Common Thermal Replacement Window Questions
Many of us are familiar with the ubiquitous
advertising "deals" on thermal replacement windows. They tell us
that replacement windows will save us money on energy and
maintenance. They tell us our home will be cozier. They tell us our
home will be more valuable. We wonder whether any of what they say
is true. We ask questions and get some hi-tech double talk about
low-E glass and argon gas. They might as well be talking Chinese.
So what is the truth about thermal
Here are straight answers to the most
commonly asked questions about windows:
Q. What's the difference between the
windows I have now and thermal replacement windows?
may already have thermal replacement windows. The easiest way to
check is to see if there is more than one sheet of glass between you
and the outdoors. Thermal windows are always double- or
triple-paned. Traditional windows are single-paned. Thermal
replacement windows allow far less heat to escape your home in the
winter and less heat to get in during the summer, lowering your fuel
bills considerably. Most thermal windows also eliminate the need for
Q. Do thermal windows really save enough
energy to pay for themselves?
Windows and doors are typically responsible for about 40 percent of
your home's heating bill. Thermal windows are typically two to four
times more efficient than older single pane windows. That means you
can expect your winter heating bills to drop on average about 20
percent to 30 percent. The bigger your fuel bills and the draftier
your old windows, the quicker your new windows will pay for
Q. Are the telemarketing firms that call
me scam artists?
legitimate firms and shady firms use telemarketing as a way to get
business, so it's hard to generalize. Although telemarketing is
annoying, it does not necessarily mean the company is crooked. Most
telemarketers set up appointments for free estimates. Expect to be
put under considerable pressure to buy during the free estimate.
Never buy windows without getting more than one estimate. Whenever
hiring any home service firm, use a contractor referral service or
thoroughly interview references and check records with area consumer
Q. I've seen some pretty good deals on
windows at a local home center store. Is that a good way to get
Sometimes you can get a good price at a home center, but there are
several pitfalls to watch for. First of all, the best prices are
typically for "bargain" windows that may not be built well and may
not last long. Second, it is difficult to get a pro to install
windows you buy from a home center. Most pros realize that if
something goes wrong and it is due to a shortcoming in the window,
they will likely shoulder the blame. That means either you or a
handyman will have to do the installation. If thermal windows are
not installed exactly plumb and square, with all the appropriate
insulation, you may get little or no energy savings.
Q. What is "low-E glass"?
Low-E glass has a special coating that blocks certain kinds of light
that we can't see. The result is that it looks like normal glass but
Q. What is argon gas?
Argon is one of the most popular gasses used to fill the space
between the two (or three) panes of glass in a thermal window. Argon
is a good insulator.
Q. With all the technical terms, how can
the average homeowner make comparisons?
best way to compare windows is to check for a rating from the
National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). Most major brands of
windows have a sticker on them that lists their NFRC rating. The
lower the number the better. To achieve a low score the manufacturer
has to build the window carefully and incorporate a variety of
energy saving features.
Q. Are "maintenance-free" windows really
thermal replacement windows are made of wood, vinyl or a combination
of the two. Vinyl windows require no painting, inside or out.
Windows are the most difficult and expensive part of any painting
project, so by eliminating the need to paint windows, homeowners can
usually save a huge amount of money. Switching to "maintenance-free"
vinyl windows may cut your painting bills by 50 percent. Vinyl
windows still have to be cleaned, so they are not completely
Q. Is it a good idea to buy one of the
well-known brands of windows I see advertised on television and in
the well-known brands make at least one line of highly rated
windows. The problem is that the well-known companies may also make
other lower quality lines of windows -- including some of the
so-called bargain windows that are built to be cheap. This means
that you have to look beyond brand name. Many contractors install
what are called "no-name" windows. Actually, the windows have a
brand, just a brand no one has heard of. If you are working with a
truly reputable contractor, he is not going to steer you towards a
bad window -- after all, his reputation is on the line. There are
many well-made no-name windows that offer consumers bang for their
Q. Is window replacement a big project?
terms of dollars, it's a big project. Doing the whole house may run
many thousands of dollars. However, the work itself is pretty
straightforward. A whole house can be done in as little as a day or
two, with little disruption to interior spaces and household
Q. Given the high cost of windows, does
it make sense to borrow the money?
Borrowing to replace windows makes a lot of sense. You get your
cozier, better-looking windows now, and the energy savings and
maintenance savings will help offset your monthly payments. For most
homeowners, a loan can be arranged wherein the interest costs are
tax deductible, yielding additional savings. The savings will
continue long after the payments have been completed.