Windows can be one of the most important features of a new or renovated home, but it’s a feature that can often be overlooked. Like walls or fireplaces, we often think of windows as fixed and difficult to change, when in fact replacing or even adding new windows can be a relatively affordable home improvement, particularly when considering all the benefits that they may offer.
Windows connect your family to the outdoors, allowing in light or framing the perfect view, and if positioned and maintained correctly can dramatically improve the feel of your home. Depending on the type and quality of the installation, new windows can significantly reduce your long-term energy costs, offer your family and furniture protection from harmful UV rays, improve your home’s safety and security, reduce the volume of neighborhood noise, and dramatically improve both your home’s overall value and its curb appeal. If you are considering replacing existing windows, take a look with your contractor over what the scope of work might be. Is the frame or sill rotted or damaged and would also need to be replaced? Are the existing windows a standard size or will a custom order job be required to replace them? What sort of budget do you have?
via Energy Star
You’ll also want to take a look at common window styles in your neighborhood or region, or styles specific to your home’s architecture, for inspiration on which specific window patterns to choose. For instance, prairie muntins look great on prairie-style homes but can be out of place in a southwest style home. Tudor style windows are beautiful in a cottage or Tudor home but might clash with a modernist design. Many architects consider it fairly important for balance to not have too many window styles, and to have the same muntin style on each window to tie them together, though like many ‘rules’ this is more a guideline than something set in stone. Neighborhood Associations may also have restrictions regarding the types of windows allowable in your community, so be sure to check if your neighborhood has any rules to that effect.
One of the most important considerations with windows is the climate or region of the country that you’ll be living in. There are dozens of types of windows available to meet a variety of needs and purposes. The most common window types are double hung, casements, sliders, awning, and hopper windows.
Double hung windows have two sashes, a lower inner sash that slides upwards and an upper outer sash that slides downwards. Double hung windows provide good air circulation, making them ideal for hot climates. Tilt windows are a popular variety of the double hung style, with each pane able to be tilted in or out of its track for easy cleaning. This feature is wonderful for dry, dusty climates, but to be avoided if your neighborhood is prone to high winds.
Another factor to consider is the type of glass used in the window. For warmer climates, home builders recommend windows with a low U-value (0.3 or lower), which measures its insulating qualities, and low Solar Heat Gains Coefficient or SHGC (0.35 or lower), a measure of the amount of shading provided by the glass. These two numbers will be available on any window manufactured in the U.S. Consider also minimizing the number and size of windows on your eastern and western walls as they may be difficult to shade in the summer. If possible you might want to consider recessed windows on the northern and southern walls shaded by porches or other architectural designs.
via AAA Windows For Less
Climates with High Winds
We’ve all see pictures of the amount of devastation that can be caused by severe weather, especially tornadoes and hurricanes, but you’ll also often notice that some homes fare better than others. Casement windows have hinges on one side and open with a crank. Casements from a reputable dealer are usually more airtight than most other windows, making them ideal for places with frequent high winds. If really concerned or in a high-risk area, you might want to consider Impact Windows that have specifically been designed to protect against storms and flying debris which meet the strict building requirements of hurricane-prone Miami-Dade County.
When living in a colder climate, energy efficiency and the ability to hold in the heat will probably be one of your leading concerns when selecting new windows. The two panels of glass in double pane windows are a popular choice to improve insulation and protect from temperature extremes. The most energy efficient double pane windows are filled with argon gas between the panes, offering additional insulation from the outdoors. Also, ask your contractor about the cost of using window panes with a metallic oxide coating between the layers. This coating can reduce the transfer of heat from inside your home. You might also look into adding shutters on the outside or thick drapes inside for yet another layer of insulation protection.
When living in an area with high precipitation, you’ll want to not only consider the amount of rain and direction of rainfall, but also the overall moisture and lack of drying time that can be found in wet climates. A popular choice is to install windows with awnings that open outward, with a hinge at the top, so that windows can be opened slightly even during rainy periods. Be sure to ask your contractor what special steps they might be taking to ensure a tight seal around the window. If moisture is allowed to creep in, mold may grow around the frame putting your family’s health at risk. You’ll also want to seriously consider a vinyl or fiberglass frame for the windows – avoid wood as it may easily rot and need to be replaced often.
As with any renovation job, the quality of the materials and workmanship are key to enjoying your home improvement and realizing a good return on investment when you sell your home. Use a reputable contractor, be upfront and candid about your needs and expectations, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Beautiful, secure, energy-efficient windows can truly transform a home, improving your quality of life, reducing operating expenses and increasing the overall value of your property.