Let’s talk about a very important part of any home: windows. Windows not only bring natural light into the interior of your home, but also help define the architectural style of your home and make your home more energy efficient. There are lots of styles of windows and some important parts that help make them efficient, let’s discuss a few.
First of all, the most important part of a window is the glass. Older homes typically have glazed single pane windows with a wooden sash and frame. Over time, the wood can rot and wear from weather and water and the seal on the glass can break. These are the least energy efficient type of windows because they don’t provide a good barrier to keep the heat out in the summer or the cold out in winter. They also make your HVAC unit work harder because interior air is lost through the cracks and broken seals, causing higher utility bills. If your home has these older windows, and you’re able to replace them, the cost of new windows will pay for itself over time because of the savings on your electric bill.
But what is a better alternative than the old single pane style? The cheapest option would be to have the sashes replaced. Sash replacements leave the frame and sill and just replace the glass and connected frame around the glass (called the sash). There are several companies around that do this type of window replacement. Most of them use vinyl sash replacements which are the most economical option, and they make the new sashes to fit your window openings exactly. Just make sure the new sashes are double paned and have a low-emissivity (or low-e) coating. This coating protects against UV light, so that means the heat of summer stays out of your home, but it also means your heat in the winter will stay in. The other good thing about the low-e coating is that it doesn’t block any natural light coming in. Typically, with a double or triple paned, low-e coated window or sash, the panes also have argon gas in between the panes. This gas also helps to minimize heat transfer through the window.
So, how do you know if it’s time to replace your windows or sashes? Signs to look for are soft or crumbling wood, as these are signs of rot. If your windows are foggy or collect condensation between the panes, that is a sign the seal is broken, and the windows are no longer energy efficient. Other more obvious signs that it’s time to replace your windows include windows feeling cold to the touch in the winter or feeling a draft, a window being hard to open, close or lock, or being able to hear a lot of outside noise coming through.
But how do you decide if you just need new sashes or need new windows entirely? If the frame, casing, and sill all look OK, with no rot or other damage, you can probably get by with just sash replacements. If you see signs of damage on these other parts of the windows, though, then it’s best to replace the whole window. This could cost a lot more, but it also gives you the opportunity to choose the exact style and color of window that you want. With vinyl sash replacements, you are limited to a select number of color and style options. But with full replacements, options are almost limitless.
While vinyl windows are typically the most cost effective, other options include wood, composite, or aluminum clad. These other options give you a variety of styles and colors to choose from to give your home a more personalized feel and can give your home a more updated look. We’ll get more into detail on window styles in another month, but in general, styles include double or single hung, casement, awning or hopper, fixed, or sliding. All these styles are defined by how the window opens (or doesn’t open). Single or double hung tend to be the most common on homes in our area, but you’ll also see some of the other styles depending on the style or age of the home. The style you choose will also determine how much maintenance and upkeep will be involved over time, with wood requiring the most maintenance and composite or clad requiring the least.
Windows help a home run smoothly and efficiently, help keep the inside comfortable, and are an important part of a home’s style and structure. So don’t neglect this important component of your home.