New Windows: Seven Reasons to Consider Your Climate When Buying Them

July 04, 2010

If you haven't had to choose new windows for a long time, it can be as confusing as buying a new cell phone. Some things are obvious. For example, single pane windows aren't good choices for Alaska or the California desert, unless you want to spend a fortune in energy bills. Here are climate factors to consider when you're choosing new windows:

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  1. Humidity and moisture: Beautiful as wood windows are, moist climates take their toll on them with dry rot, splintering, repainting, swelling and warping, and pest intolerance. Buy vinyl windows to avoid all of these problems. You can also avoid some of these problems by purchasing windows that are wood on the interior, but are clad with vinyl on the exterior.
  2. Very hot or very cold climates: Aluminum windows, unless they're insulated, transmit heat and cold more readily than other types. Fiberglass windows, especially insulated ones, resist thermal transfer very well. Insulated vinyl windows are also an excellent choice. Like fiberglass, their color is permanent. Wood windows expand and contract with the temperature swings, and need sanding and painting. Double, triple, and gas-filled panes are the best choices for these climates.
  3. High precipitation climates: In addition to the above considerations, awning windows that are hinged horizontally to crank open from the bottom permit natural ventilation even when some precipitation is falling. Small hopper windows protected by overhanging eaves can also be installed above windows or doors.
  4. Mild climates: Sliding windows, casement windows that are hinged at the side, and horizontally slatted jalousie windows work well in mild climates. Double-hung windows with a raisable bottom half and lowerable top half offer flexibility.
  5. High wind areas: If you live in a hurricane or tornado-prone area, residential replacement windows or new home construction windows with high-impact glass can help to minimize damage to both the structure and the contents of your home. Check local codes.
  6. Fire-prone areas: In wooded areas or closely-spaced residential areas, every room, as well as the basement, needs at least one operable window no more than 44" from the floor and big enough for anyone to climb through in case of fire.
  7. Lower humidity areas suitable for evaporative coolers: To work properly, evaporative coolers need a ventable window in each room to avoid excess humidity build-up.

Ventilation and energy efficiency are obvious considerations when buying new or replacement windows. Safety and climate may not come to mind as readily. With ENERGY STAR rebates available on high-performing windows, the economic climate for buying windows is at it's best right now! And they're a wise investment in comfort and resale value as well!


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