Choosing a better quality vinyl window can be tough for homeowners. Salespeople generally only show you a full size sample window, and for the most part, they all look very similar. So how is a homeowner to compare one window to another?
First, ask for a copy of the engineering report – this could be from either AAMA or Keystone Labs. The full report will provide two critically important ratings that should be considered as you choose your new windows; Design Pressure (DP) and Air Leakage (AL).
The Design Pressure rating indicates the structural load capacity, based on wind and wind driven rain testing. The higher the DP rating, the stronger the window. DP ratings typically range from 25 – 75. We recommend windows with DP ratings of 50 or higher.
The Air Leakage rating indicates how airtight a window is. In order to be certified by AAMA, a window must leak no more than .30 cubic feet of air per minute, per square foot of window. A window that is more airtight will keep indoor air in and outdoor air out. A window that is more airtight will keep more dust, noise, pollens and insects from infiltrating into your home. Air Leakage ratings range from a low of .01 to the maximum .30. We recommend windows with AL ratings of .05 or lower.
After reviewing the engineering report, ask to see a corner cut-a-way of the window you’re considering. It will look something like these. Seeing the cross-section of the window, particularly if you’re considering vinyl, will allow you to see the quality of the construction. Vinyl windows with more internal chambers (honeycombing) are typically better at resisting bowing and warping in the Texas heat. Flimsy vinyl windows with narrow profiles and few internal chambers will not endure many summers – particularly if your windows are large with direct sun exposure.
When it comes to choosing replacement windows, the “anything is better than what I have now” way of thinking should be avoided. Windows are an investment in your home and they should be chosen carefully. You want to be as happy with your windows in 10 years as you were the day they were installed, and that requires doing your due diligence before purchasing. Spending more time evaluating the options will ensure you remain satisfied with your new windows for many years to come. It will also increase the chances that your new windows will increase the value of your home when it’s time to sell.
Vinyl windows are extremely popular for their lower price point, but they also come with some drawbacks. While vinyl is a very good insulator, it is prone to bowing and warping in extreme heat. This is one of the reasons why vinyl siding is very rarely used in the Houston area anymore. The strongest vinyl windows will have thicker frames which minimizes glass space. Narrow framed vinyl windows are flimsy and not suited for Houston’s hot summer months. For long-term durability and longevity, aluminum, composite or fiberglass are all better choices.
Aluminum windows are enjoying a resurgence in popularity due to their strength and rigidity – allowing for narrower frames and maximum glass. Additionally, aluminum is available in bronze or black colors without compromising long-term reliability. The drawbacks to aluminum windows include a slight compromise in energy-efficiency as compared to vinyl, composite or fiberglass (primarily in winter months) and a higher price point than vinyl.
Composite windows are growing in popularity, particularly for homeowners who are looking for maximum energy efficiency, more customization options, and/or a wood window appearance without the maintenance requirements. Composite is one of the strongest, most durable options in the industry. The only downside to composite windows is price.
Fiberglass windows offer the narrowest profile in the industry, multiple color options and very good energy efficiency ratings. The drawbacks to fiberglass are price, limited manufacturers and limited size and shape availability.
Ultra Windows has the product selection and the experience required to assist you in making the very best choice for your home and your budget. We welcome an opportunity to provide you with a no-cost in-home consultation.
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