Last summer my wife and I moved to a new home. One of the first renovation projects we tackled was replacing our windows. Not only did they let in too much street noise, but some of the seals started to fail, causing the glass to fog up.
We spent hours meeting with various window exchange companies, all of whom had long presentations to show why they were the best option. To save you that headache, I’ve put together a brief summary of the different window types to help you choose the best window for your home.
Window manufacturers use five different materials to make replacement windows. Here are the pros and cons of each one.
Vinyl windows are the standard and most popular type of replacement window. They are easy to clean, moisture-resistant and have good insulating properties. They are also the most cost effective option. However, they do have some drawbacks. Vinyl windows are not as durable as other windows and require two locking mechanisms instead of just one for safety reasons. They’re also not very paintable as the paint will flake off over time.
Wooden windows offer a noble, architectural appearance and add to the value of a house. Many historic neighborhoods require wooden windows. They are easy to color or paint. Unfortunately, wooden windows are expensive and often cost twice what you would pay for a vinyl window, although they are more durable and don’t need to be replaced when other options become available. However, they are more sensitive to damage from water or insects.
Fiberglass windows are slightly more durable than vinyl windows and have similar insulating properties. However, they are more expensive. These additional costs are not accompanied by an increase in ROI, which is why fiberglass windows are not common.
Aluminum windows are very resistant to dents and are therefore popular in storm-prone areas. However, they can rust, and the paint can peel or scratch off. They are also not as energy efficient as other windows and are more expensive.
Composite windows combine the PVC polymers used to make vinyl windows with wood fibers. That makes them more durable than wooden or vinyl windows. They look like wooden windows, can be stained or painted, and are maintenance-free. Unfortunately, they are very expensive.
In addition to choosing the best window material, homeowners also need to determine the number of window panes they want. Many older houses still have single-pane windows that are not very energy efficient. New replacement windows can be offered as double or triple windows. Here is a brief introduction to each one.
A standard double-glazed window consists of two panes of glass that are arranged like argon around a compressed gas layer. This window prevents about 90% of a house’s energy loss to the outside. This means that only 10% of the heat from the sun or the cold winter air gets into your home through the window.
A triple window, on the other hand, is like a pancake. It’s a layer of glass, then pressurized gas, another layer of glass, more pressurized gas, and then the third layer of glass. These layers prevent 97% of the energy loss through the glass. They also offer a bit more soundproofing and security as it is harder to break a triple window. Unfortunately, they cost 10% to 15% more than double-glazed windows. Because of this, it can take a homeowner up to 30 years to recover the additional costs from energy savings alone.
The best options for replacing windows
For those who live in their dream home and can justify the extra investment, three-pane composite windows are the best overall option. They are durable, look like wood, are very energy efficient and do not require maintenance.
However, for most homeowners, a standard double-glazed vinyl window is the best replacement option for the money or triple-glazed vinyl if you want extra energy efficiency. Vinyl windows do not last as long as composite windows or save less energy costs, but they cost significantly less. When I sold out my windows, vinyl was so much cheaper compared to composites that I was able to replace them a few times over the next few decades and still spend less money. However, before deciding which type of window is best for your home, look at your options.
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