The quality of the vinyl material used in the replacement windows affects how long it lasts and how it looks. Cheaper materials tend to discolor or yellow over time. A bluish tint is sometimes added to low-end vinyl windows so they don't show yellowing as fast. If you place two samples next to one another, you are likely to notice the bluish tint. While not always an indicator, a blue coloring on a low-cost window is likely to mean lower quality materials were used.
Vinyl replacement windows give you a new window option that is low-maintenance and attractive. The cost and quality of vinyl windows varies widely, making it necessary to compare the options to find a high-quality option. Seeking quality construction and materials improves the energy-efficiency of your home and protects the investment you make in the windows.
The ratings on a replacement window give you an indication of the quality. The U-factor describes the rate at which heat flows through the window. A lower U-factor means the window is more energy efficient. You will also find a solar heat gain coefficient, or SHGC, listed for windows. This indicates how much heat from the sun is allowed into the home through the windows. If you live in a cold climate, a higher SHGC means the windows could help heat the home. For hot climates, a lower SHGC is better because it keeps more of the heat outdoors to keep your home cooler.
Sturdy construction is a factor in buying a quality replacement window. Vinyl can be connected either by screws or welding. A welded window uses heat to turn the vinyl into one piece for a finished look and fewer gaps. The welding does sometimes let in air along channels designed to help rain drain outside. The screw method uses both brackets and caulk to get a firm, waterproof connection between the vinyl pieces. The caulk sometimes breaks down over time or is damaged during transport of the windows, decreasing the effectiveness of the connection.
The internal components and features of the windows also affect how well they work. Vinyl windows have chambers inside that affect the strength and resistance to warping. The more chambers a vinyl window has, the better quality it is. A window retailer should have a cross section of each window type available so you are able to see what is inside. Another consideration is glazing on the glass. A low-E coating on the window glass reduces the amount of heat transferred through the window for greater energy efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the low-E glaze reduces energy loss by 30 to 50 percent.
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