Replacing Your Windows: How to Choose the Right Contractor and the Right Windows for Your Home

New windows save energy and improve your home's curb appeal.

New windows represent a significant investment -- and one that can pay off big in terms of energy savings and recouping value when it's time to sell your home. Plus, new windows simply look amazing and brighten your home's interior and exterior. Here's what you need to know about replacing your windows.

Benefits of Replacement Windows

One of the most impressive benefits of new windows is found in improved energy efficiency. Studies indicate that windows are responsible for an average of 20 percent of air leaks in a standard home. And that's not even taking in account the fact that they allow about 13 times more heat to escape than do your home's walls. That adds up to a lot of wasted energy -- and wasted money!

New windows are designed to prevent heat and conditioned air from escaping through the glass, saving you hundreds of dollars in thermal bills each year. New seals also mean fewer air leaks, saving even more energy and cash. Plus, new windows improve your home's curb appeal, which is especially important when it comes time to sell. 

Types of Windows

Perhaps the most difficult part about replacing windows is choosing which type to get. First, choose your frame type; each offers its own advantages. Common choices include:
  • Wood -- Wood frames look beautiful and offer good insulation. However, they do expand and contract as the temperature changes and require regular maintenance.
  • Composite -- Composite frames are made from a mixture of composite woods, such as particle board. While they look like normal wood, they offer superior thermal properties and moisture resistance.
  • Vinyl -- Generally manufactured from PVC, vinyl frames have built-in UV protection, resist moisture, don't need to be painted and can be filled with insulation to improve efficiency.
  • Fiberglass -- Like vinyl frames, fiberglass frames are hollow and can be filled with insulation, making them a more energy efficient option. 

There are also several different pane types, each with pros and cons. These include:
  • Insulated -- Insulated windows have at least two panes with a layer of air in between. This sealed layer minimizes the rate of heat flow through the window, or U-factor, and the amount of sunlight that passes through the window, or SHGC.
  • Gas filled -- Insulated windows with argon or krypton gas in the sealed layer allow less heat to escape or enter the home.
  • Coated -- Windows are often coated with tints or glazes that can absorb heat, reflect light, or control heat transfer, also known as low-e.

Choosing a Contractor

Replacement windows represent a significant investment, so you want them done right. When choosing a window contractor, you should:
  • Interview several candidates and take bids
  • Choose a licensed, insured professional with experience in your region and with your window types
  • Ask for references
  • Choose a contractor that provides a warranty on their work
  • Determine how a contractor resolves complaints

Enjoy the light that floods through your new windows, as well as the extra money in your pocket from the energy you'll save!

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