Replacing Home Windows For a More Comfortable Life
It is not always easy to make the decision to replace windows in your home. Windows do not usually fail critically like a roof might. Windows tend to deteriorate with time, becoming leaky, sticky, hard to shut and open or just plain drafty.
Deciding to replace a window or whole house of windows is a combination of visual appeal, convenience and energy efficiency.
How long do windows last
Vinyl windows last 20 to 40 years. Sun and heat deteriorate vinyl and cause early failure. Moist, humid conditions can cause rot and mildew reducing life as well. Over time windows can warp, seals can break, and components may snap. Many, many calls for a new window are the result of a broken seal on a double pane window with moisture in between.
This can happen on wood windows as well. In fact wood windows are subject to expansion and shrinkage due to changes in humidity. Over time the wood may break a seal resulting is moisture intrusion or air leaks.
Windows with long, harsh UV exposure should be shaded by the use of lawn plantings or awnings.
How are Home Windows Made?
There are a wide choice of window materials to choose from when selecting new windows. Windows are typically made of vinyl, fiberglass, metal or wood.
Vinyl windows – economical and maintenance free
Vinyl windows tend to be economical and have low maintenance. They are pre-finished and require no painting. Indeed, they cannot be painted. They may have a cheaper appearance than other windows and they do deteriorate with heat and UV radiation. Vinyl windows are the economical solution.
Fiberglass windows – eco friendly and higher end elegance
Fiberglass windows are more ecologically friendly than vinyl. While vinyl is a petroleum product, fiberglass is largely made of glass. Fiberglass can be molded into a wood look and lacking welded joints of vinyl look even more like wood. Finally fiberglass can be painted to match your home.
Metal windows – long life, durable and cheap
Metal windows are typically made of aluminum. The major advantage of metal windows over vinyl is their additional strength. Because of their low cost, they are very competitive against vinyl especially considering their long life. However, metal windows conduct heat much more than vinyl causing them to be colder and lose more heat to the outside. For this reason, metal windows are typically used in mild climates.
Wood windows – the ultimate in elegance
Wood windows are the ultimate in window luxury. Yes, they are organic and as a result are subject to dry rot and insect infestation....but so is a large percentage of your home's structure. Maintained properly wood will last a life time. That said, wood does require constant care including cleaning and regular painting or oiling. The look is fantastic but it does come at a cost. For homeowners looking for windows with a natural wood interior and tough exterior, window manufacturers make vinyl or metal clad wood windows. The cladding adds the resilience and no-maintenance features of vinyl or metal while retaining the interior elegance of real wood. It goes without saying that wood windows are very eco-friendly.
Window U Factor Components
Once you have eliminated cheap windows with poor fit and finish, you have decided on window material, and you have a reputable solid installer, your final decision will be window glazing.
You will find that windows are no longer single glazed like they used to be. Double glazing radically reduces the U factor of a window. Triple glazing goes even further to low the U factor the incremental difference over double glazing becomes marginal. That is why most windows are double glazed.
Once a window is double glazed, moisture must be kept out of the space between the plates of glass or condensation will appear. It will look bad and destroy your energy savings. Double glazed windows are hermetically sealed. One of the major failure mechanisms for poorly constructed windows is seal breakage. Make sure you buy a quality window with good construction.
Window U factor can be improved further by swapping out dried air from the panes and replacing it with a higher insulating gas like argon or a gas blend. High end windows are almost always filled with an inert gas for higher performance.
Finally glass can be treated to reflect UV light and other wave lengths. Doing this will help keep heat in during the winter and heat out during the summer. There are a number of coatings available and may even be good at protecting your household items from damaging sun rays.
One thing that must also be kept in mind is that U factor is not the only thing that will lower energy costs. Reality is that a temperature discrepancy between a window and the surrounding walls will actually cause drafts in the home and MAKE you feel colder, even if the temperature is identical. If you feel colder you are bound to turn the temperature up to compensate. Not only will you spend more money on heating but you will not feel as comfortable at home, at a given temperature.