Buying Replacement Windows? 8 Questions to Ask

Karin Mangan

When planning to purchase replacement windows, thorough research is essential. Find answers to the following eight questions before you begin:

  1. Do you need to replace the full window (glass and frame) or just fit new glass into the existing frame?
  2. What frame material are best for your climate and location?
  3. What type of glass should you install?
  4. Which manufacturer should you use?
  5. Which installation contractor should you use, or should you do it yourself?
  6. What is the immediate cost of your choice?
  7. What is the long term cost of your choice?
  8. How will you finance your new windows?

To get the most from your replacement windows, look for the ENERGY STAR designation, given by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to signify that windows meet energy efficiency criteria relevant to one or more of the four U.S. climate zones. Check the ENERGY STAR label of the product you are considering to make sure you get the correct one for your area. You may also be eligible for a federal tax credit through the end of 2010 if you're planning on buying replacement windows this year.

To choose the most suitable energy-efficiency level for your home, factor in the orientation of your home (south-facing windows may require a different solar heat gain coefficient (SHGF) than east- or west-facing windows), the shading or reflective conditions around your home, and the HVAC system you have or intend to have.

Long-term savings on energy bills could offset many of the initial costs--do the math before you go with the cheapest option. You may need to replace your HVAC system or equipment to get the full benefit of your energy-efficient windows, but it could pay dividends in the long run.

Visit the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) for more information about building and energy codes, product certification, performance standards, legislative regulations, and education and training programs in the fenestration industry.

About the Author

Karin has worked as a freelancer for over ten years, writing informatively about a wide range of subjects. She has a PhD and a background in education and research.

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