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Home Improvement : THE SENSIBLE HOME

Vinyl Windows Are Clearly an Improvement

October 04, 1998|JAMES DULLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

QUESTION: I am tired of old drafty, hard-to-clean windows that sweat and always need painting. Have the quality and appearance of maintenance-free replacement vinyl windows improved enough to be a good choice?

ANSWER: Vinyl replacement windows have been an excellent choice for many years. Some new ones have a lifetime warranty on the frame, glass: everything. I installed 16 special prototype foam-filled vinyl windows in my home 10 years ago, and I have not had a single problem with them.

There are many new design improvements for 1998 that make vinyl windows one of the best replacement window options available. Technology has improved to the point that some vinyl windows have realistic-looking natural grain wood interior surfaces, yet they still require zero maintenance.

Most vinyl windows are still reasonably priced as compared to other window materials. Although most people install replacement windows for comfort and convenience (some even have special easy-clean glass), you will notice a significant reduction in your utility bills.

What you will notice first is the reduction in outdoor noise, especially if you select the proper glass option. Along with the reduced noise are reductions in dust and allergens indoors and less fading of your furniture and carpets.

Most vinyl replacement window designs use multichambered hollow extruded vinyl frame and window sash sections. An extrusion process is similar to how a cookie press works. Windows with fusion welded section corners are best.

The chambers inside the frame create multiple dead air spaces that provide excellent insulation R-value and strength. Several window manufacturers offer optional foam insulation filling inside these chambers. This further increases the R-value, stability and noise reduction.

The newest vinyl window design, called Legend, uses a solid cellular foam window frame instead of the typical hollow frame. It can be painted and has the look and feel of real grained wood. Another new design uses a real wood fiber composite on the interior that is actually formed into the frame itself.

Casement replacement windows are becoming more popular because of their high efficiency and security. For convenience, choose a single-handle design with multi-latch point locks. Also consider secure tilt-turn windows (popular in Europe) that either swing in or tilt in with the turn of a knob.

The glass is still the heart of a window. As a minimum, select dual-pane windows with a low-emissivity coating and argon gas in the gap. The most efficient--and most expensive--glass option is Heat Mirror. This stops almost all fading and is available in either hot or cold climate designs.

Write for (or instant download http://www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 689, a buyer's guide of the 20 highest-quality, most efficient vinyl window manufacturers, frame-glass options, styles, colors, features and a glass selector chart. Please include $3 and a business-size self-addressed envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Light Switch Imparts Conservation Message

Q: I keep telling my children to switch off the lights when they leave a room, but it never seems to sink in. I am thinking of using their weekly allowance for the electric bills. Do you have any ideas?

A: Leaving lights on is a triple budget hit--wastes electricity, makes your air conditioner run more and causes bulbs to burn out more often.

The perfect product for you is the Parrot by Messaging Products. It is a wall light switch in which you can record a 20-second message. It plays when the light is switched on. It could say "Don't forget the lights" or "Wash the dishes by the time I get home or else!" Change the message often.

Letters and questions to James Dulley, a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant, may be sent to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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