Replacement Window Buying Guide

Replacement Window Buying Guide

Here's your chance to cut down energy costs

By Glyn Sheridan

Empty room with windows and hardwood floor
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Your old windows may play a big role in your high monthly energy costs. Dilapidated window frames with gaps and single-pane glass allow excessive heat transfer between the inside and the outside of the home. While regular maintenance can keep old windows in working order, new replacement windows can add value to your home while reducing energy usage. When selecting replacement windows, compare features as well as cost.


Replacement windows not only increase your home's energy efficiency, they provide an updated look, especially if your old window frames and sills are deteriorating or rotting. In addition, old windows may no longer open if the frames exhibit warping from years of exposure to rain, heat and cold or if multiple layers of paint restrict operation.


The three basic types of windows are casement, double-hung and stationary. A casement window features hinges and a rollout handle to open and close the window. Double-hung windows slide upward to open and some may include tilt-in cleaning features. A stationary window will not open, but it will let natural light in and give the occupants a more open feel to a room.


Vinyl is common in replacement windows; it offers a maintenance-free surface that lasts for years. Replacement windows may also come in wood, fiberglass and aluminum varieties, but wood requires upkeep, especially in areas with lots of rain or direct sunlight hitting that spot. Aluminum replacement windows may not be suitable in climates that are very cold in the winter. Wood windows do offer more variety in terms of the use of stains and paints on the frames.


Assuming the window opening will be the same, the structural wall framing remains in place. The contractor removes the trim before taking out the old window and frame and the window weights, if there are any. The replacement window fits right inside the old framing and the contractor reattaches the window trim or installs new trim. If the opening will be a different size, then the contractor will have to fill in the area or widen it. That not only increases the cost but may not be doable in some cases.


When buying replacement windows, look for the government's Energy Star label for assurance that your new windows will reduce your heating and cooling costs. Your new windows may have double panes with sealed gas between the panes for added efficiency and UV protection. You may also select ultraviolet (UV) protection or reflective glass to protect your furnishings from harsh sunlight.


Although most contractors can install replacement windows, the homeowner should read the manufacturer's warranty first. Some manufacturers may not stand behind a faulty replacement window if an approved contractor did not install it. Also be sure that the windows you are ordering will fit into the opening. Discuss this with the contractor or have the contractor or window company representative take the measurements. This is critical if you are replacing especially old windows.

About the Author

Glyn Sheridan is a regular contributor to DexKnows.

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