When renovating your home, don't let windows become an after-thought. There are several important factors to consider when choosing new windows, and the right windows don't just add to a room's style and brightness—they can also save you money. Here's how to shop smarter for windows that last longer and add to your home's aesthetic appeal.
A window that doesn't fit well or isn't installed properly can allow air, rain, and snow to seep in, causing drafts, making your air conditioner work overtime, and even causing water damage—all leading to repairs and bills that can cost big bucks.
John Kirchner, public relations manager for Marvin Windows and Doors, says older homes can shift over time, so the size of your home's window openings may be slightly "off square." He says there are ways to work around windows that are "close enough," but that's not ideal: "A lot of times people will try to use a standard size window, but the best ultimate solution is to have a window built to the exact specifications of that opening."
To get the right-sized windows for your home, find a company that will send a representative to conduct an in-home consultation and eliminate the guesswork.
Energy Efficiency and Light Filtering
Energy-efficiency is one of the main reasons today's consumers replace their windows, says Kathy Krafka Harkema, spokesperson for Pella Windows and Doors. "Look for double- or triple-pane low emissivity (Low-E) insulating glass options to help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter," she says. "Multiple panes of insulating glass with Low-E coatings offer greater energy-efficiency, as compared with windows with single pane glass or clear glass." These protective coatings can also help protect furniture, carpets, and wall coverings from fading due to the sun.
"U-factor" is a measure of window energy performance, explains registered architect Stephanie Horowitz AIA of ZeroEnergy Design, a green architecture and mechanical design firm. "A lower u-factor in all climates and seasons will conserve energy and improve thermal comfort in the home."
Consumers should also look for the "Energy Star" label as a mark of energy-efficiency.
After spending so much time carefully determining your home's color scheme and fabrics, you won't want your windows to look out of place. "Every specific architectural style has unique and distinctive elements to it that can be brought out through the windows," says Kirchner.
Shapes are one way to convey the architectural style you've envisioned for your home. Removable grilles are another—and they can be configured and reconfigured. "[You can have] a colonial look one day or a contemporary look the next day simply by snapping out grilles," says Krafka Harkema. "[You can also] choose grilles between the glass for an easy-to-clean option."
For a quick refresh, Andersen offers a new exterior trim system that installs in as little as five minutes. "Traditional trim by comparison can take hours to install in a single opening," says says Stacy Einck-Eckberg, brand public relations for Andersen Windows and Doors.
Factory prefinished options such as stained or painted wood windows can help reduce installation time and lower overall maintenance, says Krafka Harkema. Another fun new feature? Many manufacturers are offering between-the-glass shades that can darken a room without added draperies.
(Of course, if you like your current window treatments, look for handy fold-away window cranks to ensure they don't interfere.)
SustainabilityRecycle? You can also incorporate the sustainability trend into your windows. For example, Andersen's proprietary Fibrex material composite, made of reclaimed wood fiber from the plant's operations and polymer, is used in many of its products.
Marvin Windows and Doors now boasts extruded aluminum on the exterior of the window sash and frame, a commercial grade finish that's as thick as a quarter—as opposed to roll form aluminum, which is the thickness of soda can aluminum. Explains Kirchner: "There's less maintenance and they'll retain their color better by resisting fading from weather and sun." He also says homeowners and builders these days are looking for customization. So, in addition to Marvin's 19 standard colors, you can send them a sample of your perfect shade, and they'll match it.