Product Trends: Replacement windows make their case

No longer thought of as substitutes, replacement windows are growing in performance, features and style

January 04, 2011

Despite a stormy economic situation over the last few years, the window market has remained steady pretty much across the board, and even enjoyed growth in some areas. Within the window market segment, replacement windows in particular have seen increased demand recently.
“We’ve definitely seen it growing. Replacement windows have steadily become a larger portion of the product mix,” says Stacy Einck, manager of brand PR for Andersen Windows. “So much so that over the years we’ve really changed our tune -- where we were once thought of as only a new window manufacturer, we now take pride in and heavily advertise the fact that we have a solution for any window replacement need.”
Andersen has recently updated its Narroline conversion kit to allow remodelers to upgrade Andersen windows installed as far back as 1968 to units with up-to-date technology, while maintaining the look of the original windows. Once installed, the new units will adhere to government’s new standards for energy efficient windows, and they will tilt in for easier cleaning than the original units.
Einck says that she’s seen research that shows that the average age of windows being replaced across the country is only seven years old. Combine that information with that of most industry surveys putting the number of single-pane windows still in use in American homes at close to 50 million, and it’s obvious that opportunities for replacement windows are widespread across the country.

Efficiency the main impetus
One of the most important factors in the recent robustness of the window market has been the energy efficiency tax credits, which prompted a huge number of people to upgrade the energy performance of their homes. And even with those credits reduced, manufacturers remain optimistic about the immediate future.
“The federal tax credit definitely raised the awareness of energy efficiency options in windows during 2009 and 2010,” says Sid Spear, vice president of sales and marketing for Simonton Windows. “This has been a positive educational experience for homeowners. With the expiration of the tax credit, we believe homeowners will carry that knowledge with them for future purchases.”
Most manufacturers see this continuing demand for energy efficiency as a given, and are already looking forward to the next wave of new technologies. “We’ve built in flexibility for new technologies, making it possible to incorporate ultra energy efficient features while maintaining manufacturing efficiencies that help us preserve quality at a competitive price,” says Chris Pickering, vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Windows.
Ply Gem offers the Contractor Series 2000, which Pickering terms as “a value-priced replacement line with premium features and cutting-edge technologies.”  He also states that window design appears to be moving steadily toward a highly insulated R-5 standard and beyond. He points to the Department of Energy’s R-5 Windows and Low-E Storm Windows Volume Purchase Program, which aims to expand the market for high-efficiency window products.
“With the introduction of that program, as well as more stringent Energy Star standards, we’ve been increasing our R & D efforts in order to continue making products that meet and exceed requirements today as well as in the future,” says Pickering.

Style, function important    

When consumers choose replacements over new construction or custom, price is not the most important factor. Sure, they’re looking for economical solutions, but they are willing to pay a certain premium for quality, performance and aesthetics. “Replacement customers are definitely looking to upgrade energy efficiency, but they also want to upgrade their self-expression in their older home,” says Christine Marvin, group product planning manager at Marvin Windows and Doors. “They want convenient solutions that reduce a project’s complexity and saves time without sacrificing function and beauty. They want it all and they recognize that it will be worth a little extra investment up-front.”
Marvin has many energy efficient options on their replacement lines, and many of those are available with the company’s new Tripane triple glazing system. These units achieve a U-factor of .25 or lower. They have also introduced their retractable screen system, where the screen simply retracts back into the sash frame, eliminating the need for removal and storage of screens.
“Another thing that appeals to today’s replacement consumer is the narrower jambs that are available with many of today’s products. They don’t have to sacrifice nearly as much glazing area,” says Marvin. “We’ve also found our aluminum clad casings and sub sills are popular because they provide a perfect match to their existing historical casings.”  
And when you’re leaving existing trim in place – both inside and out – replacement windows that can match that trim become very important to customers. “People like the richness of wood and want to coordinate with their trim and other wood products in their homes, but they don’t like the inherent problems of wood relating to warping, rot, repainting or long-term maintenance issues,” says Spear. “So we created the decorum line allowing homeowners to customize their homes with the authentic look of woodgrain interiors without the maintenance hassles.”
The company has also worked with Sherwin-Williams to develop a line of paint intended for use on siding, shutters, trim and other exterior finishes to complement the exterior finishes available on the Decorum line, giving homeowners a seamless and perfectly matched color palette.
Ply Gem wanted to increase the breadth and depth of their product family in the west coast market, and that depended largely on color selection. They recently introduced the Premium Series 1000, a vinyl option with a dark beige color designed for western applications.
With so many manufacturers placing equal importance on fit and finish as they have been with energy efficiency, replacement windows have arrived at the point where nearly any homeowner can find a replacement product to suit their needs – no matter what their unique conditions may be.

Optimism remains
Despite the knowledge that many potential 2011 customers may have moved their window purchase up a few months to take advantage of the expiring tax credits, most manufacturers see the window market in general -- and replacement windows in particular – as continuing to perform well in the future.
“While the construction rebound has kind of been all over the board, with some pockets never having that tough a time and others across the country rebounding quicker than others, we’re confident that the demand for windows will remain strong,” says Marvin.
Many see the lessons learned from this most recent recession and the benefits realized through energy efficient upgrades in the home as having a long-lasting effect. “Upon the expiration of the tax credit, we believe consumers – in particular, baby boomers – will broaden their selection scope for windows in the year ahead to include more maintenance-free products with proven track records of strong performance and superior value,” says Simonton’s Spear. “We feel very good about the long-term prospects for the windows market.”

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