High Performance Windows

Window trends tend toward improved energy performance

authors Harry Spaulding | October 19, 2009

Energy efficiency is top of mind for consumers due to high fuel prices and overall financial concerns.  Today’s knowledgeable (and in some cases, aging) consumers expect customized products that match their shrinking remodeling budgets, specific lifestyles and personal preferences.

In spite of economic uncertainty, homeowners are still willing to invest in their homes as long as that investment enhances their lives. Thanks in large part to a potentially strong return on investment, replacement windows are considered an ideal home expenditure.

“Consumers are more budget conscious, often opting for ‘staycations’ as they spend more time entertaining at home and less time going out,” says Pella corporate public relations manager Kathy Krafka Harkema. “Many plan to stay in their home for the long haul.

“When it comes to replacement windows, today’s consumers expect greater energy efficiency to help reduce their utility bills and make their home feel warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer,” says Harkema.

“Homeowners still aspire to remodel and upgrade their living spaces to make them more appealing and comfortable, especially as they spend more time in the home. Installing energy-efficient windows remains a top remodeling project choice, since windows are seen and enjoyed both inside and outside the home and can substantially enhance its enjoyment and potential value.”

The Pella Impervia line of windows now includes casement and awning window options.

Pella Impervia windows are designed for energy efficiency and are created to withstand harsh weather without cracking, shrinking or warping. The product is made from the company’s Duracast materials offering insulating qualities which have earned it the Energy Star. Factory prefinishing colors include brown, white or tan color options.

According to Chris Schield, brand manager for R&R products for Weather Shield, Peachtree and Visions, one key component in the demand for energy efficiency is “the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provides a tax credit — equal to 30 percent of cost, up to $1,500 — for qualifying energy-efficient home improvements such as windows and doors.”

Weather Shield’s Custom Shield replacement windows now meet the strict criteria of the federal tax credits, with the benefits of energy efficiency and easy installation. Custom Shield replacement windows feature a 3 1/4-in. jamb and are available in custom sizes to fit existing frames. The company ships the product with the shims, screws and backer rod needed for installation. Optional exterior trim accessories, including blind stop covers and retro-z trim, are convenient methods to further reduce installation labor time and expenses. Custom Shield includes double-hung tilt, casement and awning, single and three-panel sliding, and direct-set windows.

“The No. 1 trend right now, which will continue through 2010, is the demand for windows and doors that meet the .30 U-factor/.30 solar heat gain coefficient criteria of the federal energy tax credits,” says Schield. “Homeowners want to take advantage of the $1,500 tax credits, so energy efficiency is the first determining factor when they select new windows. Not every window meets this criteria, so those that do have a significant advantage.”

Peachtree Doors and Windows 700 Series replacement windows are extruded aluminum-clad replacement windows designed for energy performance, with fewer disturbances to the home’s siding, walls or existing interior and exterior trim during installation. The 700 Series replacement, or pocket, windows are available in easy-tilt double hung, casement, awning, single slider and picture styles. The windows can be customized to almost any shape or size. Sill options include flat, intermediate (8-degree slope) and maximum (14-degree slope).

PGT Industries recently introduced the SpectraGuard 2300 Series, its new line of energy efficient replacement vinyl windows. The complete SpectraGuard vinyl line for replacement or remodeling includes double-hung, horizontal roller, picture/fixed lite architectural and combination windows. Standard features include double-strength insulating glass, high-performance Solarban 60 Low-E glass and argon gas, as well as Super Spacer NXT technology, and all SpectraGuard products are Energy Star compliant. SpectraGuard windows purchased with a U-Factor of 0.30 and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) of 0.30 qualify for the $1,500 credit in the Stimulus Plan.

“Energy efficiency will continue to be a top priority for homeowners, especially with reports of heating costs climbing and an uncertain economy,” says Les Stephens, product marketing manager for Jeld-Wen Windows
and Doors. “In addition, the federal tax credits available to homeowners will continue to drive demand for energy-efficient products. According to proprietary research from Jeld-Wen, 24 percent of homeowners hate their existing windows because they are leaky and drafty. That will continue to be a significant opportunity for the remodeling market.”

Alleviating difficulties

As more Americans refrain from upgrading to larger homes, they will require windows that suit their specific needs or simply make their lives easier.

“Products that contribute to a low-maintenance lifestyle are always popular,” says Stephens. “For windows, this often means choosing vinyl because of its reliability, ease of maintenance and affordability. In fact, when it comes to remodeling, vinyl products make up more than half of all replacement windows in residential projects.

“Wood, vinyl and aluminum are the most popular materials with homeowners. Vinyl dominates the market, comprising more than 50 percent of windows sold in 44 states. Vinyl is gaining the most momentum in all segments of replacement windows and now represents 65 percent of the market. Metal-clad wood windows are now more popular than primed and painted wood. Metal cladding offers very durable, low maintenance protection.”

