Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mike Holmes: Which Window Is Best For You?

All windows are designed to serve the same basic functions -- ventilation, airflow, and light -- but windows have come a long way from their single-paned ancestors of yesteryear. Modern technology has added a lot of factors to consider when choosing the proper window for your home. For one, modern windows can be double or even triple-paned, with low-E coatings and/or inert gasses such as krypton and argon between the layers. What are the reasons for this? As Mike Holmes explains in the article below, windows are a primary source of heat loss and gain, so by increasing the panes and insulating them with gasses or coatings, you increase the R-value of the windows, which saves you money on your heating and cooling bill all while allowing you to enjoy natural light. Choosing the type of window and frame that is best for you depends on what type of house you have, what type of look you want, and how much maintenance you are willing to put into it to keep your windows and frames functioning at their best.


From the Montreal Gazette:

Mike Holmes: Which window is the best for you?

Lots of options, but no easy answer

 
After a decade, Mike Holmes still cares because he knows the work he, his crew and others do makes a real difference to the people they help.
Photograph by: Alex Schuldt/The Holmes Group, Postmedia News
 
Windows serve three purposes: They provide light, airflow and ventilation. But they should also help keep the heat out in the summer and in during the winter. That has to do with R-value — in other words, insulation — and the air-tightness around the window itself.
Every window leaks heat. You can have the best windows on the market — triple-paned, double low-E coatings — but they will not have the same insulation value as an insulated wood or concrete wall. No matter how thermally efficient the window is the R-value can’t be as high.
The trend today is to increase the size of your windows, not to mention the number of windows in a home. People love natural light. But at the same time we need to make sure the windows are improving the house — not working against it.
Heat loss and gain through windows accounts for about half of our heating and cooling needs. A poorly installed and/or insulated window is like having a giant hole in your home’s exterior — and you will see the proof in your energy bills.
When it comes to window choice, there are several options, which can be overwhelming for some homeowners.
It used to be that all you could get were single-paned windows — those are windows that have just one sheet of glass. Now you can get windows that are double- or triple-paned, windows with argon or krypton gas, low-E coatings in between the panes — and different combinations of each, like low-E double-paned windows or low-E triple-paned windows with argon gas.
What’s the difference? For starters, double-paned window has two layers of glass; triple-paned has three. Multiple layers of glass allow for insulation to go in between the panes, and that boosts up the R-value.
The most common types of insulation are argon or krypton gas. Krypton insulates better than argon but it’s also more expensive. If you have the budget it’s a good investment. But argon gas-filled windows are still very good. If a home has argon gas-filled windows, I wouldn’t be disappointed.
If you’re not the original owner of your home, you might not know if your windows are gas filled. When you bought the house the previous owners would have probably told you, since they do make for better windows and cost more. But if you want to make sure you can check the window tag. It’s usually on the bottom inside track of the window.
You can also try looking for two small holes on the spacer — one hole is where the gas would have been injected, and the other hole is for air to exit.
Another feature to look for is low-E glass, or low-emissivity glass. This is a microscopic metallic-oxide coating on the glass that lets in light but also helps stop heat — and ultraviolet rays — from transferring through the window.
Sometimes heat transfer is a good thing. In the winter, we want the sun to help heat our homes. But I’ve heard some homeowners complain about turning up their furnace more often after installing triple-paned windows. That’s because some windows do an excellent job at stopping heat transfer. But just like they help stop heat from escaping your home, they also don’t let the natural heat from the sun come in.
One option is to have triple-paned windows on the north side of the house only, and then double-paned on rest. This provides the extra insulation needed to help block north winds, but still allows some heat to get in on all the other sides. It’s a tricky balance, which is why you should talk to a pro.
Once you’ve decided on the type of glass you want, you have to choose the framing. The most common are wood, metal — and vinyl, which tends to last longer and is easier to clean. Metal can get scratched and dented. Wood is nice but requires a lot of maintenance; you will need to repaint your windows at least every five years, and that’s if it’s done really well. The natural expansion and contraction of the wood frame can crack the paint. The basic rule of thumb is that if you can see the wood, the frame needs to be re-caulked and re-painted.
What type of window is the best? Most people want an easy answer. But like most things, there is no easy answer. It depends on the house and the application. The key is finding a professional who will know what type of windows will work best for your home, and who’ll make sure they are properly installed.
Catch Mike Holmes in an all-new season of Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

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