We understand — buying new windows isn’t something most people do every day.
Understanding pricing and what qualifies as “affordable,” knowing the different types of materials, warranty offerings, and ease of installation (you don’t want to have strangers and holes in the side of your home for weeks!) are just a few of the factors that go into choosing your new windows. And it can be intimidating.
That’s why we’ve put together a guide of everything a homeowner needs to know before that showroom visit to ensure you are confident in your window purchasing experience.
Know What Options Are Available Before Your Visit
There is an incredible number of options, styles, types and prices of windows to consider. Sounds great, right? It can be. But with all the possibilities, you might start to feel overwhelmed. Check the showroom’s website — or visit a manufacturer’s dealer locator, where they will usually have dealers with showrooms marked — to see if they have catalogs online or brochures to help you get an idea of what options are available and what styles you may want to look at in person. Instagram is a great starting point, allowing you to gather your ideas digitally before seeing them in person.
Be sure you (or your contractor) understand what is permitted in your area based on HOAs, community regulations and/or building codes within specific municipalities. (You can do this by reaching out to your local building code department.) This is typically something that your contractor will handle behind the scenes, but if you’re in the early phases of research, it’s worth noting before falling in love with a window that isn’t permitted in your area.
Review Material Options for Your Windows
The material you choose for your windows needs to be well-suited for your climate.
Moisture-resistant materials such as vinyl, wood-resin composite and fiberglass hold up well in wet and cold climates. Choosing windows with high resistance to temperature transference is a must for cooler areas. Look for windows with U-values of 0.30 or lower for the best insulation (the lower the U-Value, the more energy-efficient the window will be).
For areas that have hot and sun-heavy summers, look for window materials that offer good solar heat resistance with a SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) below 0.3 (the lower the SHGC, the less solar heat it lets into your house).
Windows with spectrally selective coatings that allow visible light to pass through their glass but resist heat-causing rays are a great choice for gorgeous natural light without sacrificing energy efficiency.
Other factors that go into choosing a material are the age of your house and the location of your windows within your home. The material you choose, from wood to vinyl to fiberglass to aluminum, may not be “one size fits all,” so be prepared to prioritize the benefits you want the most.
Know Your Budget First
Windows can be costly, but if you have a good price-to-quality ratio, you can get your money’s worth.
Wood is a common material chosen, often without people realizing the maintenance costs required, such as sanding and repainting every few years, and issues with moisture intrusion and pests. While you would think wood would be the least expensive option, over time once you include maintenance, repair and replacement costs, it’s actually the most expensive.
Vinyl is a great choice as it is often the most affordable, with insulation benefits, less maintenance and no repainting required. According to the DIY Network, more vinyl windows are sold than all other types of window construction combined. That’s because vinyl combines a low cost with durability, reliability, energy performance, and moisture-, insect- and rot-resistance.
In fact, according to DemandBuilder®, vinyl windows accounted for $1.8 billion in windows purchased in 2020.
Whichever type of window you want to choose, just make sure you know your budget and stick to it. Add-ons or slight price increases that seem small for one window can quickly get out of hand when you multiply it to all of the windows your home needs. Make sure you look at the price for all the windows combined for an accurate cost.
Questions About Quality
You should have questions ready for your showroom salesperson for the options you are most interested in purchasing. Ask about the different benefits of the windows in regards to durability, energy efficiency, warranties, soundproofing, design versatility, thermal performance, aesthetics, sustainability and more.
Pay special attention to the quality of the glass as well. The three main options you’ll be given are single, double or triple glazed windows. Single pane windows are rarely recommended as they do little to keep out cold and noise.
Triple glazed windows offer exceptional insulative properties but can get rather expensive for the average homeowner. These are more common in extremely cold climates with significant temperature swings.
Double pane or double glazed windows are the perfect balance between thermal qualities and cost, offering the right amount of insulation for just about any climate.
Some manufacturers even offer coating technology that is applied on the surface of windows which can result in a reduction of dust and dirt on the window’s surface. The coated layer, usually known as low emissivity glass (LowE) reacts chemically with the sun’s UV rays and rain to breakdown greenhouse gases and other pollutants causing organic material on the glass to decompose, keeping your windows naturally cleaner.
For instance, Paradigm Windows not only offers LowE glass, but they offer NEAT+™ glass as an option for their entire 8-Series product line-up. NEAT+ is an innovative glass solution that includes an invisible coating technology that is applied on the exterior surface of the window. It’s more conductive than uncoated glass as it dissipates static, which results in less dirt and dust sticking to your windows. In essence, it keeps your windows cleaner, longer.
Know Your Warranty Options
There are numerous types of warranties that manufacturers will offer, so pay special attention to whether the warranty offered on your top products fit your needs. Some warranties are limited to new builds only while some warranties are for replacements only. There are warranties that cover both, so make sure you read the fine print and understand the coverage you are paying for.
There is also sometimes a separate paint warranty for factory-applied paint. If you go through a separate dealer and installer, make sure to ask about any installation warranties.
Energy Efficiency Is a Must
Knowing if your window choice is energy-efficient is important. According to Energy.gov, of the energy you use to cool or heat your home, 25% to 30% is lost through the windows. You can minimize that and lower your heating and cooling costs by opting for more energy-efficient options.
Upgrading from single-pane to double-pane windows can drastically reduce your energy consumption and help you save quite a bit on your utility bills, especially in the summer and winter months. Today’s double-paned windows generally have inert gases added between the panes to stop a great deal of heat loss and transfer, but that’s not always the case so it’s a great addition to your question list.
When window shopping, look for the ENERGY STAR® label and review ratings on the energy performance label from the National Fenestration Rating Council to find the most efficient windows.
If you are in a colder climate, look for gas-filled windows with low-e coatings to reduce heat loss and low U-factors (remember, lower is better) for better thermal resistance. In warmer climates, look for windows with coatings to reduce heat gain.
How Easy Is Installation
An easier window installation process brings savings in both time and money, making it beneficial for both the builder and the homeowner to find windows that are easy to install.
Less time on installation means lower labor costs and a quicker build turnaround, so you’ll enjoy your new windows faster. For example, aluminum windows are not flexible, so if the window’s fit is off by even a fraction of an inch, the window won’t install properly. Aluminum’s inflexibility usually leads to a much more tedious and time-consuming installation process.
On the other hand, vinyl is much easier to install because it is so flexible. It tends to contract and expand, making it much simpler to work with.
Look At Custom Options, Too
If you are looking for more of a customized window versus your normal offerings like bay, casement or double-hung, make sure to ask whether a particular product can be customized for your project.
Custom windows are a great way to get the exact style you want at the size you want. It’ll let you be as creative as possible, for a home design that really wows. Plus, you’ll be sure installation goes smoothly as it’ll be custom-made to your home’s exact specifications.
Ask for Paradigm Windows
Paradigm has a variety of window solutions that can meet any project’s needs. Paradigm Windows combines a passion for design, innovation and precision engineering, with an industry-leading warranty program. All of our windows are designed to lower your heating and cooling costs while brightening your view and reducing the time you devote to maintenance.
Be sure to ask about Paradigm Windows on your visit to your showroom. If you don’t have a showroom to visit yet, find a location near you through our Dealer Locator.