First you should do some research on the window itself.
Make sure that it is energy efficient and is certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council(“NFRC”) and has the Energy Star seal. The u-factor is the measurement of how energy efficient the window is and the lower, the better. The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient is a measure of how much heat penetrates the glass. Again, the lower, the better. If these ratings are both 0.30 ratings are minimums to qualify for the Energy Tax Credit under President Obama’s Economic Stimulus Act. This is 30% of the cost of the windows, up to a maximum of $1500. But the 0.30 ratings are minimum to qualify for the credit. There are many windows which have much better ratings, with some as low as 0.16, so don’t settle for those just barely making the grade. You want the best you can get, because energy cost are only going to go up in the future. No one is predicting that they will go down.
Make sure that the window is well made. It should have a heavy-duty vinyl frame and should have aluminum reinforcement so that it keeps its shape when the outside temperatures go way up way down. Flimsy, non-reinforced windows will warp and let in drafts and water. They should also have foam injected into the frames and sashes to give them better insulation properties.
The windows should have strong, lifetime warranties so that you never have to worry about replacing them again in5 or 10 years. If possible you should get them directly from the factory so that they can fix or replace parts is anything ever does go wrong. You don’t want to get the windows from a company who will tell you that they’ll order replacement parts from a factory in Ohio which will fill the order when they get around it. Since the factory has no direct business relationship with you the consumer, you have no priority to them. You’re just a number.
Next you should research the company who will do the actual installation.
You want to go with reliable company who will be around in the future when you needthem. The installer must be licensed and insured for your protection. They should have a showroom where you can go to see full- sized installed samples of their windows, so you can see the quality and see how they look when actually installed. The contractor’s pride in the showroom is an indication of the pride they take in their work and it will probably reflect in the quality of the job they do at YOUR home. There are many unscrupulous companies that claim to be factories, when they are not. If they call themselves a factory, ask to see it.
There are also many unscrupulous companies who knock their competitors and try to get you to cancel subsequent appointments. To find out the treaty about the competition, you should cheek their records with your County Office of Consumer Affairs. When people have serious problems with a home improvement job, they usually complain to Consumer Affairs because they “have the teeth” to enforce their findings if the contractor is at fault. Once you’re satisfied with the quality of the window, you want to choose the contractor with the fewest consumer complaints. Make sure that the window you get is really the one that was advertised and shown to you. Don’t fall for the “center-of-the-glass” ratings. That was why the NFRC was established – to establish an objective, uniform standard for rating the whole window instead just part of it. Beware also of the deceptive use of “r- values” to describe the efficiency of windows. R-values are used to rate the efficiency of wall and attic insulation. Windows are rated in terms of their u-factors.
The technology has made tremendous improvements in the past couple of years. Spend the time to research the window of the NFRC website, www.NFRC.org. The Site explains a lot about buying windows and list the ratings of all the windows that are certified for their energy efficiency. It will be worth your time – you’ll get the best windows. Then research with Consumer Affairs about the companies you are considering – then you’ll get the best installation and warranty.
Written by John Kypreos, President of Tri-State Window Factory Corp.