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Design, energy efficiency lead the way in window trends

Even after the expiration of the tax credits, interest in energy savings is high

July 21, 2011

The stimulus package in 2009 and 2010 gave the window market a significant boost.
Even though those $1,500 credits have since been replaced with a much smaller $200 one, homeowners are still looking to upgrade.
Despite this decrease, the other benefits provided by energy efficient windows continue to make them popular remodeling choices for people planning to remain in their homes. In addition, “we’re seeing more marketing emphasis placed on programs like the U.S. Department of Energy Windows Volume Purchase Program for highly insulating R-5 windows,” notes Chris Pickering, vice president, marketing, for Ply Gem Windows. “Many state, county, and local weatherization programs are providing funds for efficiency improvements based on the requirements of VPP.”
Since window replacement is costly, many homeowners replace windows in stages, notes Stacy Einck, manager of brand public relations for Andersen Windows, usually starting in the front and then migrating around.

Beyond tax savings

Even without credits to spur activity, energy efficiency is driving window projects.
“According to the DOE, energy efficient windows and doors in homes can reduce monthly heating and cooling bills by 15 to 25 percent,” says Christine Marvin, group product planning manager at Marvin Windows and Doors. Actual savings depend on how old the existing windows are, with greater savings after replacing older windows. Energy Star provides a map at which quantifies payback time based on average annual savings estimates for homeowners replacing windows with single-pane or double-pane clear glass Energy Star qualified windows, notes Pickering.
 “Energy efficient windows are often quieter than old single-pane options, helping keep the sounds of noisy neighbors or nearby traffic down inside your home,” says Kathy Krafka Harkema, spokesperson for Pella Windows & Doors.
Home comfort is generally improved. “People will choose not to sit next to windows or in rooms that feel drafty or hot,” notes Einck. “After replacing windows with energy efficient units they can now use rooms in peak winter and summer months they never could before.”
Another benefit is lower maintenance cost and effort, as new double hung windows have easy to clean tilt in sashes. In addition to the energy efficient qualities of Low-E4, Andersen’s standard glass option, Einck says an invisible titanium dioxide coating on the exterior is activated by sunlight. This makes water and dirt sheet off, eliminating up to 99 percent of water spots, keeping windows cleaner longer. Casement windows with wash mode allow users to rotate  the window 140 degrees to the interior, so second floor windows can be cleaned easily without hiring someone to go up on scaffolding, notes Marvin. Homeowners also like the improved ability to open and close windows new window hardware provides.

Selecting the right window

To select the right window, consider environmental conditions. “In a northern zone, you might want to look at a tri-pane glass option for improved winter performance to keep warmth inside,” Marvin says.
Different glass coatings provide different results. For example, LoE-180 has a higher solar heat gain coefficient which helps block heat loss. “This is highly desirable for those seeking more passive solar energy, but in the South, you don’t want to let all that heat in,” she points out.  
For ultimate energy performance, Ply Gem offers the HP Ultra high performance glass package option.
“This package combines two panes of multilayered vacuum-deposition low-E insulating glass with an interior glass substrate and two insulating chambers of krypton gas,” says Pickering. Other options combine a soft coat of solar heating or solar cooling low-E on one or two panes and either argon or krypton gas fills. Spacer technology like Ply Gem Windows Warm Edge or Warm Edge Plus (with a less conductive material that provides a lower U-factor) also impacts the energy efficiency of the entire insulated glass unit by further preventing heat loss from the house.
“While Energy Star requires U-values in the .40 to .32 range depending on the climate zone, many remodelers are requesting performance as good as .20 and below to meet their own energy use and green building objectives,” Pickering says. “As a result, it’s important for remodelers to market energy efficient window replacement options that go beyond voluntary programs.”
Frames for windows are available in several energy efficient options including wood, vinyl and fiberglass. “The choice often boils down to what best suits the home’s style, climate, type of construction and remodeling budget,” says Krafka Harkema.
Factory prefinished wood or fiberglass windows continue to be popular, as do vinyl products needing no finishing. Andersen’s Fibrex material, found in their 100 series line, in the sill of their tilt wash windows and in other components in Andersen products, is a proprietary wood and vinyl composite material using 40 percent pre-consumer wood waste from their milling operations. A structural product that does not rot, chip or fade, Fibrex is low maintenance and appropriate for use where a structural base is needed or where water is an issue.
Aesthetics are definitely a factor when replacing windows.
“When people are investing in replacing their windows, they’re looking for something better than what they’ve got now,” comments Einck. She feels they want choices in colors, hardware and wood interior species like pine, oak and maple.  Contemporary hardware options like satin nickels and satin chromes, while still chosen infrequently, are becoming more popular. With architectural styles moving to darker exteriors, Einck says dark colors, even black, are popular for window frames, while Krafka Harkema says earth tones remain widespread.  
The Designed Exterior by Ply Gem encourages customers to think of windows as a unique architectural statement.
“The combination of window operating style, grille style, grid pattern and casing options, plus the addition of color, has a tremendous effect on the historical accuracy and general aesthetic appeal of the window system and the entire home,” notes Pickering. “Interior décor is also an important element of window design.” Ply Gem’s Infinitrim collection offers jamb extensions, interior casing and trim with exact matching interior colors and woodgrains, while their Quicktrim options allow for applications to architectural and special shape configurations.
Homeowners say they want to enjoy their views, so they prefer a broad expanse of glass with a narrow frame so the glass becomes the prominent feature, Einck says. In additions like family rooms, people want a giant picture window instead of three small windows to bring the outdoors in, Marvin says.

