If you're in the market for new windows, your head is probably spinning at the sheer variety of choices and options awaiting you. Without some guidance and foreknowledge, it can be all to easy to buy the wrong products for your needs. Here are four basic considerations you should always keep in mind during your window-shopping adventures.
1. Operable vs. Fixed
Some windows move, and some don't. Which kind you select will depend on such factors as the window's size, intended use, location and cost. Operable windows are familiar to most everyone in the form of traditional windows (which open from side to side) and double-hung windows (which slide over each other vertically). But you also have other operable options, including:
- Sliders - These windows rotate outward from the center line with the turn of a crank.
- Awnings - These sliding windows can be rotated so that the bottom of the window lifts upward and outward.
- Hoppers - The opposite of awnings, these windows open from the top by rotating inward.
Operable windows are great for letting the air in, but they can also permit unwanted moisture and dust to enter. Fixed windows stay put, which makes perfect sense if you're installing small accent windows or oversized picture windows that give you a full, unobstructed view of the outside world. But you'll probably want to add some operable windows alongside your fixed windows for the added benefit of improved air circulation. If you really want the ultimate in functionality, install large sliding glass doors with a mosquito screen. It's a door that acts like a window, or a window that acts like a door, depending on your point of view.
2. Mold and Allergy Issues
Some types of windows are less than kind to allergy sufferers. If you have an ongoing war with pollen, fungi, and other outdoor allergens, you will want to control your indoor environment by installing lots of fixed windows, or by keeping your operable windows shut most of the time. Unfortunately, even a shut window can fall prey to moisture, and it's a short step from moisture to mold. Mold not only causes serious allergic reactions and lung problems in susceptible individuals, but it also eats away at the organic parts of your home. Wooden window frames erode, allowing more moisture to enter, and the drywall around the window can be destroyed.
The smartest strategy for steering clear of moldy windows is to purchase synthetic frame materials such as vinyl or metal instead of the traditional wood. But even after you've installed those mold-resistant products, you still need to be on the lookout for any signs of water that indicate a leak in the frame or window seal. Any standing water in your home can become a breeding ground for potentially destructive mold.
3. Insulating Properties
If you've ever wondered how the sheets of glass in windows can resist outside temperatures, the answer is that they usually can't -- not without a lot of help, anyway. Unless your part of the world has moderate temperatures all year round, you need to think about this problem when shopping for your next set of windows. Consider the following solutions:
- Double-pane windows - Single-pane windows are cheap for a reason: they hardly insulate at all. If your budget allows for it, purchase double-pane windows. These windows boast two sheets of glass sandwiching a layer of inert gas, a combination that greatly boosts the window's insulating power for a more energy-efficient home.
- Low-E glass - For even greater thermal protection, purchase double-pane windows coated with an invisible light-reflective coating. This "low-E" (low emissivity) glass can block both infrared and UV radiation.
It's worth noting that you may not have to buy these special kinds of glass for every window in your home. You can save some money by simply installing them on the sides of the house that suffer the greatest exposure to the sun.
4. Protective Accessories
If your area is prone to hailstorms, tornadoes and other violent acts of Mother Nature, you should be thinking about products to protect your windows even as you're selecting the windows themselves. Don't settle for those non-functional "shutters" installed purely for cosmetic purposes -- get yourself some real, fully operable shutters and have them installed so that they open and close over the windows smoothly. Shutters are just as important for keeping your home in good order as gutters, shingles, and the other "unsung heroes" of home protection.
Lamination is another option for strengthening your windows against hail. A strong, invisible film adheres to the glass to keep it from shattering and possibly injuring your loved ones. You can also install storm windows or screens over your expensive new windows as a protective barrier.
Choose the right windows and accessories, and you're sure to get more enjoyment, not just out of your windows, but out of your overall home living experience. Enjoy your window shopping!