How to choose the right windows for your home
Windows are an important part of any home and when you come to replacing the existing windows in your home there are a number of factors that you should consider.
As there are so many different styles, materials and features to choose from the choice can be overwhelming and the majority of people only think about their new windows in terms of the style and how they are going to look on their property. As the cost of replacing your windows is a major investment and they are expected to last a number of years it is worthwhile doing some research before you invest as it can save you problems in the long-run.
In this comprehensive guide we will explain what you should look out for before choosing the right windows for you.
Windows are generally made from three main materials, UPVc/PVCu, Aluminium or Wood. Here are the main benefits of each:
- UPVC/PVCu Windows – this is the most common material used in the manufacture of windows. UPVc windows are usually cheaper than Aluminium or Timber and are a relatively cost effective solution. They require very little maintenance and only generally need a wipe down with a cloth. UPVc never rots, fades or rusts and so they will also look good for a long period of time. UPVc is a durable material and as such the majority of window manufacturers provide a 10 year guarantee with the windows. We would recommend that you choose a company that does offer this type of guarantee. Although UPVc windows come in a range of styles such as casement, sash and tilt-and-turn windows they can be deemed to be less aesthetically pleasing than aluminium as they generally offer less colour options and mainly come in a traditional white finish. Don’t let this put you off UPVc windows as modern manufacturing techniques have allowed for a much broader range of colours and finishes to be offered by the most reputable companies.
- Aluminium Windows – The cost of Aluminium windows is generally higher than UPVc but we would suggest that cost should not always be the deciding factor in your choice of new windows. Aluminium does offer some considerable advantages over UPVc such as durability. While UPVc is a durable material, it can degrade over time whereas you can expect to get a further 10 years on the lifetime of aluminium with the right care and attention. Aluminium windows offer the advantage of having a higher glass-to-frame ratio as the frames are stronger than UPVc and can be manufactured to a thinner profile (thickness of the frame). Aluminium Windows also offer the greatest choice in terms of flexibility of design and aesthetics. The windows can be coloured using powder coating giving the homeowner a far greater choice of window colours than traditional UPVc and can be different colour on the outside and inside. Another advantage of Aluminium over UPVc and Wood is that it will stay consistent throughout the year and will not swell and contract due to heat. Both UPVc and wood can expand and contract due to weather and temperature. A new aluminium product on the market today is WarmCore – Warm Aluminium. This features a thermal core which creates a window system with up to 25% more thermal efficiency than traditional aluminium.
- Wooden Windows – Are generally more expensive than UPVc. The majority of householders that choose wooden windows do so as they think the windows will match the style of the property or surrounding houses, although this can be replicated with UPVc. Wooden windows will take the most time in maintenance as they will need to be treated regularly to prevent on-going damage. Wood can also expand, warp and rot if not looked after properly. You do have the option to paint the windows using appropriate external paint so you would have a considerable choice of colours to complete the look you may require.
Once you have decided on a material that best suits your home, the next thing to do is choose a style of window, the most popular styles are as follows:
- Casement – A casement window is a window that is attached to its frame by one or more hinges. Casement windows are hinged at the side or the top and are contained within a single frame. Casement windows have a handle and lock system used to open the windows from the inside.
- French Windows – are similar to Casement windows with sashes hung vertically but the main difference is that French windows have a floating mullion (centre bar) and as the windows are opened it gives a complete unrestricted view from the windows, whereas a casement window has a fixed mullion with windows that open either side.
- Sash – a sash window (or sometimes known as a box-sash window) is a window that is made up of one or more panels or “sashes” which can be slid vertically or horizontally to make an opening. As sash windows are a traditional style they often come with Georgian styling which gives the appearance that the window is made up of smaller squares.
- Tilt-and-Turn – a Tilt-and-Turn window functions in two ways. The tilt function opens the top of the sash inwards for ventilation, whilst the turn function creates an inward opening side hung operation similar to a casement window.
Window Glass or Glazing:
The next step is to choose the glass or glazing options for your windows. With advances in technology and manufacturing there are more choices than ever:
- Double Glazing – Is the glazing process in which a window is made with two panes of glass formed into one single window.The two panes of glass are separated by a layer of trapped gas either Argon or Krypton gas. The layer of gas acts as a trap and is a poor conductor of heat, this helps to keep warm air trapped inside your home and not leaving by your windows and helps improve energy efficiency.The second panel of glass acts as an extra barrier to the outside world which helps to reduce noise pollution into your home, thus keeping your home quieter. It also acts as another strengthening layer to help improve the security of your windows and home.
- Triple Glazing – Is the glazing process in which a window is made with three panes of glass formed into one single window and offers the ultimate in thermal efficiency. Triple glazing is only available in our UPVc range of windows.These glazed units have smaller internal chambers compared with double glazing which helps to reduce heat loss. The central glass panel reflects more heat making it warmer in your rooms and helps to reduce your heating costs. The gas used within triple glazed units is either Argon or Krypton gas. If your home suffers from external background noise, triple glazing offers superior noise reduction to double glazing, giving you a warmer and quieter home. The units are ideal for north facing windows or where the windows suffer from little natural sunlight. Depending on the placement of windows and the elevation of your home, you may not need triple glazing in every area therefore you could mix and match double glazed and triple glazed units to suit your particular home.
- Energy Ratings – We would recommend a glazing option that offers A, A+ or A++ energy efficiency ratings. These units will provide better thermal insulation of your home and help to reduce heating bills.Windows are rated from A+ (no heat loss at all) through to G (extremely energy inefficient), the window Energy Rating label allows you to see at a glance how energy efficient a window is.Windows Energy Ratings are calculated using various values:
- Thermal Transmittance (U value) – represents how much heat can escape through the glass
- Solar factor (G value) – represents how much energy is gained through your windows from the Sun
- Air Leakage (L value) – how much air is leaked through the windows (the lower the better).
You do get what you pay for with windows, while cost will be an important factor for most people it is even more important to choose a quality product, preferably made by a well known or reputable company. You want to make sure you choose a well made window that gives you the style you want, energy efficiency, ease of use and low maintenance to save any headaches in the future
Window Warranties & Guarantees
It makes sense to carefully examine the guarantees offered by the various window manufacturers. This is where a well known company with a good reputation will serve you much better than a one-man-band who may offer you a cheaper price but no security in the products that they are providing. Companies that have been around for a while are more likely to be around in the future should your window have problems or need replacement parts.
Other things to consider:
Sun direction on your property:
The sun is a source of free home heating and knowing the sun’s path and direction on your home can help you determine if your windows would need to have better thermal efficiency on one side of your property than the other. For example; if the rear of your property is south-facing the front or north-side of your property may be cooler therefore you could opt to have better thermal glazing on the north side of the property than the south. You could choose to have double glazed units to the rear and triple glazed units to the front.
This not only creates a better living environment but can also help to increase the energy efficiency of your home and potential reduce your heating bills.