Worst Vinyl Window Brands – The good news about windows is that there are a wide variety of styles, options and prices to consider. Bad news? Obviously, you’ll feel like you’re lost in a number of ways. Attention, fellow buyers: Here’s what you need to know to navigate the world of windows.
“These days, when it comes to windows, it’s all about energy efficiency,” says Lance Premeau, sales and marketing specialist for Kolbe Windows and Doors. Taking advantage of the increased awareness, many manufacturers are adding an electronic component to their sales channels, and consumers are benefiting. Products such as argon-filled glazing and low-E coatings are gaining popularity, and the recent federal tax credit available for qualified window services has made upgraded windows one of the most popular.
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However, some types of windows that claim to be energy efficient may not be all that breakable. A good guide is to check if the windows meet the performance standards set by the federal government’s Energy Star program. If so, they will carry the Energy Star label.
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However, that designation does not mean that the windows are eligible for a federal loan. To qualify, the window U-factor and solar thermal gain must be less than or equal to 0.30. The U-factor measures the amount of insulation in a window, and the solar gain is a measure of how well a material blocks the sun’s heat. These ratings are approved by the National Fenestration Rating Council and are available on the NFRC trademark.
The federal tax credit is equal to 30 percent of the property’s value or the greater of $1,500. Note that qualifying windows must be purchased by December 31, 2010. Currently, Congress is evaluating the possibility of extending tax credits.
You’ll pay about $150 for a double-hung 3×4-pane, white vinyl window with insulating glass and a low-E coating at a home improvement site. Switch to an argon gas-filled tripod with a fiberglass frame, and your price will get north of $400 for the same screen. Special trims, grills and other options from the top manufacturer can push the price up to $800.
Vinyl windows outsell all other types of window construction combined – about 67 percent of the home window market. This is because vinyl combines low cost with durability, reliability and strong performance. Vinyl is indestructible, moisture resistant and insect and rot resistant.
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Vinyl is a passive material that does not heat well, meaning it is a good insulator. It is strong and durable – strong enough that the belt is hollow, creating air chambers with excellent insulating properties. Lightweight vinyl windows are easy to install for professionals and DIYers alike.
One criticism of vinyl is its appearance – the fusion-welded seams are unattractive, and the material is clearly made. Colors abound in vinyl, which helps hide scratches and dents, but the color options for off-the-shelf vinyl windows are often white and red. A simple palette of gray, green, red and other colors can be used in a special arrangement.
The jury is out on whether vinyl windows can be painted. Some experts recommend using an epoxy based paint, such as a car finish. Some say don’t paint vinyl because the paint doesn’t adhere well – the material expands and hardens and can cause cracks in the painted surface.
The durability of vinyl is another source of controversy. On the one hand, the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) produces toxins such as dioxin, and the products last for hundreds of years in landfills, which should not take into account the opinions of environmentalists. However, the length of the material means stability, and the vinyl transition is very long.
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Although only 3 percent of the window market comes from fiberglass windows, the product is known to be durable and low maintenance. Combined with a middle-of-the-road price, fiberglass offers a solid price. It is stronger than vinyl, and fiberglass windows will not warp, rot or break. Expect to pay twice the price of an equivalent vinyl window.
Fiberglass windows are made in a few colors, but they can be painted and the surface is highly adhesive. Some models come in natural wood finishes that do a good job of mimicking the real thing. Also available: real wood interior frames and sashes that can be stained.
On the green front, some manufacturers fill hollow fiberglass frames with foam insulation to keep things moving. In addition, fiberglass is easy to manufacture, so fiberglass has low energy consumption, which means that it does not require much energy to produce.
Aluminum windows continue to lose market share to better, cheaper alternatives, such as fiberglass and vinyl. However, aluminum windows have many unique features that make them attractive.
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Aluminum is very strong, meaning that windows can be made with very thin frames and sash sections. This provides more space for glass window openings and makes aluminum windows a popular choice among builders. In addition, aluminum can be manufactured in a variety of colors used in the factory to make it stronger and more durable.
But in the competitive world of windows, the disadvantages of aluminum are evident. Steel does not react well to heat, and does not protect against heat and cold. What grows and unites quickly in the glass, puts stress on the seals. And although it is not resistant to moisture, insects and decay, aluminum can be damaged by salty air, so it is not a good choice for coastal climates.
One type of all-aluminum window is the aluminum composite, which consists of a wooden frame wrapped around an aluminum skin. Although they provide better insulation, they are better with vinyl and fiberglass.
Compared to other options, all wooden windows are not durable, prone to rotting and insect attack, plus they require careful maintenance. In addition, they spend a lot of money. However, wood has that je ne sais quoi – few building materials can match its natural beauty and warmth. For the discriminating homeowner, wood remains the best option.
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Wood is a good insulator, and modern weatherization techniques and hardware components are making wood windows a thing of the past. Wood readily accepts paint and stain, and its texture makes wood ideal for crafting. When renovating a historic building and matching the style of old, existing windows, wood is a good choice.
Unfortunately, wood cannot withstand harsh weather conditions without regular maintenance. You should check your wood windows every year for wear and tear, and be prepared to repair any cracks or paint and failure.
If environmental responsibility is important, look for windows made from sawn timber from suppliers certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Most major window manufacturers now offer this option.
Windows come in many sizes and configurations, and the ability to customize can accommodate any number of ideas, even at a fixed price.
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To add pizzazz to window design while keeping costs down, homeowners are exploring the possibilities of window styles other than double-hung and sash. Options include:
They are hung on the edge, and the lower ones come out. It became synonymous with factory buildings in the 1950s and 60s. Awning windows are great for providing fresh air while keeping things cool. Equipped with privacy glass, awnings are ideal for bathroom installation. As an architectural statement, try a vertical row of awning windows that are on top of each other.
Jalousie windows, also called louvered windows, have glass that opens and closes at the same time. They look like glass shutters, and recall the architecture of the American South. With their many panels, jalousie are difficult to seal properly, and are recommended for mild climates. However, modern production methods have changed the functionality of the jalousies, and they offer many points of retro style.
Consists of glass that is sealed in the unit and placed in a vinyl or aluminum frame. Windows can be fixed, or operable casement- and awning-type windows. They come ready to install, with frames and nails.
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With a selection of traditional glass styles, such as clear, curved, beveled and frosted, stained glass windows are a sign of mid-century modernism. Today, however, blocks can be made of glass or light acrylic, and modern manufacturing ensures strong seals and good thermal performance.
Solar and heat resistant windows from Denver-based Ravenbrick are darkened on hot sunny days to block sunlight from entering the home. On cold days, the windows are kept well to let in sunlight and allow the sun to increase. Although not used in homes, this technology should add about 30 percent to the cost of the window and pay for itself in energy savings within six years.
Titanium-dioxide stain-reducing coatings are supposed to reduce the power of water to form stains that cause stains and streaks. These safety windows are available from several manufacturers, including Andersen.
Tilt-and-turn windows, popular in Europe, may soon be introduced to the US market. These unique windows can be opened in two ways: With a side hinge that allows for a sash
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