07 Feb A Consumers Guide to Windows
A Consumers Guide to Windows
If you need to replace your windows, please consider this…
Windows are a very important cog in the thermal effectiveness of your home-building envelope; maybe the most important part. That’s because as they age, they can become less efficient in keeping the elements out, and the conditioned air in. And the same cannot be said of most other areas (materials) of the home.
So, if windows “wear-out” over time, doesn’t it only stand to reason that investing in tried and true windows should be your biggest consideration? So why do so many people buy windows that they never heard of before, let alone know of? Do they know, or ask, how long it will be until they “wear-out”, again…and you cannot depend on a warranty to tell you, because they do not address the aged thermal effectiveness of the window – only how a new window performs in a controlled laboratory environment – today.
Perhaps the most popular window today is the vinyl window. And with good reason (on the surface, at least). Vinyl is a material that will last a long time, and is relatively inexpensive. Sounds good. But not that good…
Problem is, vinyl is flexible, and VERY susceptible to temperature changes. These two traits can wreak havoc on the stability of the two main materials used to make vinyl windows – vinyl and glass. These materials expand and contract at such different rates, window integrity is often impugned and that’s when you see fogging of the glass, frame bowing, separation of sash-to-frame sealing, etc. It may take some time, but eventually, these windows will not be performing to their initial ratings.
And while ratings are important in meeting Energy Star minimums, they only reflect the window tested as new, never as aged. So, buyer beware!
As far as familiarity goes, of course the biggest name is Andersen. And while Andersen makes a good window, it has become so mass produced, we worry about quality control issues. But for an off-the-shelf (see Home Depot for your size) window, it’s hard to beat Andersen. So, if you have immediate needs, they may be your best alternative.
Andersen also has a replacement division that we are all now familiar with: Renewal by Andersen. Also, a good window. And made of FIBREX!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, what’s Fibrex you ask? Well, I can tell you what it’s not: fiberglass. But I think Andersen is showing their true colors – and admiration of fiberglass as a material of the future. By calling their composite material Fibrex, they have suggested that there’s a certain (fiberglass?) component to it. They wish. It’s really just a glorified vinyl window. But if you just spent 3 hours with the Renewal salesman and the dog-and-pony show they’ve become infamous for, you probably figured that out by now…
Because of the deception, I can only grade Andersen an:
Your next best choice is another name we’re all familiar with: Pella. A name synonymous with style and innovation, Pella features the best vinyl window on the market – just ask Consumer Reports, who recently did their extensive testing and came to that conclusion. I trust Consumer Reports; they do not accept ANYTHING from manufacturers, they even go and buy the products anonymously, so you know their test results are legit. If you are conditioned to think that vinyl is the window you need, at least get a Pella. And they make a number of different lines (price points), so your choices will be many and varied.
Pella has also entered into the fiberglass window field with their fairly new addition of the Impervia line. Fiberglass is now being used by window manufacturers that have come to recognize it’s vastly superior characteristics to vinyl or aluminum. Just consider how many doors have now been made in fiberglass over the last 30 years…see ThermaTru for example (just plugging our door of choice!). It truly is the material of the future. Perhaps the now, too. And we are proud to be a Pella Certified Contractor.
With that kind of insight, they deserve an:
Finally, we come to a name you may – or may not – be familiar with: Marvin.
Marvin, like the previous two, has been around for over 100 years. But the most telling difference is in how they are marketed. It’s one of those read-between-the-lines things: you’ll never find a Marvin sitting on a shelf at a big box store, or anywhere else for that matter. Every window is custom made as the order is received. And nary a vinyl window. More on that in a moment.
While Pella and Andersen are available in your local big-box store, Marvin is only available from your local professional window dealer. No half-interested, semi-retired, trying-to-stay-out-of-the-wife’s-hair floor people here; just well-informed window professionals to deal with.
We like to think we are among that group: as a Marvin ARC (Authorized Replacement Contractor), we are in very select company, and value the designation as … special.
I won’t go into the extensive histories of Marvin, Pella or Andersen. Suffice it to say they are all interesting and the best of what America has to offer. Unlike so many vinyl window companies that are here today, gone tomorrow, and resurface under a new name the next day, these companies can be relied upon to be here for the duration…long haul…???
But I will recall the recent evolution of the window for your consideration. After all, you are considering this now, not a hundred years ago. When vinyl windows came out, they were seen as a true revelation – no painting, double pane insulating glass, tilt in cleaning, etc. Everything you could want in a window. But as time has shown, vinyl is probably better suited for other materials, such as siding. We are now embarking on an era of changing vinyl windows – and a lot of them – well before their expected time.
Just as we changed all that aluminum siding to vinyl siding over the last 30 years, we now are doing the same with all those vinyl windows. Some of these windows are only 10 years old, and are simply no longer serviceable. And do you know what we are changing all those vinyl windows to? Care to guess?
Yes, fiberglass windows are the way of the future. Right now. You might wonder how proven are they? Well, Marvin and Tecton pioneered pultruded fiberglass some 28 years ago. And not until 3 years later did Marvin introduced the first fiberglass window. They just do things differently in Warroad, Minnesota. Slow and Sure.
And they’ve never looked back. In fact, at the time, and until recently, the Marvin Clad Ultimate was known as the best window you could buy from the best maker on earth. It was the flagship product of the company. But a funny thing happened on the way to 2020: the fiberglass line of windows has now surpassed the Clad Ultimate in total units ordered at Marvin.
If you take nothing else away from this, know that.