Energy efficiency. Nearly one-third of all residential energy loss occurs through windows and doors. The worst culprits are old windows, which often permit drafts to enter the home. Doors that are not insulated properly can also allow energy to seep out of the home. Recent advancements in materials and design have made windows much more effective at keeping the heat inside during winter and outside during summer. Modern doors are also increasingly energy efficient, making replacing old windows and doors a wise move for those seeking to reduce energy costs.
Attractive design. Replacement windows and doors are available in a variety of styles and colors to accent the look of any home. Installing new windows and doors can utterly transform a home’s exterior.
Enhanced security. Some older windows and doors can be easily forced open, offering an easy target for potential intruders. The robust construction of many modern windows and doors provides a more substantial deterrent.
Wood windows can be elegant and attractive and are available in many styles. The price varies greatly, depending on quality and design. Wood can be stained or painted to match the decor of the house. However, wood absorbs water, and if neglected, it can rot or deteriorate. Wood needs regular maintenance to look its best. Many manufacturers provide aluminum-clad wood windows, which require less exterior maintenance and come in a variety of colors to complement the home.
Vinyl windows never require painting and are virtually maintenance-free. Vinyl windows provide good insulation, are cost effective, and are available in a large selection of designs and colors. High-quality vinyl windows offer some of the best insulation available.
Composite windows are made of a blend of wood materials and plastics or fiberglass. They offer the look of real wood with the easy maintenance of vinyl. Composite windows are durable and insulate well; unlike wood, they are resistant to moisture and do not rot. They can be painted and are typically priced between aluminum-clad wood windows and vinyl windows.
Aluminum and steel frames are extremely resistant to impact, making them desirable in hurricane-prone areas. They are less susceptible to warping from temperature variations than wood and vinyl. Both materials can be painted and require little regular maintenance.
Fiberglass windows are durable and easy to maintain. Another advantage is that these windows can also be painted, making it possible to match them to a home’s existing decor.
Double- and triple-pane windows. Windows made with multiple panes are superior to single-pane windows and are therefore more expensive. However, despite the higher cost, few homeowners continue to use single-pane windows when investing in replacement windows. Double- and triple-pane windows incorporate parallel sheets of glass with an insulating dead air space between them, which greatly reduces the amount of heat transferred through the window. Additionally, to make these windows even more efficient, the space between the panes is often sealed and filled with an inert gas that does not readily conduct heat, such as argon.
Special coatings. A variety of special coatings can be applied to the glass pane during manufacturing to further reduce the amount of heat transferred through the glass. Low-emissivity glass (or Low-E glass, in industry jargon) is designed to reflect infrared heat; in the summer, it helps keep the heat out, and in the winter, it helps keep the heat in.
Tinted and reflective windows. Tints, films, and reflective coatings also increase the energy efficiency of your windows. In general, these coatings can be applied to existing windows and may present a more economical option than replacing older, less efficient windows.
Wood doors are traditional, and they have several advantages. They are very visually appealing, are good at suppressing outside noise, and can be trimmed to fit any existing door frame. They will not rust and are available in any number of interesting designs. However, wood doors are heavy and tend to sag over time. They are also prone to warping and require periodic maintenance in order to sustain their beauty and functionality. If you choose a wood door, make sure it is a solid-wood or solid-core door.
Insulated steel doors are filled with polyurethane foam and can have up to an R-15 value. They are inexpensive, easy to maintain, and great at restricting heat. Steel doors are also superior at providing security for the home. One of the disadvantages of steel doors is that they cannot be trimmed to fit, and the door frame must be perfectly plumb in order for the door to be properly installed.
Fiberglass doors are rapidly gaining in popularity. Fiberglass doors can have the look and feel of a wood door, come in many different designs, and are easy to paint or stain. The insulation performance of a fiberglass door can be up to four times greater than that of a wood door, and it will not crack, warp, or rot over time.
Powerful winds buffeting outer windows and doors can create strong indoor drafts and severely impact a home’s energy efficiency as well as the comfort level of the occupants. Installing storm doors and windows can make a difference. Storm doors are installed in front of an exterior access door to protect it from bad weather while still allowing ventilation. Glass and screen panels can be interchanged to protect against entry by insects and allow visibility. Storm windows can be installed inside or outside, either as temporary panels or sheets that are permanently affixed to the window frame.
Correctly installing windows and doors is a difficult job that is best left to the experts. Windows and doors must be installed square, level, and load-free—that is, they should not support the weight of the wall above them. When windows and doors have not been properly installed, they will admit drafts. Without the benefit of a well-done installation, your new, high-quality windows and doors will lose much of their energy-saving value. Having a capable and qualified contractor matters not only when the windows and doors are installed but also years down the road, when potential problems are more likely to occur. Several years after the initial installation, a reputable contractor will likely still be in business and can address any concerns.