How to Choose Replacement Windows for Your Home
In terms of home improvement projects, replacing the windows on your home is a big job. Not only does it require a significant financial investment, but on average, house windows last about 20-25 years, so it’s important to choose windows that you can live with for at least a few decades.
If you’ve started looking around for replacement windows to buy, you probably realized pretty quickly just how many options are actually out there nowadays. From different window styles—such as double-hung, casement, and awning—to different window frame materials like vinyl, fiberglass, and composite, the options can seem endless. And we haven’t even set foot into the wonderful world of energy-efficient glazing systems, designer glass, decorative grilles, muntins, special shapes, and any other customizable components.
When choosing replacement windows for your home, some of the most important aspects to consider are:
- Your home’s architecture and aesthetics
- How you want the windows to operate
- The location of your home
- What you hope to accomplish
In the follow sections, we’ll unpack these topics, explaining why they’re essential aspects to consider when replacing your windows and examining the effect that each can have on the overall project.
Choose Windows That Work With Your Home
Your windows are a major visual component of your home, and aesthetically speaking, the windows you choose can either boost your home’s curb appeal or seriously detract from it. It’s important to match the “style” of your windows (i.e., double-hung, casement, awning) to the “style” of your home (i.e., Victorian, Craftsman, Spanish Colonial) to create a natural, organic-looking cohesive whole.
For instance, as far as homes go, Queen Ann Victorians are usually on the larger side and feature many dramatic angles and ornate structural elements. This has a lot to do with this particular architectural style developing during a period of rising affluence, so the houses were designed in such a way that would “show off” a family’s wealth and prosperity. As such, bay and bow windows, which jut outward from the home, feature prominently in these more dramatic styles, as do ornate shapes such as diamonds, ovals, and half-circles.
On the other hand, if you have a Modern style home (and we don’t mean contemporary, we mean it in the “mid-century Modern” sense) then you’ll probably want to keep things a bit simpler. In fact, Modernism as an architectural style came about as a direct response to Victorian architecture which came to be seen as cluttered and overly fancy. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t make a bay window work on a Modern-looking home, but bear in mind that a bay window on a Victorian home and a bay window on a Modern home can make two distinctly different decorative statements. Modern homes, with their clean lines and open floorplans, lend themselves much more naturally to window styles that have a more expansive glass area that is less obstructed, such as picture windows and sliding windows.
And choosing windows that work with your home can sometimes be about more than just your own personal aesthetic preferences. Some homeowners have older homes which are on historical registries and are regulated by the local historical society. In order for these homes to retain their “preserved” status, they may need to comply with certain regulations such as installing windows that are historically accurate. For instance, the new windows might need to be made of wood rather than of vinyl or fiberglass, or if they are made of the latter materials, they might need to have a particular wood-style finish on them in order to comply with the regulations.
Choosing windows that work with your home stylistically is also about ensuring salability, so if you have plans to put your home on the market in the future, be sure to consider this. Usually, having all new windows recently installed is a major plus that will help a home sell faster and fetch a higher price, but if you live in a historical home and have recently replaced all of the original wood windows with modern-looking black fiberglass windows, potential buyers who are hoping for the original windows may be deterred.
Choose Windows That Work How You Want Them To
When most of us think of house windows, we probably picture something like a single- or double-hung window—with a sash that moves up and down to let fresh air in. So it should come as no surprise to know that single- and double-hung windows have long been the most common style of window on homes in America, with double-hung currently being the most popular. Double-hung windows have such a classic and understated appearance that they work well with just about any style of house—yes, they work with Victorian homes and Modern homes, as well as Tudors, Craftsmen, Colonial, Greek Revival—you name it.
However, the way that different window styles function is just as important as how they look, if not more. Double-hung windows may look nice on just about every home, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work well for every homeowner or for every location within a house. For instance, double-hung windows (and single-hung, for that matter) require leverage to lift. So, if you’re a homeowner who is elderly, who has limited upper body strength due to rotator cuff surgery, or who is just naturally not that strong, you might find it difficult to operate double-hung windows. In all of these situations, casement windows would be a more practical option as their crank assembly makes them much easier to open and close with hardly any effort. What’s more, if the window is in a hard-to-reach area, such as high up on the wall in a stairwell or above the kitchen sink, it may be hard to get the leverage you need to open and close a double-hung window.
It’s important to ask yourself how you want your windows to work. Do you want them to slide? Lift? Crank? If they’re very high up on a wall—in a place where you would never be opening or closing them—then it might be best to have picture windows installed and reap the benefits of the extra energy efficiency that comes with fixed-pane windows. Are you someone who likes to leave their windows open during a rainstorm, so you can feel the cool, fresh breeze that comes with the storm, but don’t want to let any water get inside your house? If so, then awning windows are perfect for you. As the name suggests, their angled sash provides an awning effect when opened that prevents water from getting in.
Choose Windows That Work for Where You Are
In addition to choosing windows that function the way you want them to, it’s also important to choose windows that work well in the place you live. The best way to do this is to choose windows with ENERGY STAR® glass packages that are specifically tailored to your region’s climate. A number of manufacturers, such as Sunrise Windows, offer this option, and it’s a great way to make sure you’re investing in windows that will offer efficient performance throughout all four seasons.
For instance, the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of a window tells you how effectively the glass will block out heat while still allowing the maximum amount of sunlight to penetrate. The lower the SHGC, the less heat will pass through the window, so in a hot climate such as Florida or Arizona, a low SHGC is a must-have. But in a colder climate, such as Minnesota or Maine, you might actually want some of that solar heat to pass through the glass as it will help keep your home warmer during the frigid winters and might also prevent your heating system from being overworked.
If you live in a moderate climate where you’re able to open your windows for much of the year, then single-pane glass might be a viable option for you. But for many homeowners who live in extremely hot or extremely cold climates, single-pane glass is not sufficient. If your windows are closed for much of the year, then they’re essentially acting like walls, and it would behoove you to have the most energy-efficient glass package possible. Choose double- or triple-pane glass with spacer systems and inert gas fills in between the glass. This will help regulate the surface temperature of the glass as well as prevent heat transfer into or out of your home.
Other homeowners who choose windows based on where they live are those in Florida or other coastal southeastern states who invest in replacement windows that have heavy-duty impact-resistant glass that can stand strong in the face of hurricanes and tropical storms. And, as we mentioned earlier, awning windows can be opened when it rains, which makes them a great choice for climates where it rains pretty frequently, like the Pacific Northwest.
Choosing Windows That Work for Your Vision
It may seem like a simple point to make, but when choosing new windows for your home, you should have a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish. Is your primary goal to improve your home’s aesthetic appearance? Or is energy efficiency your biggest concern? It’s not uncommon to have multiple reasons for wanting to replace your windows, but making sure you check the box that’s at the very top of your list will help ensure that your window replacement project feels like a success.
Ready to Get Started?
If you’d like to learn more about having replacement windows installed at your home, click here to locate the nearest Sunrise Windows dealer in your area. They’ll be happy to set up a free initial consultation to share more information with you and help you select new windows that will meet all of your needs.