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Modern windows are high-performance machines, and like any other machine whose performance you can measure, the different features and options available affect just how they perform. As a major part of your home’s overall functioning, your choice of which features and options to include in your windows will have a tremendous effect on you and your home. Ranging from your finances to your comfort and well-being, your windows affect more than just the light coming in through them, or the breezes they let in.


PART I: CHOOSING THE RIGHT MATERIAL

The material you choose for your window’s frames will determine, to a large extent, how your windows work. The only thing that has as big an effect is the glass itself. Though both will work together to determine your window’s qualities, the material of the frame forms the basis of much of the window’s performance and functionality, as well as the level of upkeep the windows will require. Wood has been in use as a window material for so long that it is the basis for comparing whether a particular window is good or not; most windows will be rated as being better or worse based on how they compare to wood. Wood is a great insulator, and limits the amount of heat transfer between the outside environment and your home’s interior. It is, however, subject to expanding or contracting based on the weather, and without regular maintenance will quickly lose in terms of performance. Vinyl is proof against damage from ultraviolet light, is resistant to moisture, and does not require the maintenance that wood does. Insulated vinyl frames have hollow cavities where extra insulation can be added, making it a better insulator than wood or standard vinyl.


PART I: CHOOSING THE RIGHT MATERIAL

Aluminum is strong, light, and does not require regular maintenance. However, it readily conducts heat and, without thermal breaks, provides little in the way of insulation. Fiberglass is known to be dimensionally stable, with better thermal performance than wood or uninsulated vinyl. Like insulated vinyl, the insulating ability of fiberglass can be enhanced by adding extra insulation in the cavities within the frame. Composite materials, such as Renewal by Andersen’s Fibrex, tend to be highly stable, with structural and thermal qualities that exceed that of wood, while at the same time standing up better to the effects of moisture and decay.

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The glass options you choose for your window have as big an effect as the frame material, as we see in part II.


PART II: CHOOSING THE RIGHT GLASS

While the frame of your windows forms the basis for much of the window’s properties, for many it is the glass that really makes the difference. It is, after all, the part of the window that most affects what we can most readily see and feel from the window. While the frame and the glass work together to determine a window’s performance, the glass gets a lot of attention from the way it affects the light and air entering our homes. Insulated glass is the term used for windows with multiple panes of glass; two is usual, but three is an option for colder climates. The insulating part comes from the way the air in between the panes helps to reduce the amount of heat transfer through the window glass – in this, old, single-pane window glass just can’t compare. Insulated glass also serves to reduce the amount of outside noise entering your home, a side effect of its ability to block the transfer of heat.

The ability of the glass to reduce heat transfer in general can be enhanced by adding an inert gas fill. This is done by replacing the “normal” air between the panes with an inert gas, either argon or krypton. The inert gas fill is clear and does not obstruct vision, but can dramatically increase the ability of the window to block the transfer of heat.


PART II: CHOOSING THE RIGHT GLASS

There are several tints and coatings that can be applied to the glass directly. Heat-absorbing tints change the color of the glass so it blocks more heat, and the darker glass serves to reduce glare. Reflective coatings reflect more light than heat, though they reduce the glare from within the home. Low-emissivity glass, with a microscopically-thin layer of metal oxide, is for many the best glass option, and provides a dramatic increase in energy efficiency, reducing heat loss by anywhere from 30% to 50%.

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The only thing left to consider is the style of the window, which we’ll see more of in part III.


PART III: A MATTER OF STYLE

After you’ve chosen the material for your window frames, and the options for the glass, the last, and possibly most important, choice is to decide on what style of window to go with. The eight most common window styles all have different things they excel at, setting them apart from the others. Double hung windows feature two sashes – the movable parts of the window, including the glass and the frame containing it – which slide vertically up and down in the window frame. They operate independently of each other, and stay within the frame; they do not protrude past the frame when the window is opened.

Casement windows are hinged on the side, and are operated with a crank. The window can be hinged either on the right or the left, depending on the orientation you prefer for the window. Picture windows are fixed; they cannot be opened. They frame a view in the same way a picture frame encloses a photograph, thus the name. In addition to the view, they also let in more light than other windows. They work well with a modern or contemporary aesthetic, and are most often seen in homes made in those architectural styles.


PART III: A MATTER OF STYLE

Slider windows, also known as gliding windows, slide horizontally along a track; in the case of multiple sashes, at least one sash will be operable – any operable sashes will move past or over the others, whether or not they, too, can be slid open. This style of window is a common feature of contemporary and modern homes.

Bay and bow windows combine either a large, stationary middle window with two operable windows at the sides (bay window) or are made form four or more casement windows arranged in a curve (bow window). They protrude from the exterior wall of your home, which creates space on the inside that can be utilized in many different ways.


Renewal By Andersen of Western NY 80 Newbury Street Rochester, NY 14613 585-563-3533 www.RBAWNY.com

Window options and how they affect performance  

Your choice of the features and options to include in your home's windows will affect their performance, and your home in general as well.

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