Before you install new windows in your home, you need to choose a long-lasting, energy-efficient frame material. Try to look for a frame that complements your home’s design and enhances its curb appeal. It also helps to consider how well this new addition to your living space can withstand your local climate conditions. Use this guide to explore the best window materials for your property.
What Are Windows Made Of?
Explore these six standard window material options to find one that meets your design style and climate needs:
- Vinyl: As an affordable, low-maintenance window material, vinyl can serve a variety of applications. It has an excellent thermal performance rating to help you save money on energy costs. Even though it’s available in a few factory colors beside standard white, vinyl is also easy to paint. Keep in mind low-end and mid-range vinyl material can lose its quality in extreme sunlight, and low-quality vinyl can expand and contract in changing temperatures.
- Wood: Wooden windows protect your living space from harsh temperatures and outdoor noises with natural insulating properties. They can be more visually appealing than other materials, and they’re a popular choice for homeowners with traditional houses. High-quality wood has an elegant appearance on its own, but you can also paint it any color you want. However, wooden windows tend to be expensive, and you need to treat and maintain them often as they are very prone to rot, sun, and moisture damage.
- Aluminum: Even though aluminum is about the same price as vinyl, it’s more durable against the elements. Since it’s lightweight and flexible, it can accommodate windows with an unusual shape. This material is better suited for homes in warmer climates that don’t get snow. It’s a very poor insulator – as aluminum is a high conductor of hot and cold – and in the winter, it can be prone to condensation and moisture damage.
- Wood Aluminum clad: To enhance a wooden window’s durability, the manufacturer can apply aluminum or vinyl cladding to its exterior. Aluminum clad is resistant to dents and popular in areas that get heavy storms, while vinyl is low-maintenance and can withstand humidity. Aluminum clad wood windows are still susceptible to rot and moisture damage as the main construction of the window is wood. These materials offer various color options to give your home a unique look.
- Composite: This window material contains a mixture of recycled plastic and wood. Though composite windows look like wood, they tend to be more durable and can insulate against drafts and noise. They’re also easy to maintain and resistant to moisture damage. How long these products last has yet to be seen as they were just introduced in the 1990s. Also keep in mind they’re a lot more expensive than vinyl, and they may look out of place in a traditional home.
- Fiberglass: As a durable alternative to vinyl, fiberglass is less vulnerable to expanding, contracting, and warping from hot and cold temperatures. It’s also energy efficient and low-maintenance. However, the durability and energy-efficiency comes at a high price, and there are fewer color options available for fiberglass windows.
Choosing the Best Window for Your Region
Your window’s appearance is essential for choosing a framing material, but you should also consider how well the material can withstand your home’s regular weather conditions. In the north, homeowners want to stay warm in the winter. In the south, homeowners want to get the most use out of their air conditioner in the summer. If you live in the mid-Atlantic region, you get four unique seasons throughout the year, including humid summers, snowy winters and extreme changes in temperatures, so energy efficiency is crucial all year long.
Being local to the mid-Atlantic region, Homespire is very familiar with its climate, so we’ve designed our Made in the USA Certified windows to withstand the seasons. Our energy-efficient glass and 100% virgin vinyl frames could potentially reduce your monthly energy costs by up to 35%.
Reading Window Rating Stickers
Once you know what type of window material you want, you can compare options to help you save money and enhance your curb appeal. Window products have labels on them that describe their performance scores. Here are some of the ratings and what they mean:
- U-value or U-factor: The window’s U-value measures its heat transfer rate, or how well it can insulate the home and keep hot air from escaping. On a scale from 0.20 to 1.20, lower ratings mean better performance and more savings on energy costs. Consider the proper U-value to accommodate your Energy Star climate zone.
- Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC): The SHGC indicates a window’s ability to block the heat from sunlight. The number ranges from 0 to 1, and a lower rating allows less solar heat into your house. Try finding a product with a low SHGC for parts of the house that face east or west and receive excess sunlight during the day. You might want a window with a higher SHGC to keep your home warmer in the winter.
- Visible transmittance (VT): To know how well a window can conduct daylight to provide lighting for your home, look at its VT rating. A higher number from 0 to 1 means more natural light can come through the glass, reducing your need for artificial lighting. Some energy-efficient glass panes can have a lower VT because they typically feature thicker material that obstructs sunlight.
- Air leakage: This number, measured at 0.3 or less, tells you how much air your window will allow into your home. A lower rating means fewer drafts, resulting in enhanced comfort and energy cost savings. Consult with a representative about finding a product with an air leakage rate that accommodates Energy Star requirements.
- Design pressure (DP): A window’s DP indicates how much force it can withstand before it breaks. A higher number means a more sturdy product. You’ll need one with a high DP if you live in a climate with snow, heavy winds, and storms.
- Condensation resistance: This number tells you how much moisture can accumulate on your window. A high rating on a scale from 1 to 100 means the glass is less likely to develop water damage. Invest in a product with a higher condensation resistance rating if your local area gets a lot of rain and humidity throughout the year.
In addition to these numbers, proper installation ensures higher savings and better protection from the elements. An energy-efficient window may have excellent ratings, but it could let in air and moisture if it’s not installed correctly. Not to mention, a window that may perform very high on the charts when manufactured does not necessarily mean your window will perform at those same levels over time. The construction quality, materials used, and spacer system for retaining gas will all factor into how long your windows will last. For long-lasting quality, let the professionals at Homespire Windows and Doors put in your new windows with a team of experienced, reliable technicians.
Customize Your Perfect Window With Homespire
We offer a vast selection of custom replacement window installation options for your home. You can work with us to create a durable, energy-efficient product to guard your living space against unpleasant weather and harmful intruders. Contact us online or call 1-844-789-0256 for a free window analysis today.