How to Shop for New Windows

When it comes to the look, comfort, and efficiency of your home, windows can make a big difference. Old or damaged windows can cause your home to look outdated. More importantly, they are less energy-efficient and can allow moisture in to damage your home. Replacing your old or damaged windows with new windows improves the energy efficiency of your home and increases comfort by preventing energy loss. So, what should you look for in new windows? Here’s how to shop for new windows:

1. Material

When it comes time to shop for new windows, consider the material of your new windows. Wood may provide a classic look, but it also requires a lot of maintenance and is easily damaged over time. New window technology has provided more durable materials, like vinyl. Vinyl replacement windows do not require as much maintenance. They hardly require any maintenance at all and they certainly do not need to be repainted.

Vinyl windows are stronger than many other materials, insulate better, require less maintenance, and are more durable. You don’t have to worry about rotting, cracking, peeling, or pests! Plus, the vinyl casing around the window is available in several colors to give you exactly the look you want.

2. Shape & Style

You will also want to consider the shape and style when you shop for new windows. You can get new windows that are the same size as your old windows or you can decide to do a little renovation for a larger window, like a bay or bow window. Either way, you still have plenty of options in the style of the window.

Think about how you would like your new windows to open. Double-hung windows open by sliding from the top or bottom. These are the most common style of window. Casement windows are another option. These windows pivot on a hinge and work similarly to how a door opens and closes. You can also choose sliding windows, which slide to the left or right to open. Considering all of these different options can help you choose the best windows for your home.

3. Glass

Another detail to consider when you shop for new windows is the glass. Traditional windows were single-pane. These are outdated and are not suitable for most situations. Double-pane or triple-pane windows are the way to go for windows that provide insulation and prevent heat loss.

Triple-pane windows offer superior performance to double-pane windows, but double-pane windows serve their purpose well and outperform many other types of windows. Due to the improved insulation provided by multiple panes of glass, these windows also offer a degree of sound insulation.

4. Performance

When evaluating new windows, including the glass used in them, performance is key. You will want to look for windows with an Energy Star rating. From there, you will want to consider the thermal performance and structural performance of the window.

Thermal Performance

When evaluating the thermal performance of the window, there are five things to consider – U Factor, R Factor, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), Visible Transmittance (VT), and any extra performance upgrades associated with the glass.

What is U Factor?

U Factor measures thermal insulation. It indicates how easy it is for heat to flow through the window. In this case, the lower the U Factor, the better a window insulates against heat flow and the better its thermal performance.

What is R Factor?

R Factor also measures thermal insulation. However, instead of measuring how easy heat can flow through the window, R Factor measures the window’s ability to resist heat flow.

The higher the R Factor, the better a window is able to stand up against heat flow and the better its thermal performance. R Factor and U Factor work together to determine a window’s thermal insulation.

What is Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)?

The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient measures the amount of solar radiation a window permits to pass through. Essentially, it measures how much the sun is able to heat your home by shining through the windows. The lower the SHGC, the better a window protects your home from solar heat.

Based on your climate, you may want a window with a higher SHGC rating to allow solar heat to help warm your home in the winter. In Central Pennsylvania, we have hot summers and cold winters, so a high-performance window featuring Low E glass and a mid-range SHGC may be a better fit and provide better heating and cooling protection for your home.

What is Visible Transmittance (VT)?

Visible Transmittance measures how much visible light the window allows to pass through. Ultraviolet and infrared light cause damage over time and increase heat.

So, blocking these types of light, while allowing visible light into a room, enhances a window’s overall thermal performance. VT also gives you a good idea of how well a window will provide light into a room.

Additional Upgrades

Depending on the manufacturer, additional upgrades may be present to further increase a window’s thermal performance and the performance of the glass. In the case of many windows, there are spacers, coatings, and other upgrades available to further improve window performance.

Spacers create a warm edge around the perimeter of the glass to reduce condensation, further reduce heat loss, prevent stress cracks, and reduce the chance of mold or mildew. Antimicrobial weather-stripping provides an even tighter fit between the window and the frame to reduce areas where condensation can occur and also help prevent mold and mildew from forming.

Structural Performance

When evaluating the structural performance of a window, it’s important to look at three things – Air Infiltration, Wind Load, and Water Resistance. Air Infiltration refers to how much air passes through the seal of a window per minute and per square foot of the window. The answer is calculated by determining air leakage per minute and dividing by the square footage; it’s usually represented by the number of balloons worth of air that is lost.

Wind Load measures how much wind pressure a window can handle. This is usually provided in miles per hour (mph) in the United States. The industry standard for windows is approximately 90 mph while many notable manufacturers have performance ratings high above that. Water Resistance measures how much sustained wind with driving rain a window can handle before moisture starts to get past the seals. The industry standard for Water Resistance is approximately 34 mph, but most high-quality and upgraded windows rate higher.

All of these factors work together to create the new windows that are perfect for your home and your needs. Knowing what to look for and how to shop for new windows can help you get the best fit for you. For help with questions about window performance and replacement windows, call Zephyr Thomas at 717-399-4708 or stop by our showroom to see window styles in person!