Q. What's the difference
between the windows I have now and thermal replacement windows?
You 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 painting.
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?
Both 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 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 agencies.
Q. I've seen some pretty
good deals on windows at a local home center store. Is that a good
way to get windows?
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?
The 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 maintenance-free?
Most 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 maintenance free.
Q. Is it a good idea to buy
one of the well-known brands of windows I see advertised on
television and in magazines?
All 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 buck.
Q. Is window replacement a
In 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