To ease installation of Jeld-Wen vinyl windows, the company launched its TegraTite installation system. The system includes a one-piece sill drain mat that installs under the window on the rough opening, directing any incidental water away from the wall. The drain mat is made from flexible, non-woven material with a sloped, closed-cell foam back dam to block water, and it is backed with butyl-based adhesive. The system is designed to eliminate the need for flashing at the sill, the continuous shim and the drain screen. The drain mat is adjustable for all jamb depths so that one size fits all the company’s vinyl windows.

“Consumers are also becoming more educated with their purchases,” explains Chris Schield. “Most are learning aluminum-clad wood windows are virtually maintenance-free and perform comparably or sometimes better than vinyl windows.”

He adds, “Baby boomers are making upgrades to their homes with higher quality, more desirable products because it’s unlikely they will move again in their lifetime and they want products that are aesthetically appealing and energy-efficient.”

Marvin has expanded its Ultimate Casement and Awning Collection to include the Ultimate Push Out Casement and Awning. This collection features handles that open the window in a simple turn. The products are equipped with commercial-grade hardware allowing for large sizes and numerous configurations. The hardware is also an integral part of the product’s wash mode, which allows the homeowner to wash the exterior glass of the casement from the inside. The Ultimate Push Out Casement and Awning has a swinging screen with a standard wood surround designed to blend with the interior of the window.

Upgrading without relocating

According to Schield, “Homeowners are ‘waiting out’ the economy and the return of home values and therefore want products that are beautiful and enhance their living environment. They appreciate the authenticity and character of wood, and options such as exterior color choices, interior wood species, a variety of grille styles, decorative glass and hardware finishes.”

Due to its inherent energy efficiency, stability and durability, fiberglass is also gaining in popularity. Both Weather Shield and Peachtree offer fiberglass-clad windows that are available in many options for customizing a look through grilles, interior wood species and hardware. Zo-e-shield glazing systems on the fiberglass products deliver better energy efficiency ratings (U-factor and solar heat gain coefficients).

Kathy Krafka Harkema notes that homeowners “want to set their home apart from others in the neighborhood, so they’re accenting their replacement windows with accessories like grilles, blinds, shades or decorative panels between glass and decorative hardware to coordinate with faucets, fixtures and other items in the home.”

The PureView screen from Milgard Windows & Doors is standard for builders and contractors on all of the company’s fiberglass windows, as well as the Tuscany and Montecito Series vinyl windows. PureView is made of a flame-retardant fiberglass mesh screen so it is suitable for window and door applications. The fiberglass construction is designed to withstand high winds, making it a recommended product for coastal regions. The uniformity in the look of the new screen also promises enhanced curb appeal.

The Silver Line Series 2060 geometric window offers aesthetic appeal, energy efficiency and low maintenance. The product is designed to be an attractive low cost replacement window solution. Silver Line’s series 4000 replacement windows are available with maintenance-free grilles that are sealed inside the glass unit. Flat or contoured grilles are available in patterns including Colonial, Diamond and Prairie.

Eagle Window & Door, an Andersen Window & Door company, has added Vertical Grain (VG) fir to its line of wood windows. VG fir is available on all Eagle products and accessories including windows, doors and interior screens. Eagle also offers pine and mixed grain fir along with upgrade options of oak, maple, walnut, alder, hickory, cherry and African mahogany.

The 1600 Series solid vinyl double hung windows from MI Windows features beveled exterior edges and a five degree true-sloped sill. The 1600 Series can meet or exceed Energy Star standards and many are energy tax credit certified.

“Fabricators are offering more options on their product lines, such as painting or laminating profile in different colored vinyl, trying to follow the wood window industry trend,” says David Barnes, president of Viwinco Inc. “We are looking at all available options in the marketplace for future product offerings.”

“We are experiencing success at the beaches due to the requirements along the coast. Impact-resistant windows will continue to sell, although the economy has slowed new construction starts,” says Barnes.

OceanView windows from Viwinco are certified impact-resistant and are available in single-hung and double-hung styles — the fixed upper sash on the single-hung is the only difference between the two. The windows feature 3/4-in. stainless steel with a constant force balance system for smooth sash travel. Reinforcement insert in the lower sash meeting rail ties the sash, cam lock and tilt latches together for added strength. OceanView has a 15/16-in. double-pane insulated glass unit with tempered Solarban 60 glass, laminated clear glass with a polyvinylbutyral film layer. Viwinco’s Intercept ultra low-conductance spacer and argon gas fill are standard. The product’s 1 3/8-in. high weatherstripped sill dam fights drafts and water infiltration, and a sill bulb provides a tighter seal against drafts and weather.

Barnes expects sales of impact-resistant windows to “remain strong throughout 2010; however, more stringent codes in the future that increase the cost of the windows may affect future sales if homeowners cannot afford to buy windows.”

“In a tough economy, homeowners on a tight budget are focusing on home renovation projects that are both affordable and offer long-term value,” says Les Stephens. Thanks to manufacturers’ offerings of superior energy performance, myriad style options and wide range of price points, replacing windows is the ideal remodeling project for return on investment in both the long and short term.

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