There are many misconceptions that homeowners have about replacement windows that can keep them from choosing to replace their windows. The four misconceptions below touch on a few (but major) issues that are commonly brought up by people hesitant to replace their windows. By dispelling these misconceptions about replacement windows, homeowners will feel more comfortable making the decision to start a window replacement project.
1. U-value is the most important factor to determine energy efficient windows
U-value is defined as the measurement of the amount of heat transfer through the window. The lower the U-value, the less heat is transferred across the window. While it is a good measure for the window, the U-value is only one factor used to determine the energy performance of a window. Other measures like the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) and the visible light transmittance are also used to determine the performance of the window.
In addition, the climate you live in will also determine how important U-value is to your situation. If you live in a colder climate you will want the lowest U-value you can find. A low U-value means that the heat inside the house will stay inside. However, if you live in a warmer climate, the solar heat gain coefficient is more important because it measures how much of the sun’s radiant heat is transferred across the window. The lower the SHGC the better the window is in a warmer climate.
In a colder climate you want to try and capture as much of the sun’s radiant heat as you can so a better SHGC number is not as important as a good U-value rating. While U-value is important when selecting a replacement window, it is not the most important factor when determining energy efficiency.
2. You must use vinyl windows if you want replacement windows
While vinyl is the most popular material used in replacement window frames today, there are other options for replacement windows. If you live in an older home you have the option of replacing your old wood windows with new, energy efficient clad/wood windows. These windows can often times be installed inside the “pocket” of your old windows without having to tear into the house or disturb the existing trim. The windows have a clad exterior, usually vinyl or aluminum that protect the windows from the elements, and a wood interior to keep with the look of your existing windows.
Fiberglass is a newer material available for replacement windows. It has thermal properties similar to wood window (wood is the best insulator available) and it is stronger than vinyl or aluminum. Fiberglass is very durable and is hard to dent or scratch. The material is also paintable which gives you options other than the standard white and tan offered by most vinyl window manufacturers.
You will pay more to have wood or fiberglass replacement windows. Vinyl is the least expensive of the three, but you also have product limitations, and quality issues with vinyl that you do not see as much in clad/wood or fiberglass replacement windows. You should always look at all of your options for replacement windows because vinyl is not the only choice.
3. Replacing windows will require extensive renovation to your home
Many people are hesitant to undertake a window replacement project because they are afraid that it will require tearing out brick, stucco, sheet rock and more to have the windows replaced. Usually this is not the case. Most good window installers can replace a window without disturbing the existing structure. This is nice because it limits the amount of finish work required and it allows the project to be done fairly quickly.
Most window installation projects are complete within two days and do not require any additional masonry, stucco, or sheet rock work. Find a window installer that is comfortable explaining their installation process to you so that you know what to expect when they start installing windows.
4. Anyone can install a replacement window
This, unfortunately, is the biggest misconception people have about installing replacement windows: anyone can do it. While it is not rocket science, installing windows is an acquired skill, and the better you are at it, the better the installation will be. There are many contractors out there that say they can install windows, but few that will say they can do it well. It is important that you determine your window installers comfort level with installing replacement windows before you hire them to do the work.
A window will only perform well if it was installed correctly. A poorly installed window can be difficult to open and close, it can leak, it can be drafty, just to name a few. It is as important to find the right window installer as it is to find the right replacement window for your project. Take the time to find the right window installer and ask the right questions before they start the work. This will insure a well executed window replacement project and long term performance of your replacement windows.
There are a hundred other misconceptions that homeowners have about replacement windows, but these four detail some of the most common. The process for replacing windows is not that difficult, however, it pays to know the facts about the product and the process. Research for yourself before you select a replacement window, and you will be sure to make the right decisions, from energy efficiency, to product choice, to how they are installed, to, finally, who installs them for you.