There are many reasons to consider replacing your current windows. If they are out-dated and worn out, you could be spending a lot more to heat or cool your home than you need to, especially with the current skyrocketing of energy costs. In addition to saving money, you'll enhance both the value and the appearance of your home.
Let's briefly review the broad range of window frame types from which you can choose. Clad windows combine the weatherproof exteriors with attractive wooden interiors. The two most popular options are vinyl and aluminum clad. Although both types are among the most expensive alternatives, the combination of long-lasting protection and traditional beauty may justify the extra expense.
Vinyl Clad Window Frames
Vinyl clad wood replacement windows are probably your best choice in more drastic, extreme climates with a broad temperature swings because they have exceptional insulating properties. They save on heating and cooling costs because they have greater the resistance to heat transfer and therefore higher energy efficiency. In addition, they are available in a wide variety of colors and styles and are virtually maintenance free. Since the color runs all the way through the vinyl, scratches are almost invisible. Next, they never need to be repainted, making maintenance simple. They will not corrode, swell, chip, peel, rot, or rust. They will continue to look new and last for a number of years.
In milder climates, aluminum clad wood replacement windows are also a great option. While their insulating qualities aren't especially impressive, they are far stronger than the vinyl clad variety. On the downside, they are more likely to become dented or abraded, but they can be painted if necessary.
Wood Window Frames
While wood enhances the look of your home with a traditional appeal and provides natural insulation, it is the most expensive of your options. Not only is the purchase price higher than most other style but the long-term upkeep is steeper as well. Wood windows require constant vigilant protection from the not only from the elements but also from critters with mandibles and a taste for cellulose. This means painting and repainting on a regular basis. If inadequately protected, wood replacement windows will eventually rot, split, or warp. Because wood absorbs water like a sponge, your windows will stick when it's humid. Wood replacement windows offer classic beauty and style but at a price.
Aluminum Window Frames
Aluminum replacement windows on the other hand won't split warp, or shrink and they will last almost forever. They are light and easy to install and operate and will provide many years of maintenance-free use. Unless of course you live near the ocean. Aluminum is notoriously inclined to deterioration when subjected to humid, salty air. They are also prone to condensation if they are not properly insulated.
Steel Window Frames
If your primary concern is durability, steel window frames will weather anything the elements throw at and come back for more, year after year. Generally installed commercially they are also proportionately expensive but they are a great investment. The advantage to steel is that it's very strong. As a result, you can install a larger pane of glass because the frame can be very thin and still support substantial weight. Steel is also fire resistant, impervious to termites or chemical pesticides, repels any type of fungi, mold, or organism. In addition, it does not expand or contract with moisture or temperature changes. While steel is durable, it is not entirely maintenance free; unless it is entirely covered with paint, it will rust. Steel is also a poor thermal insulator, so heat escapes through the sash and frame, while moisture condenses on interior surfaces.
Fiberglass Window Frames
Fiberglass window are the new kid on the block but are quickly catching up to vinyl as the most popular window choice. Why? Fiberglass is even stronger than vinyl, more durable in even the most extreme climates, and capable of supporting large expanses of glass. At the same time, it is only slightly more expensive than vinyl and can actually be painted on-site, giving you a wider choice of colors. If the color fades a little with time, the window can be painted just like wood, but it will not deteriorate structurally even if you don't paint it. It also lasts longer than wood. Fiberglas won't warp, crack, peel, or split. Since fiberglass does not conduct heat or cold, it's more energy efficient than wood and, because fiberglass is so strong, the frames can be made hollow and filled with insulating material. Fiberglass has excellent resistance to corrosion and rotting and is also good for seaside applications and other chemically sensitive environments. Fiberglass is impervious to termites and other pests, and has self-extinguishing capabilities in case of fire and does not emit toxic fumes.
Vinyl Window Frames
Vinyl windows are still the most popular choice for replacement windows. Unlike wood clad vinyl windows, regular vinyl windows are hollow inside, but they are still strong. Made of polyvinyl chloride, they provide durability, require low-maintenance, and improve energy efficiency. Vinyl windows have a number of advantages. First, they save on heating and cooling costs because PVC is a poor conductor. You will never have to paint them, not even to begin with. Vinyl windows are easy to customize, and come in all the major window style. However, vinyl windows can discolor in extreme weather conditions, will not withstand intense heat, and are more difficult to shape than aluminum windows. Although they are dent resistant and sturdy, they can become distorted in areas of extreme cold or excessive heat.
Before you commit to a window replacement project, consider the type of window you want. You'll need to factor in budget, location, and the design of your home. Because there are so many choices of material, this may seem an imposing task, but once you've analyzed the pertinent factors, the correct choice should be apparent especially if you call upon the services of a knowledgeable professional to help you review the options.
Once you've decided to replace your windows, how do you choose from the many types and styles available? Because replacement windows are a major investment, you need to carefully consider your options. The design of your home, your local weather, even the orientation of your home all contribute to your decision. Each type of window has its strengths and weaknesses and if you do your homework and compare replacement windows, you can maximize the former while minimizing the latter.