by: Fran J. Donegan
Maybe you want to upgrade the windows in your house or the property you’re buying needs new ones. Where do you start?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with what’s available, but here are some tips to help you choose windows that will work best for your property.
New window options
If the frame around the window is in good shape, you can replace just the window itself. This is commonly called a replacement window. Have the window installer take the measurements for you to get a good fit. But if the frame is badly damaged, both the window and the frame will need to be replaced. This is sometimes called a construction window and is usually a more expensive option.
The energy characteristics of a window depend on the type of frame, the type of glazing, and the overall construction of the window. A good place to begin your search is with windows that meet Energy Star requirements. Energy Star is an Environmental Protection Agency program that promotes energy-efficient household products, including windows. The Energy Star program considers three measurements:
- U-Factor. This measures the rate at which the window, which includes the frame and the glass, conducts heat. The lower the number, the less heat it conducts. The U-Factor for windows in northern climates is lower than those required in the South, where air-conditioning costs are the largest energy drains.
- Solar heat gain coefficient. This measures a window's ability to block unwanted heat from outside, both from direct sunlight and reflected sunlight. It’s a number between 0 and 1. The lower the number, the better the window is at blocking heat.
- Air leakage. This measures the tightness of window construction and is signified by a number between 0.1 and 0.3. Energy Star windows must have a measurement equal to or less than 0.3.
The country is divided into four climate zones—see the image below—each with different requirements. Find the requirements for your county here.
If the windows in your home or a home you’re going to buy need to be replaced, consider energy-efficient models. You’ll save money in the long run with a lower energy bill.
Fran J. Donegan writes on home improvement for Home Depot. He's a longtime DIY author and has written several books, including Paint Your Home. To review a number of window installation options, you can visit homedepot.com.