Choosing the right replacement windows

Be sure to shop around to find the features, efficiency and price for the best fit. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Clayton B. of Houston)

Be sure to shop around to find the features, efficiency and price for the best fit. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Clayton B. of Houston)

When choosing the right replacement windows, you'll want to capitalize on the benefits of energy-efficient models, replace those that are beyond repair or simply change designs.

Good replacement windows satisfy these basic needs and then some. They're durable, easy to maintain, provide better security and reduce glare and outside noise. Your budget will also steer toward your choice of windows. A great place to begin is doing a little research on window types, manufacturers, availability, pricing and installation costs.

Replacing worn or damaged windows

Many times, fixing windows is less expensive, but sometimes repair through replacement is your only choice. Given enough time, any window can break, discolor, leak or become inoperable.

First, determine whether you need to replace the window, sash or entire frame. Replacing an entire window frame is a drastic and usually unnecessary step. You should get at least three detailed estimates from what reliable companies recommend as your best choice. Then, compare notes.

Energy-efficient windows

More common sense energy usage and increased environmental awareness equates to a huge market, supply and variety of window designs.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency have developed the Energy Star labeling system to help guide consumer choice. Windows with this rating and National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) data labels tell you why any particular window type is best suited to your needs and location and how you may qualify for a 10 percent federal tax credit. Some states, municipalities and utilities provide additional tax credits, rebates and loans at reduced interest rates.

One of the best ways to determine how efficient your windows actually are is through the report of an independent energy auditor.

Options, options, options 

Some more general qualities to consider include the quality of the materials used and how well the color, shape or design match your structure and tastes.

Vinyl windows are a durable alternative that are also easy to maintain. Less expensive than wood or metal, they nevertheless provide most of the same benefits.

Windows come in standard sizes, but the range varies by company or even product line. Custom designs are widely available but more expensive.

Look at the brands

One of your best guides to the quality of a replacement window is the manufacturer's warranty. You certainly can save money otherwise, but sticking with well-known brands offers the security of a strong company name and generally better warranty service.

Shopping with brands can add convenience since you can visit their physical or virtual showrooms. Some even have computer programs that give you an idea of how a particular window will look in your home.

Go with a pro

Installation isn't a project for the average homeowner. Installing windows is highly skilled work, and unless your experience is extensive, it's best to not skimp on an installer. Before hiring a contractor, interview several, check their references and look for any complaints by consulting the member reviews and ratings on Angie's List. Make sure the contractor has insurance and licensing./p>

Make sure the company takes care of all necessary permits and that all work is specified in a contract. Don't pay for the job until it's completed to your satisfaction. Major manufacturers contract with local installers, standardizing the quality, service and cost of their windows, which should make your window installation project much easier.

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