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Originally published Friday, April 19, 2013 at 8:00 PM

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Tips on how to choose replacement windows

One of the most popular types of glass is called low-emissivity or low-e glass. It uses a special coating to keep heat either in or out, depending on the time of year.

Special to The Seattle Times

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HomeWork

Q. What advice do you have for replacing windows?

A. Replacement windows are windows designed to fit into the same structure that the old windows come out of.

When considering which type of glass will work best for you, consider the R-value and the U-factor. These are ratings replacement-window manufacturers assign to their windows that tell you how efficient they are.

The R-value of a window indicates how well it insulates. These values go from 0.9 up and a window that insulates fairly well will have a rating of 3 or more.

The U-factor is how well the window does at keeping the heat in. In this case, the lower the number the better, so you want a value from 1.1 to 0.3. Only use single pane windows if heat loss isn’t a factor, such as detached garages or sheds. Double and triple-pane glass use panes of glass, hermetically sealed with airspace in between.

There are three choices of glass. One of the most popular is called low-emissivity or low-e glass. It uses a special coating to keep heat either in or out, depending on the time of year. Another option is heat-absorbing glass, which keeps the solar energy and therefore the heat out. It also helps prevent sunlight from fading out carpets, drapes and furniture. The third common window glass is reflective glass, which does the same job as heat-absorbing glass but uses a film to reflect the harmful UV rays.

Replacement window frames come in five basic types.

• Aluminum frames have become less popular in recent years because they are not the most energy efficient and can invite condensation.

• Fiberglass replacement windows are a fairly new addition to the industry. They are typically the most expensive but boast a very high R-value, which means you’ll save more on your heating bill.

• Wood frames also have great R-values because wood is a natural insulator. Condensation isn’t much of a problem but maintenance is high because these frames require periodic scraping and painting.

• Vinyl has become popular because there are many styles to choose from and they are very energy efficient. If condensation has been a problem, look at vinyl windows, which actually keep the edges of the window warm. Because condensation is created by the temperature difference between inside and outside, this problem can be virtually eliminated.

• Fibrex is a combination of wood and vinyl, using the best features of both to create a window that’s highly energy-efficient but still low maintenance.

Always talk to more than one installer and get estimates! To make the best decision possible, make a list of pros and cons for each company, including its installation method, installed cost, its warranty and online customer reviews.

Be sure your estimates are comparable and include both materials and labor. Don’t be afraid to call references. Ask previous customers about their experience and if there were problems and, if so, how they were resolved.

Finally, make sure you understand the company’s warranty. A “lifetime” warranty is not always for the life of the home. Some warranties do not cover installation method or cannot be transferred to a new owner.

And remember, the cost of the windows is only part of the equation. You also need to consider the removal of the old windows, and the finish work because the trim and the interior sills may also need to be replaced.

Michael Tenhulzen of Tenhulzen Residential Design/Build is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council and provided the information contained in this article. If you would like more information or have questions about home improvement send them to homework@mbaks.com. Sorry no personal replies. Always consult local codes and contractors.


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