Knowing about your home’s components will help you make good decisions when it comes to your biggest investment. You need a working knowledge of window design if you’re building a new home or replacing windows in an existing home. Here’s our crystal-clear guide to windows.
Types of window design
- Single-hung windows. The part of any window that slides open is called the sash. A single-hung window is one of the simplest designs because the lower sash, which sides up and down or side to side, is the only moveable part. The sash may also tilt backward into the home, making it easy to clean the outside glass from within the house.
- Double-hung windows. With these windows, both the top and bottom sashes slide and may also tilt.
Fixed windows. These windows don’t have sashes and therefore don’t open. They provide a view and admit natural light but don’t provide ventilation.
- Casement windows. These windows open outward like a book. You move their sashes by turning a crank.
- Awning windows. This window is hinged at the top. You open awning windows by pushing the bottom out. A hopper window does the opposite — you open it from the top because it’s hinged at the bottom.
Clear as glass
Double-pane glass, where two sheets of window glass are sandwiched together, is universal in today’s windows. It is more energy-efficient than old single-pane window glass from a couple of generations ago. Double-pane glass has a vacuum between the panes of glass. If you see moisture inside the window, it means the glass has lost its vacuum seal. These broken window seals are often caught during home inspections and result in buyers requesting that the seller repair before closing or give them a credit on the price so they can repair the windows on their own.
Ultraviolet-light-protective coating is available with today’s windows. So is a thermal coating that keeps extreme heat and cold outside from penetrating inside. Thermal coating effectiveness is measured on a rating scale known as E-rating.
Window frame materials
- One of the most popular framing materials is vinyl. It is less expensive than several other types and comes in many color choices. Keep in mind that vinyl window frames cannot be painted, so the color you choose at installation will be permanent.
- Composite windows are constructed from man-made materials such as fiberglass, laminated wood, or a mix of wood fibers. They do not need to be painted or stained. Composite frames are typically the least expensive choice.
- Wood-frame windows have a timeless beauty to them. They can be painted or stained, giving you color options. But they can also decay and rot, so fresh paint or stain is required periodically. Some newer wood-frame windows have a vinyl or aluminum coating to protect from such decay.
- Aluminum frame windows long ago faded in popularity, but you may still see some in older homes. Aluminum’s popularity receded when more energy-efficient materials were developed.
Windows have become more energy efficient than they once were, but most of the advancements were made decades ago. More recent improvements have brought energy savings in smaller increments. Today’s windows could save you as much as 12 percent of your utility costs per year, but it still could take more than eight years to recover tens of thousands of dollars of the purchase and installation price.
When replacing existing windows, you will have only the expense of the new windows themselves plus installation if the house framing around the window is in good condition. If there is decay, the framing studs may need replacement, increasing installation cost.
Leading window brands include Anderson, Marvin, and Pella. There are other, lesser-known brands, as well as some brands specific to companies that install windows, such as Window World.
When shopping for windows, get at least three bids from providers that rate well with Better Business Bureau and other rating sites. Research to learn about the brand of windows they sell.
Help paying for new windows
Many municipalities offer rebates for buying Energy Star-rated windows. Energy Star is a U. S. Department of Energy certification program.
Related – When Is It Time to Replace Your Windows?