A Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Windows

There are several factors to consider when you’re thinking of purchasing new windows, and you’ll want to get it right or you may have to go through the whole process again in a few short years. For instance, will you be best served by wooden windows or vinyl? Are you trying to achieve maximum energy efficiency, as in a double-pane or triple-pane window? Are you looking to install standard-sized windows, or do you need a big bay window that overlooks your entire property? Will you be replacing all the windows in your residence, or just a few that require replacement? These are important questions, and the information below should help you make these decisions and acquire just the right windows for years to come.

Material type

The type of frame you choose for your replacement windows will have a major impact on how long the windows will last, how much maintenance is required, and how well they hold up over a period of time. Here are some of the most common choices:

Vinylvinyl windows have become an extremely popular choice, because they are both durable and affordable. Vinyl windows can be purchased in a wide variety of finishes and styles, and they’re made from PVC that is resistant to impacts. They never need to be painted, and they will not undergo fading or rotting over an extended period of time.
Wood – this is the classic choice, and it’s still popular, especially for new-construction windows. Since wood is an excellent insulator, these windows are inherently energy-efficient, but you can expect to perform more maintenance with wood windows than either vinyl or fiberglass.
Fiberglass – this type of window is the most durable and it’s also waterproof. Because it’s produced by weaving together glass fibers, its construction is tougher than any other kind of window. They are also low-maintenance (in fact, they cannot be painted), but they are typically available in fewer color shades than vinyl.

Window type

Of the various window types readily available, the most popular by a wide margin are double hung windows. However, these may not be the best option for your circumstances, so you should consider the other types as well:

Casement windows – these open by operating a hand crank, and they are particularly useful in climates where wind and weather need to be managed. They are good for regulating adverse weather conditions, and perform well under these conditions.
Sliding windows – in warmer climates, these window types are quite popular because of their ease of use and the expansive views they offer. In contrast to standard windows that open vertically, these windows open and close by moving from side to side.
Double-hung windows – these windows can be opened from either the top or bottom, welcoming in fresh air and the rays of the sun. They come in an endless array of grid patterns, which means they can be adapted to nearly any home’s interior decor.
Garden windows – are great for growing mini-gardens inside the home all year round.
Picture windowspicture windows are best suited for situations where you want a great view, but don’t anticipate opening or closing the window often.
Acrylic block windows – without sacrificing privacy or light, these windows are an attractive window option.

Glass options

Glass options have grown much more sophisticated than they were in the past, and your choice will depend on what you’re trying to achieve in the home. Some are better for noise control, some are better for energy-efficiency, and some are ideal for security. You can even prevent your furniture, drapes, and carpeting from fading due to the effects of sunlight shining in on them. Here are the most popular glass options:

Low-E glass – blocks the ultraviolet rays of the sun through a protective coating applied to the glass itself. It also helps retain warmth during the cold months of the year.
Float glass – ordinary, untreated glass made from molten glass and poured into tins so as to take proper shape. When broken, it will shatter into many pieces, some of which might be quite large.
Laminated glass – made from two pieces of float glass with PVB resin between the panes, so as to add structural integrity to the panes.
Obscured glass – this type of glass has a frosted appearance, which prevents anyone from seeing into your home. They are often installed in bathrooms for maximum privacy.
Tempered glass – made by slowly cooling glass during construction, tempered glass shatters safely into smaller pieces, but it takes considerable force to break it in the first place.
Insulated glass – this is the glass type used to make double-pane or triple-pane windows, and they are characterized by the space between panes, typically filled with krypton or argon gas.

Armed with this information, you should have an easier time trying to reach a decision on the right type of window for your circumstances.