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On the House

Windows That Offer More Than a View


In addition to their aesthetics, windows are highly functional. They are a key element in promoting natural ventilation and can conserve energy.

Shopping for windows involves several important decisions. Some rules of thumb:

* You don't want your remodel to look like one. If you aren't going to change all the windows, consider matching the frame of the new window type as closely as possible to the frames on the existing ones.

* Regardless of the frame type, consider upgrading to insulated glass. One, two or three sheets of glass? They all look the same at a glance but the better the insulating value, the more comfort. R-value measures energy efficiency of the glass. The higher the R-value, the more efficient the glass. U-value measures the efficiency of the glass and the frame together. The lower the U-value the better.

* Do some research. Each type of window has advantages and disadvantages. Wood-frame windows are more energy-efficient and reduce condensation, but they are maintenance-intense and expensive. Metal-frame windows are low maintenance and inexpensive but transmit heat and cold, and condensation can be a problem. Wood windows that have plastic or metal exterior covers are a good bet--less maintenance on the exterior side (where wood is most often in need of maintenance) and top energy efficiency. Unfortunately, metal or plastic over wood is the most expensive kind of window.

Vinyl windows are low maintenance and better suited to resist condensation than are metal ones. However, plastics have a tendency to become brittle.

* Most folks are "light conscious." The brighter it is, the more natural light available, the more a home is appreciated. If you are upgrading, don't downsize; if anything, you might want to increase the window size.

* Be sure to purchase from a major manufacturer. With today's insulated windows, you can expect guarantees that extend from 10 years to life. Since even the best of insulated windows fail, warranty is essential. Smaller companies may offer a good warranty, but may not be around to honor it later.

* If you intend to use wood interior windows, look for wood that will complement other wood on the interior of your home--cabinets, wainscot, chair rail, door trim, etc.

* Be sure the window you choose is easy to operate. Sliding windows are among the easiest to operate. However, a large window with a heavy wood frame that you have to reach over a counter to get to can be hard to open. With just about any type of window, large moving panels can be tough to open as well. Keep operating sections manageable in size. If you decide on casement windows, make sure the operating assembly is smooth and easy to use.

* Finally, don't forget glass coated with a low-emissivity (usually called low-e) material. It is more energy-efficient and will save dollars on your heating and cooling bills.


Readers can mail questions to On the House, APNewsfeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10020, or e-mail careybro@onthe


What to Look for When Selecting a Window * Wood frames are the most energy-efficient.

* Glass should be insulated for extra energy-efficiency.

* Pick low-E type glass for even more energy savings.

* Buy windows with a lifetime warranty from a well-known manufacturer.

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