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Window Shopping

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In the market for new windows? Read on to learn how to select the best ones for your home as well as your budget.  

Style and Design
One type of window does not fit all homes. First consider your home’s architectural style. The double-hung, divided-light window (shown here) is a traditional look, typically seen on Colonials and Cape Cods, while casements are popular on modern homes, such as ranches. True divided-light windows are a classic style made up of small individual panes of glass pieced into a grille framework. Simulated divided-light windows re-create the effect with a grille pattern affixed to both the interior and the exterior pane of glass. Consult the style guide at andersenwindows.com for more details.

Quality windows are energy efficient. Look for those featuring two panes of glass (also called double glazing) with a Low-E coating to further reduce heat loss. Do your homework before you buy: Check all windows for the Energy Star label and a sticker showing the model’s ratings from the National Fenestration Rating Council. To learn more about the ratings, go to nfrc.org.

A Lower Energy Bill
Learn just how much money replacing your windows can save you at efficientwindows.org. Click on the Window Selection Tool and choose your city and state from the pull-down menu. The Web site calculates the annual energy costs of a typical home in that region based on the type of windows installed.

Choosing the Right Window
Windows can account for 2 to 3 percent of a new home’s total cost, including labor. Several factors influence a window’s price and performance, including the type and thickness of the glass, the presence of coatings for energy efficiency, and the frame materials. See below for details about the most common frame varieties (all-wood frames are less prevalent).

  • Clad windows are made of wood covered with aluminum or vinyl on the exterior for low maintenance. You can then paint or finish the interior frame to match your decor.
  • Vinyl frames are very easy to maintain and their energy-efficiency is comparable to that of wood. They never need painting, and come in a variety of colors.
  • Aluminum windows are strong and durable, and generally the least expensive option. They’re also less energy efficient because the metal conducts cold more readily.
  • Fiberglass and composite wood frames are the priciest choice. They’re great insulators and low-maintenance, with a faux wood-grain finish that can be painted.

Educate yourself: You can also find informative articles on the Web sites of these manufacturers: Andersen Windows & Doors, andersenwindows.com; Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors, jeld-wen.com; Marvin Windows and Doors, marvin.com; Milgard Windows, milgard.com; Pella Windows & Doors, pella.com.

Window Shopping
Photo: Keith Scott Morton

Window Primer
Are your windows on their way out? Pat Simpson, host of HGTV’s Fix It Up! and Before & After, explains the warning signs.

How do you know when it’s time to replace your windows?
“The signs are usually pretty obvious. Check for glass that looks foggy between the panes or has condensation on it, air leaking in or out around the window, and rotting, warped, or otherwise damaged frames. If opening or closing a window is very difficult, it’s probably time to replace it.”

What can you do to improve your current windows’ performance?
“The best thing you can do is seal up your windows. Before winter arrives, put in storm windows (look for those that install from the inside). Then add weather stripping, or use a sealant around the frame. I recommend Windjammer Clear Removable Weather Seal, because it comes off easily without damaging the window’s finish.”

Window Shopping
Photo: Keith Scott Morton

Artful Windows
Make old windows new again by fashioning them into wall decor. Hunt for interesting pieces at an architectural salvage store in your area. Check the Yellow Pages under “Building Materials: Used” or “Salvage and Surplus.”

Sparklingly clear windows can be yours with a simple and inexpensive home recipe. Using a funnel, pour three tablespoons of ammonia and one tablespoon of vinegar into a one-quart screw-top or spray bottle, then fill with cool water. For safety, remember to label the bottle. If your windows have a Low-E coating on the exterior surface of the glass, leave out the ammonia and increase the vinegar content from one to two tablespoons.

Window Shopping
Photo: Edward Addeo

Newsprint is the best choice when you want truly streak-free windows, but it can leave behind ugly black marks on your trim. Use painter’s tape to cover the trim first or try a lint-free cloth instead.