About 63 million windows are sold annually in the United States, nearly 70 percent of which are replacement windows. With countless products on the market, how can a consumer pick a good window?
First, find out if the window is certified by the National Fenestration Ratings Council. Its glass should also have an ENERGY STAR® seal of approval.
"I tell people if it's not NFRC, don't buy it," says John Kypreos of Tri-State Window Factory in Deer Park. (The Web site, www.nfrc.org, lists products and details its rating system.)
Next, make sure the window has some type of frame-reinforcement properties, says Bob Nyman of Crystal Windows in Queens. "Vinyl frames should be reinforced in some manner," he says.
Finally, Trent Winfree of Andersen Windows advises consumers to consider warranties. "Andersen has a 20-10 warranty, 20 years on the glass, 10 on the frame," he says.
Once you've checked these factors, here's how to pick a good window for Long Island, based on council's ratings, says the organization's executive director, Jim Benney.
U-factor. "A big factor in colder areas," Benney says. "This number measures how well a window keeps heat inside a building. In the Northeast, you'd want a .4 rating or less." The lower the U-value, the greater a window's resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value.
Solar heat gain coefficient. This measures how well a product blocks heat caused by sunlight. In regions of intense heat (such as Arizona), the lower number would be advantageous. On Long Island, where some heat gain in winter months is desired, a rating of .4 is acceptable. "In the summer, you won't have to use the air conditioning as much. In the winter, it retains some heat,"
Visible light trasmittance. How much sunlight penetrates glass. The higher the VT number, the more light is transmitted. "In the Northeast, probably .50 is about right," Benney says. "If you are designing to allow more light, you'd go higher, perhaps .55 or .65."
Air Leakage. Expressed as the equivalent of cubic feet of air passing through a square foot of window area per minute (cfm/sq. ft.) A rating of .3 cfm or less is desirable. The lower the AL, the less air will pass through cracks in the window assembly.
Jim and Margaret Murano did plenty of research before signing a contract to buy their new windows last summer. They gathered information from friends, clicked on company web sites and marched into building supply showrooms.
In the end, they were satisfied, a bit surprised, actually. They purchased vinyl replacement windows that fit both their needs and their budget.
"I never felt we had to just settle for something," Jim Murano says. Margaret adds: "We really had a limited budget, but I really feel we got a good product."
Like many consumers looking for new or replacement windows today, the Muranos found more for their 45-year-old Deer Park ranch than 21 windows (for less than $10,000). They discovered an industry that in the past decade has been enhanced by technology and advanced by consumer demand. Whether buying high-end, from companies such as Andersen, Pella, Marvin, Simonton or Certainteed, or locally, such as the Muranos' pick, Tri-State Window Factory in Deer Park, consumers can get products rated for performance, primarily energy savings and structual strength.