Six Things to Know Before Buying Replacement Windows

August 05, 2011

There's a lot to consider when buying new replacement windows. For example, how does energy-efficient in Anchorage differ from energy-efficient in Atlanta?

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Replacement Windows: Six Things To Know

Heading straight for a window dealer or home building supply store can be confusing if you haven't done some homework in advance. Here are some things that can help you make an informed decision:

  1. Reading the window performance label: The U-factor (rate of heat loss) and the SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) are the most critical ratings on the label, but VT (Visual Transmittance,) AL (Air Leakage,) and CR (Condensation Resistance) are also very important, depending on your climate.
  2. Window terminology: Besides styles like double-hung, awning, casement, etc., knowing terms like thermal break, sash, muntin, jam, and more will help you speak the same language as your sales person. This link has a diagram with terms for vinyl window parts.
  3. Factors specific to your home: If your home is in a hot climate and has many windows facing east and west, your replacement window comparisons may be different than an identical home in a cold climate--or from the same home with a north-south orientation. The hot-climate home needs more solar resistance, while the cold-climate home needs more solar gain. The number of shade trees, whether they're deciduous or evergreen, and your elevation are all factors you should chart or photograph and take to window showrooms.
  4. Are your windows true? Find out if your windows are square and true by measuring each one diagonally both ways. A difference of more than 1/8" in the two measurements increases air leakage and water damage potential. The best replacement window won't optimize your energy bills if placed in an out-of-square opening. Dealers prefer to measure before your actual purchase.
  5. Tax incentives--do you qualify? ENERGY STAR window ratings earn federal tax credits. In 2011, the home improvement tax credit amounts to 10% of cost of the home improvement, up to a maximum of $500.
  6. Recommended ratings by county: State-by-state, county-by-county color-coded maps for window labels help you choose your best replacement window ratings. In a huge, diverse county like Yavapai in Arizona, use your local knowledge to choose an adjacent county's ratings if you live in Sedona's warm 4300' elevation versus nearby Flagstaff's cold 7,000' elevation.

New windows improve your home's beauty, comfort, resale value, and monthly utility costs. Why wait? Start your shopping for replacement windows today.


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