There can be a lot of hype in the window industry, and that has led to some common consumer misconceptions. We want to clear some of those up for you so that you can make the most informed decision possible and get the window that’s right for you and your unique needs. If you’re not sure how to compare windows at different vendors or what’s really important in a window, check out the tips below.
1. Pay attention to the NFRC label.
The NFRC label is one of the few things you can count on when you’re window shopping, and the most important thing you should look at if you’re comparison shopping. Major window manufacturers submit their windows to the National Fenestration Rating Council, a non-biased window rating organization that rates each window based on four factors. Those factors (U-Factor, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, Visible Transmittance, and Air Leakage) are printed on an NFRC label that you can use to consistently and fairly compare different windows at different vendors.
All four of these ratings are related to the window’s insulation properties, but the U-Factor is probably the most helpful of the four. It measures how much heat loss occurs through a window. The lower the U-Factor is, the less heat it allows to escape, which means better insulation and a better window. It’s important to know that a more expensive window doesn’t necessarily mean a better U-Factor. Some companies mark windows up for other reasons, so you can’t buy an expensive window and assume it will have good insulation. The best way to figure out how much insulation bang you are getting for your buck is to divide the price of the window by the U-Factor.
Price of window ÷ U-Factor = Insulation value ratio
You can compare this ratio between windows to figure out which windows give you more insulation for your dollar.
2. Don’t confuse a more expensive window with a better window.
You already know that a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean better insulation properties, but shouldn’t it mean a better window? Maybe it has better materials or nicer construction?
There are perfectly good windows out there that sell much cheaper than their competition, and they may be almost identical! Most windows are manufactured with the same materials, processes, and standards… even in the same factories! A lot of the price is determined by the seller, and a lot of sellers will try to convince you that their windows are more special or worth more when they really aren’t. We’ve seen windows at some of our competitors go for hundreds of dollars more than our windows, which were exactly the same. The difference is that we believe that if we price our windows fairly, we’ll get more customers and happier customers, which is better business for us. Click here to get a free estimate from the Window Source.
3. Don’t get triple-pane windows if you don’t need them.
It might surprise you to hear this, but “better” isn’t always better. Triple-pane windows typically have better insulation properties than double-pane windows, but they might not be the best windows for you. Why? Because you might not need that extra boost in insulation, and the extra cost might outweigh the benefit to you. Energy Star published a chart with the recommended U-Factors for different regions. Getting a window with the right U-Factor can maximize your savings and lower your up-front cost. Take a look at the chart to help you decide if you really need those add-ons you’re eyeing.
4. Consider the pros and cons of different window frame materials.
Window frames are made out of several different materials today, and each has its own pros and cons. Don’t put your expensive window in the wrong frame. Consider your needs and the conditions around your home before you make a decision, and check out the pros and cons for each material below.
- Vinyl—Vinyl is a synthetic, non-porous material that prevents air and moisture from seeping through. It holds its shape and rigidity very well, unaffected by changes in temperature and humidity. It doesn’t conduct heat very well, which gives your window better insulation. It is also much more easily molded than wood or metal, so it can be formed to include special features like chambering and grooves that improve the strength, durability, and insulation of the frame.
One of the main complaints about vinyl is that it doesn’t match the look a homeowner wants for his or her windows. The good news is that can be fixed with wood grain veneers in a variety of styles and finishes that can be placed over the frame to mimic the appearance of wood. Our Window Source 9000 series, which is offered with a variety of wood grain finishes, is a good example of this. Vinyl frames can also be placed under your existing wood trim.
- Wood—Wood is often chosen for its appearance because it looks warm, classic, and elegant. It is also a better insulator than metal, but it does not have the advanced features like chambering that can be built into a vinyl frame. It is also prone to expanding and contracting with changes in temperature and humidity and can rot if left exposed to the elements for too long.
- Metal—Frames made of aluminum and other metals have frequently been used in new home construction because they are usually cheaper. They have very poor insulation qualities, however, which can make them a poor choice for windows. Metal is a great conductor, so it heats up and cools down quickly, which can cause significant heat loss in your home. They must also be welded or screwed together, and this can cause unwanted drafts and air leakage.
5. Make sure you get a quality installation.
It might seem like picking the window is the important part and once you pick a good window with great insulation properties, you can sit back and never worry about wasted utilities again. Something many people don’t realize is that installation is just as important as the window itself. If a window isn’t properly installed and gaps aren’t sealed well, you could lose more heat and cooling than ever just around the frame. Make sure your installers are experienced and that they are using a low expansion spray foam to seal any gaps between the frame and the wall. If you think your windows might been have been poorly installed and you’re worried that you’re losing energy, our technicians can check it out for you and test it for leaks.