efficiency. It is more important in Southern climates. So regionality plus the U-Factor and SHGC determine if a window earns an ENERGY STAR sticker.

The NFRC rating label is perhaps a more instructive guide for choosing a window because it reveals the U-Factor and NFRC metrics, along with a couple of others, which allows you to make one-to-one comparisons of the energy efficiency of windows you are considering.

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