Need new windows? You’ll save money on materials, installation, and annual energy costs if you do your homework. Evaluate products and contractors before leaping in.
Installing new or replacement windows not only adds value to your home, it can cut your annual energy costs. New windows can be an especially prudent choice through the end of 2010, since the Federal government is offering tax credits up to 30 percent of the cost of materials for homeowners who add windows that meet Energy Star criteria. Whether you employ a professional contractor or install them yourself, it could be the perfect time to tackle the job.
You’ll know it’s time to replace your windows if:
- You can feel a draft
- Your annual energy costs go up
- The mechanism jams and creaks
- Outside noise seems less dampened
When shopping around for replacements, determine the kind of frame that works best for your needs and budget. Vinyl or aluminum-clad frames may cost the most, but can offer great insulation. Vinyl is often the most affordable option. While wood is subject to mold and rot, it’s also a great insulator and has that classic look to it. Aluminum is a poor insulator by itself, but innovations and hybrids have made these windows yet another great–and very durable–option. Be sure to research which windows best suit your climate and meet your upkeep requirements.
Energy Values and Installing New Windows
If you’re looking for energy savings and protection from weather damage, evaluate replacements for the latest insulation technology. Your annual heating and cooling costs comprise up to 50 percent of your annual energy bills. All replacement windows come with a tag that lists their characteristics in terms of:
- R-value. The window resistance to heat flow. Higher numbers mean greater efficiency
- U-factor. The window’s rate for heat transfer. Lower numbers mean greater efficiency
- Low-emissivity. Low-E coatings help retain indoor heat in winter, help repel outside heat in summer
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). The lower the number means the greater the window’s capacity to block heat gain from sunlight
Window installing costs vary dramatically by their energy efficiency, materials, and size. Single- and double-hung windows are among the easiest to maintain and most common, and they provide greater options for ventilation. Casement windows are often the best choice for a kitchen, where you may want to adjust ventilation with just a quick crank. Hopper and awning windows can be good choices for basement windows because the crank is near the bottom of the frame, allowing easier access to windows that are up high. They also have the advantage of opening completely for maximum ventilation, much like other casement windows, while blocking a good deal of precipitation.
Working with Window Installation Contractors
Choosing standard-sized windows and standard colors helps keep your window installation costs within reason. Custom or specialized shapes add to the total. Gather at least three bids before settling on a window installer. If you’re choosing Energy Star windows for a tax break, be sure they qualify. Make sure each candidate bids on the same materials and models.
Do your homework. Ask contractors to show their proof of insurance and licensing. Ask for references and follow up with telephone contact. Is the homeowner satisfied? Was the job completed on time and within budget? Check with your Better Business Bureau or state licensing department for complaints against the window installer.
Be sure to compare quotes for the time frame for completing the project, as well as the cost for the same materials. Accept only quotes that are in writing and on company letterhead. When you’re ready, accept only a written contract that stipulates all materials, labor costs, and warranties.