25 Things to Know About Windows

Practical facts about the role these open-and-shut cases play in looks and efficiency.

1. Leaky and inefficient windows, skylights, and glazed doors account for more than 25 percent of the average household's energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. You can cut energy costs by as much as 15 percent by buying windows with double-pane insulated glass, heat-resistant coatings, airtight frames, and/or Energy Star ratings.

2. Cut noise with insulated or double-pane windows featuring 1/4 inch to 1 inch of air (or argon) between the panes. Wider air spaces and thicker glass reduce noise more.

3. Useful Life: Most manufacturers say windows should be replaced after about 20 years. Signs of a failing window include being sealed or painted shut, draftiness, and panes that collect condensation, ice, and frost.

4. Skylights provide 30 percent more light than vertical windows of the same size.

5. Add custom grilles to standard-size windows. Special grilles don't significantly boost a window's price, and you can even have grilles made based on a drawing or sketch. Ask a local retailer about the options and costs from various makers.

Window Shopping

6. Solid Wood: Great insulator against heat and cold, but it's costly, requires maintenance, and is subject to swelling and contracting.

7. Aluminum: Strong, affordable, and low-maintenance, but conducts heat and cold.

8. Clad: The most expensive type, with wood frames inside and aluminum or vinyl shell on the outside; wood frame helps minimize the transfer of heat and cold, while exterior shell makes window low-maintenance.

9. Vinyl: Affordable and low-maintenance, but color may fade over time.

10. Composites: Stronger and more durable than wood and vinyl, and priced between the two; can be painted to match a home's decor.

Top Treatments for Windows

11. Low-emissivity (low-E) glass has a thin metallic coating that reflects heat back to its source, keeping heat inside the house in the winter and out of it in the summer. Low-E coatings also reduce energy costs and block UV rays while allowing 95 percent of natural light to pass through.

12. Instead of creating privacy with window treatments, consider special glass treatments. Frosted and bubbled glass and glass block all capture light while limiting visibility. They are especially useful for ground-level bathrooms.

13. Tired of window cranks interfering with window treatments? Casement and awning units with fold-down handles provide ample clearance for blinds, shades, and window treatments.

14. Suspended Particle Device technology, for both new and existing windows, lets homeowners use a dimmer switch to tint glass panes to regulate the light coming in.

15. Professionally applied window coatings cut glare and energy costs and block UV rays that cause flooring, fabrics, and windows to fade.

16. A special dual-action coating cleans your windows by breaking down organic matter as it collects on the glass.

17. Casement: Easy to crank open. Works well with transom, awning, and picture windows. Great for over sinks, countertops, and appliances, where leaning over and lifting a window open would be difficult.

18. Awning: Comes in all sizes. Works well with fixed windows. Design allows window to remain open during a light rain.

19. Single- and double-hung. Classic styling. Makes for easy lifting, tilting, and cleaning. Doesn't protrude into adjoining areas such as porches, patios, or walkways.

20. Gliding: Like single- and double-hung models, won't interrupt usable space on adjacent porches, patios, or walkways. Good choice for basement locations because it brings in substantial light and meets egress requirements.

21. Fixed: Mostly architectural. Admits light and offers views.

22. Shatterproof glass, which has a piece of plastic sandwiched between two glass panes, gives homes an extra level of security against break-ins and severe weather. The fabrication produces glass that is two to four times stronger than standard window glass. These windows, which are now required by code in some hurricane-prone areas, are as efficient as low-E glass and also help reduce noise transmission.

23. Home Energy magazine reports that light-color shades reduce a window's solar heat gain by as much as 43 percent, while awnings reduce it by as much as 77 percent.

24. A window's R-value measures its resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the more efficient the window. A U-factor is the rate of heat transfer from inside to outside of your home. The lower the number, the more efficient the window. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) measures how much heat your home gains from the sun. The lower the SHGC, the less heat is gained.

25. Windows make up approximately 15 percent of an average home's wall space, according to Andersen Windows, Inc.

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