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Understanding Replacement Window Options

Understanding Replacement Window Options for Your Home
Understanding Replacement Window Options for Your Home

Posted on Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Categories: Windows & Doors

Replacing the windows in your home involves a lot of decisions. Many people don’t consider the many decisions involved beyond the more obvious visual characteristics of color and accessory options. Homeowners should do their research and narrow down the options before strolling into their local home improvement store.

Contrary to what some advertisements tout, saving money on your energy bills should not be the only reason you replace your windows.  If you do the math, it could take decades for you to recoup the $8,000 - $24,000 that you will spend on having new windows installed.

It is true that Energy Star-qualified windows can lower your energy bills by 7 to 15 percent.  However, that only equates to $27 to $111 annually for a 2,000 square foot single-story home that already has double pane or storm windows. Only $126 to $465 annually for homes with just single-pane glass.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother.

New windows can make your home quieter, more attractive, and less drafty, and they don’t need painting. They are also easier to clean and operate than old windows and can reduce your carbon footprint.  Changing the style and configuration of windows can also dramatically change the look of your home for the better.

So now that you’ve decided to replace your windows, what are the other critical factors to consider before giving a deposit?

Window Operating Type

The most common ventilating windows are Double Hungs, Sliders, Casements, and Awnings. Double Hungs and Sliders have two or more sash that slide up and down in the case of a Double Hung, and left to right in the case of a slider. Double Hungs are the most common style of window found in most traditional American homes including: cape cods, colonials, victorians, craftsman homes, ranch homes, cottages, farmhouses, or tudors. They generally cost less than Casement and Awnings due, primarily, to the fact that they don’t have complex operating hardware. The sash simply slide in the jamb tracks. 

Casements and Awnings (or top-hinge casements) have a single sash that is hinged on one side. Casements can be ordered with the hinged side on either the right or the left. Awnings are always hinged at the top.  These window styles are best suited for modern home styles such as mid-century modern, prairie, tudor, ranch or art deco. Although slightly higher in cost than Double Hungs, Casements and Awnings generally seal more tightly, giving them higher air and water infiltration ratings.

Wood, Vinyl, or Fiberglass Frames

The most common materials used to manufacture replacement window components are wood, vinyl, and fiberglass. Wood windows are clad on the exterior with either vinyl or aluminum.  Aluminum clad windows offer the greatest variety of exterior colors. Wood windows can be ordered with either a natural wood interior for staining, or with a prefinished white interior paint.  The most common quality manufacturers of wood windows are Andersen Windows, Marvin Windows, and Sierra Pacific Windows

Vinyl windows are the least expensive option.  There are fewer color options available with vinyl although white is by far the most common. A reputable top manufacturer of vinyl windows is Simonton Windows.

Fiberglass windows are the newest technology on the market, providing strength and durability, plus longevity. They are also available in a wider variety of colors. A top fiberglass window manufacturer is Integrity Windows.

Glass Options

When it comes to saving energy and keeping your home more comfortable, choosing the right glass package is important. A variety of optional glass packages are available that combine the most effective features and advanced designs to achieve year-round thermal performance and energy savings. Low-E coatings reflect infrared light keeping heat inside in the winter and outside in the summer. It can also reduce fading of carpet, artwork and photos by helping block damaging ultraviolet rays.

There are also a variety of odorless, colorless non-toxic gases that can be placed in the insulating glass unit to provide greater insulation values. Different spacer systems keeps a window and door’s glass panes the correct distance apart and are designed to reduce heat transfer at the edge of the insulating glass unit. Check your home’s location on the Climate Zone Map at and choose a glass package that meets or exceeds the Energy Star requirements for that region.

Most experts agree that if you want superior noise reduction in your windows, you should choose laminated glass. Two panes of glass are adhered to a durable plastic interlayer, much like a car windshield. When these factors come together as a double-pane insulated glass panel with dead air space between the panes, they reduce the vibrations sound creates and muffle most sounds that would come right through ordinary glass. This is popular on homes that are very close to busy roads, industry or airports as it can reduce the sound transmission by more than 80%. Laminated glass reduces the sound transmission far better than single pane or standard double pane glass. And, yes, more than triple pane glass. The additional pane doesn’t reduce outside noise any more than double pane windows.

Laminated glass also adds a higher degree of security to your home. If a stray baseball hits a window, the glass will shatter, but broken pieces remain adhered to the interlayer, preventing glass fallout inside the home. The plastic interlayer is also puncture-resistant, frustrating potential intruders.  Laminated glass can be expensive so depending on one’s budget, it is only added on the side of the house facing the noise source for noise reduction, or only on the first floor when considering security.

Triple pane windows cost approximately 1/3 more than a double pane window. The energy saving cost is minimal over that of a double pane window with Low-E coating and Argon gas. When you break down the math, it can take up to 35 years to recoup the additional cost. So if you plan on staying in your home a very long time, we suppose you can consider triple pane a better investment. In general, they probably are not. Triple pane windows are heavier than double pane, so you need to make sure your home can handle the weight. And they do not reduce the sound transmission any better than double pane. 

Additional options with glass include a wide variety of obscure options for rooms that require year-around privacy, but where natural light and ventilation are still desired.

Tagged:windows, replacement

Add a Comment
My wife and I just moved into a new home but we aren't happy with our living room windows look. I like that you talk about how energy efficient some types of glass are. Having glass with low E coatings to reflect light sounds like a great way to control the temperature inside. Thanks for sharing! 
Posted by Derek Dewitt on Thursday, August 17, 2017, 9:18 AM

Thanks for helping me learn more about replacement windows. It's good to know that vinyl is one of the most least expensive. That being said, it's probably good to know what other features the material of the frame can provide, especially to determine if it's a good fit for your needs and your home.
Posted by Taylor Bishop on Thursday, August 9, 2018, 12:23 PM
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