How to analyze windows when buying a home

Oct 15, 2006

Simonton Windows

Displaced survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have scrambled to purchase new homes in Baton Rouge, Houston, Atlanta and other markets in the wake of the devastating storm. While many have a “must buy now” attitude, building industry experts advise people to slow down and make smart buying decisions.

“It’s understandable that people want to restart their lives as quickly as possible, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of making poor purchasing decisions,” says Don Zeman, host of the nationally-syndicated Homefront radio show. “Buyers need to carefully evaluate a home, especially the windows, before making a financial commitment.”

According to Zeman, who has 25 years experience as a contractor, windows are tops on the list of considerations because they’re intimately connected to the energy performance of a house.

“People generally don’t realize how critical windows are to a home,” says Zeman. “Older, poor quality windows are a major source of energy loss. Conversely, well-performing windows can help homeowners lower their energy bills by keeping a home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This is important especially now when natural gas prices are expected to rise dramatically as a result of Katrina. Anything a homeowner can do to help control energy bills is important.”

What makes a window “good” or “bad” and how can homeowners identify the difference? According to experts at Simonton Windows®, the age, efficiency and composition of windows in a home should be reviewed before making a purchase.“

Older windows can lose their efficiency,” says Bill Lazor, senior product manager with Simonton Windows. “They can actually suck the life and energy out of a home causing heating and cooling bills to soar. Just like every other product in the home, windows have a lifespan. “Typically, windows should be replaced about every 20 – 25 years. Windows made with vinyl frames and insulated glass units create some of the most energy efficient products in the marketplace.”

Lazor recommends that when looking at a potential home purchase, consumers check for “burnt out” areas on carpets near windows. “That’s an indication that harmful ultraviolet rays are easily entering the home through the glass panes,” says Lazor. “This means the windows do not have an efficient glass package and it’s an indicator that a homeowner may expect high energy bills. If this is the case, a home buyer may need to invest in replacement windows with Low E coatings that are designed to filter out the sun’s harmful UV rays and reduce fading inside the home.”

Lazor offers the following tips to help home buyers evaluate the effectiveness of windows in a home they’re viewing to purchase:

Tip #1 –Determine how many panes of glass are in the windows. Single-paned windows are the least energy efficient. You can replace them with double- or triple-paned ENERGY STAR® compliant windows to enhance energy efficiency and make a home more comfortable during all seasons.

Tip #2 – Do the windows open and close easily? If the windows are hard to open or close — or they don’t stay open or won’t lock — it could be a sign that the windows need replacing.

Tip #3 – Have someone stand outside the window. With a small flashlight, stand inside and “travel” around the window’s perimeter. If the person outside sees areas of light coming through, this is an indication of seal failure — and probably energy loss.

Tip #4 – Check the window frames. If you find warping, pitting or rotting wood or aluminum frames, it’s time to consider replacing the windows. If you go this route, consider vinyl framed windows for your replacement package. Vinyl is a great insulator, plus it’s easy to maintain.
Tip #5 –Look for condensation inside the glass on double- or triple-glazed windows. This could indicate seal failure. If this is the case, you might need to replace the glass or the entire window.

For more details on evaluating windows, call 1-800-SIMONTON to request the free booklet, “What Every Homeowner Should Know About Window Replacement.” And, for additional product information, visit