Other desirable features

“Handy features like fold-away cranks are popular, since they don’t interfere with window treatments,” notes Krafka Harkema. “Windows that feature factory-made blinds or shades between glass in either permanent or removable options ... are hot items today. Since they’re between glass, these blinds or shades don’t need cleaning, saving time for homeowners.”
Grilles remain popular features. Homeowners can choose among removable options or permanent grilles between glass or permanently adhered to the interior and exterior of the glass.  
To maximize natural light entering the home, Pella’s optional Rolscreen rolls into place to help keep insects out and rolls out of sight when not in use. Pella’s optional Vivid View screen is virtually transparent and allows more light and airflow into the home. “Since it’s so sheer, many homeowners leave it in place year round rather than storing it in the winter as is often done with traditional screens,” says Krafka Harkema.
Tips for remodelers
Proper installation according to the manufacturer’s guidelines is critical for getting the expected performance from energy efficient windows.
Some manufacturers offer energy efficient window inserts like Andersen’s Narroline conversion kit for double hungs in which only the sash and the jamb liners are replaced. The cost is lower than replacing an entire Andersen window while still providing the latest glass technology and a smoothly operating window with tilt in sash.  Marvin’s Tilt Pac works the same way. Its Insert Double Hung is an entire double hung unit in a smaller jamb for ease of replacement in an existing frame.
Most manufacturers also have replacement options for casement windows. Pella offers Precision Fit pocket replacement window options in awning, casement and double hung styles. Andersen’s new Replacement Casement is a full frame window supplied with a kit including backer rod, shims and with or without nailing flanges, making it easy to take out the old window and install the new one.
“All the installer needs to provide are tools and a little caulk,” Einck says. “Installation holes are predrilled and the unit comes with screw hardware so there’s no guesswork where to screw the window in place.”
Marvin’s Ultimate Replacement Casement in both full frame or narrow frame is a similar product. The narrow frame version fits into the existing opening by slipping it into a pocket in the frame and maintaining the interior trim.
“Remodelers love it because it saves them a lot of time during installation,” Marvin says. This window comes in sizes up to 40 inches wide by 92 inches tall, enabling achievement of a whole new look in the remodeling project.
Remodelers working on historic homes with double hung windows may encounter new building codes requiring casement windows allowing egress for safety purposes. To maintain the appearance of double hungs, Marvin has a casement product with a simulated check rail and a smaller bottom rail so it looks like a double hung from the outside but has casement hardware inside.
Contractors in the higher end market want the exterior appearance of replacement windows to match the home’s architectural style seamlessly, notes Pickering. Ply Gem offers several accessory products and installation solutions like the frame options available on the Ply Gem Windows Premium Series 1000 in the west. “Several frame options were developed to meet a variety of exterior wall designs including Single or Dual Wall Flush Fin for stucco exteriors, 1 3/8” Nail Fin and 1” Nail fin set-backs with J-channel for siding applications and Brickmould and no Fin options for brick or stone veneers,” he explains.
Remodelers should buy from companies that stand behind their
products and offer decent warranties. Marvin says,
“They need to understand the warranty they’re passing on to their homeowners.” Many companies typically offer 20 years on glass and 10 years on parts and workmanship. Transferability to future owners is also important, as some warranties allow only one transfer. The installer’s workmanship should be covered by a separate warranty.
It’s a good idea for the homeowner to meet the dealer who provides the windows to obtain warranty details and to know who to contact in case of problems, Marvin says. “Some remodelers take homeowners into the showroom to see the products and available options, which could help solidify confidence in the remodeler’s recommendations,” she points out. “Because people are staying in their homes longer, they want to make their homes just they way they want, and remodelers are benefiting from that. Homeowners want to achieve a certain look so it’s important for remodelers to steer consumers to products that provide solutions to meet their needs.”

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