Dave’s 10 Tips for Buying New Windows
Honest answers to help clear up the confusion created by salespeople trying to make their product sound better than the next.
1. Pre-Qualify Your Contractor Before You Take a Quote?
Why not let the top rated and most qualified companies in the state compete for your business? Insist on a specialty window contractor that does one thing and does it well. Protect yourself by only inviting contractors that have general liability and workman’s compensation insurance, an A-Rating with the BBB, are Gephardt Approved and have AAMA Certified crews and staff. Insist on a list of current customer references with names, addresses and phone numbers. Check on-line reviews from Google, Angie’s list and KSL to see their performance with other customers like you.
2. Coupons and “Sign Today” Discounts?
Don’t be fooled by manipulative sales tactics that offer you special promotions and huge discounts which often only apply if you “sign today”. These high pressure tactics are used to keep you from getting other estimates and finding out what a legitimate price really is. At HomeStar, we never offer fake discounts and our price is just as good after you sleep on it. In addition, we guarantee the best value price in the State of Utah! (See Our Best Value Price Guarantee.)
3. Choice of Manufacturers?
It is important to compare the differences in locks, wheels, screens and frame designs between the various manufacturers. In my opinion, Milgard has some unique advantages in these areas. But, to be completely honest, no matter which manufacturer you choose, your windows will likely require some maintenance or replacement parts in your lifetime. The real gap between manufacturers is in their warranty coverage’s and in their ability and willingness to honor your warranty without a hassle. For this reason, I would unequivocally recommend Milgard. Milgard is an award-wining national brand window with the most comprehensive warranty in the industry. My customers tend to choose Milgard because they love their unique features with the auto locks, the easy glide wheel system, the pull rail screen frames, night locks and PureView screen mesh, but to me, Milgard’s greatest asset is the way they honor their lifetime parts and labor warranty. They truly provide a hassle free warranty experience for my customers. The Milgard warranty even covers glass breakage for life.
4. Energy Savings and Energy Ratings?
There are many reasons why people are replacing their existing windows. They may have condensation between the glass, a cracked or broken window, or maybe they just can’t open them anymore! Others are hoping to reduce their utility bills. New windows will solve all these problems, but when it comes to energy savings, don’t be fooled by overstatements. The average savings for window replacement is 10-15%… not 30%-40% as often stated by some window dealers. The most reliable information on the subject is found at EnergyStar.gov and EfficientWindows.org. These organizations have no ties to manufactures or dealers. When you switch from metal or wood framed windows to dual pane vinyl framed or fiberglass framed windows with Low E3 glass and Argon gas, you should achieve a U-Factor and SHGC Rating below .30 – no matter what manufactured product you choose. Anything below a .30 U-Factor or .30 SHGC Factor will qualify you for all the utility company rebates and the Federal Tax Credits (if available). Keep in mind that you achieve about 95%-97% of your potential energy savings at these ratings. Trying to get much below a .30 is like “splitting hairs”.
5. Triple Pane? Foam Filled Frames? Krypton Gas?
There are some additional things you can do to drive the U-Factor and SHGC rating down a few more points by upgrading to triple pane glass, adding foam to the hollow cavity in the vinyl frame or adding Krypton gas in place of Argon gas. However, you will only gain a nominal amount of additional savings with these upgrades and you probably won’t notice any real difference from a comfort level in the home. The cost for upgrading to these features is about 20-40% more or $1500-2000 for the average home. Your return on investment would be 20 years or more! In most cases, I do not recommend that you pay for these expensive, overrated upgrades.
6. “High Tech” Glass Spacers?
Almost every manufacturer of vinyl windows use “high tech energy efficient glass spacers”. These spacers are placed between the layers of glass to seal the glass from condensation. Most manufacturer warranties now cover condensation between the glass for life. It’s just not a big selling point anymore, so don’t be fooled by all the hype about foam spacers vs butyl wrapped metal spacers. They are all pretty equal.
7. Choice of Frames… Aluminum , Wood, Fiberglass or Vinyl?
Yes, believe it or not thermal break aluminum windows are still available in Utah but rarely used anymore due to heat and cold transfer through the metal. Wood is maintenance prone and expensive. That leaves vinyl and fiberglass frames. Fiberglass windows are about double the cost of vinyl windows and have the same energy ratings. People buy fiberglass when they are looking to achieve the authentic look of wood windows with 3D grid designs and multiple color options inside and out including wood cladding on the interior. The majority of our customers tend to choose vinyl because it is practical and cost effective.
If you choose vinyl, don’t be fooled when you hear people talk about how their “virgin vinyl” is so much better than another…the gap is minimal at best. No manufacturer covers the potentiality of vinyl discoloration or yellowing, but bottom line, it’s just not happening anymore. I do however recommend that you take a look at the glazing bead that snaps into a groove around the glass. This is a weak point on many windows because the manufactures use a thin wall (“clam shell”) piece that it is not extruded from the same vinyl as the mainframe. These are known to turn yellow, melt, crack and crumble over time. We can show you the difference in a “ thick wall” glazing bead and a “clam shell” glazing bead when we come out.
8. Wheels: Don’t be fooled by claims that “brass wheels are better”?
Brass wheels tend to patina on the vinyl and leave a greasy black mark along the track. They corrode over time, squeak and eventually lock up. This may sound cheap, but the best wheels in the industry are double carriage Delrin (plastic) wheels with stainless steel axles. The plastic rides quietly and smoothly along vinyl tracks, never corrodes and can be easily replaced in about 2 seconds if they ever fail or get damaged. (I still haven’t replaced a single set in 15 years!)
9. Locks: Most windows in Utah have “cam locks”?
Cam locks are secure but tend to be tedious to operate and line up with the moving sash. Milgard has by far the most impressive lock designs in the entire industry. These award-winning locks are sleek looking, easy to operate and are made of solid steel parts (with commendations from the Arthritis Foundation) and meet all forced entry testing requirements. Also, insist on a “Pop-up” night lock feature that allows you to leave your window open a few inches, but helps prevent intruders from being able to open the window the rest of the way. Pop-up locks also deter small children from opening 2nd story windows and the risk of falling out.
10. Screens: Most windows come with screens that are flimsy?
and have plastic tabs that break off the 3rd time you use them! Watch for windows with a “Pull-Rail Screen Frame” that strengthens the screen frame and eliminates the need for plastic tabs. Also ask for “PureView” screens that have a finer mesh, improving your view and preventing smaller insects from getting into the house. HomeStar offers these upgraded screen products as standard on all Milgard quotes.
I hope this has been helpful to you in completing your research. Buying windows is not rocket science but it can be a little confusing trying to evaluate your options and make a wise decision on this once in a lifetime purchase. Feel free to drop by our product comparison table at our showroom in Sandy to handle and operate windows from the seven brands that we carry. Seeing the windows side by side and comparing the wheels, locks, screens and frame designs can be very helpful. I am usually at the showroom daily between 10-2pm and would love to meet you in person and show you some comparisons. In the final analysis, I am confident that HomeStar can provide you the best value for your dollar on this important investment in your home.
Dave Orgill, Owner HomeStar Windows & Doors