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Buying new windows: A guide to framing, glazing, and insulation

Canadian homeowners in the market for new windows have more choice than ever before. As new products continue to emerge, combining affordability, energy efficiency and good looks, researching window options becomes an increasingly essential part of the window replacement exercise.

When shopping for new windows, there are two primary components to consider: the framing material, and the glazing or glass. Combined, these two components contribute to the energy efficiency of the window.

Window Frame Options

Let’s start by looking at some of the window frame options available to homeowners in Canada. Your choice of window frame material can have an impact on the window’s overall energy efficiency.

Aluminum Windows

Aluminum windows are a durable, low maintenance window option. This style of frame tends to have a low profile, which places more emphasis on the glass. This is an excellent option, particularly for homeowners who place a high priority on the view from their windows.

When purchasing aluminum windows, it’s important to ensure that they are thermally enhanced, to improve their energy efficiency. Here is what Canadian aluminum manufacturer – Cando Aluminum has to say about thermal enhancement.

“Thermal enhancement is very important, especially for the demanding Canadian climate, as aluminum windows with thermally enhanced framing will ensure the maximum warmth is kept inside the building during the cold winter months, and alternatively keeping the building cool during the summer.”(Cando Aluminum).

Fibreglass Windows

new wndows

Source: Fibretec

Fibreglass windows are the newest option on the market. In addition to their design versatility and high energy efficiency rating, this window frame option provides incredible durability. According to Canadian Fibreglass window and door experts –Fibretec, this style is highly resistant to corrosion and rot, as well as twisting, warping, rotting, cracking or shrinking.

Fibreglass windows are available in a wide range of styles, including a very popular option that mimics the appearance of wood.

Vinyl Windows

Source: Brock Doors and Windows

Vinyl has been an extremely popular option for homeowners buying new windows in recent years. As a window framing material, vinyl has been lauded for its energy efficiency, affordability, and the fact that it’s extremely easy to maintain.

“[…] Vinyl replacement windows are durable and energy efficient with built-in insect and weather resistance. Vinyl windows are incredibly easy to keep clean, and they require basically no upkeep. What’s more, they are available in nearly every color and style under the sun.” (Brock Doors and Windows Inc).

Two additional benefits of opting for vinyl replacement windows are cost and noise reduction.

The noise reducing capabilities of this type of window framing material are due to its high R-Value. A window’s R-value refers to its insulation power. While sound dampening is generally not the primary objective with regard to a window’s R-value, it can certainly be a much- appreciated benefit.

“Vinyl doors and windows are great at reducing the transfer of noise, so even while the neighbour’s dog is barking, you can still enjoy the peace and quiet inside your home.” (Brock Doors and Windows Inc).

Wood Windows

Wood is the classic window frame choice. It works well to maintain the authentic look and feel of older homes and can add a stately quality to homes of any age.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that good looks are all these windows have going for them. High quality wood frames are excellent insulators, contributing both to a home’s internal temperature and the reduction of outdoor noise pollution.

Another positive attribute of wood windows is their durability. When well-maintained, wood windows can last an incredibly long time. The fact that they are naturally sourced has resulted in wood windows being considered the most environmentally friendly option by green home builders.

Combination Windows

Homeowners who love the beauty of wood windows but prefer the easy-to-maintain qualities of aluminum or vinyl can choose to purchase vinyl-clad or aluminum-clad wood windows. These windows allow the beautiful wood to show through on the inside, while the aluminum or vinyl cladding protect the outside of the window frame.

Window Glazing Options

Your choice of window glass, or glazing will have the greatest impact on the overall insulation and noise reduction provided by your new windows. There are several details to consider when making your selection, including: insulation, filling, window coating and spacers.

Here is a more detailed look at these glazing options:

Insulation

Window insulation involves constructing a glass unit from two or three panes of glass. These glass panes are spaced apart and sealed to allow a pocket of air or gas between the two panes to provide better insulation.

Double pane windows have been the standard in Canada for many years; however triple pane windows are quickly gaining in popularity.

Gas Filling

Double and triple pane insulated windows are commonly filled with an inert gas, to maximize their thermal efficiency. Argon and krypton gas are the most commonly used options in Canadian windows.  These gases are odourless, clear and inert.

The thermal conductivity of both gases is vastly superior to air because they are heavier than air. When a gas is heavy it creates a dense atmosphere, which is better able to resist heat. This keeps your home warmer in the winter and cooler during the summer.

Low-Emissivity Coatings

Low-Emissivity (more commonly called Low-E) coatings refer to the technology that adds a microscopic layer of metallic oxide to the surface of the panes of glass in your window.

“Low-E glass coatings work by reflecting or absorbing infra-red light [also known as] heat energy.” (Glass Canada)

In addition to acting as invisible insulation for your windows, Low-E coatings also work to block harmful UV rays.

When working in tandem, window insulation and Low-E coatings can help reduce the overall energy efficiency of your windows.

Spacers

Window spacers aren’t usually something most homeowners need to consider when shopping for new windows. However, if you are presented with the option of choosing between metal spacers, foam spacers or another option, it’s good to know just what they are.

Window spacers are an integral part of a double and triple glazed window unit. The spacer keeps the glass panes evenly separated, and can help boost the energy efficiency of your window. They block moisture and water vapor, and help to create the tight seal required to prevent the gas filling the space between the pane from leaking.

Metal is the most commonly used spacer material. However, a foam option has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Proponents of the traditional metal spacers favor the material because of its strength and durability.

Industry professionals opposed to metal spacers cite metal’s ability to conductor of heat and cold as a negative. The thought is that in winter, metal spacers conduct cold and result in cold glass edges. In turn, these cold edges are thought to make the overall window less energy efficient and more prone to condensation.

This theory on the thermal performance of metal spacers, is not without its opposition. US-based Vitro Architectural Glass is a company that has specialized in window technologies since 1883, and they have developed a metal spacer that dispels the belief that metal spacers are inferior to non-metal with regard to thermal performance.

“A myth being propagated by foam spacer manufacturers is that metal spacers lead to poor thermal performance in a window. Using scientific evidence and thermal imaging technology, it has been proven that Intercept® stainless steel spacers are just as effective as foam when it comes to thermal performance.” (Vitro Architectural Glass)

new windows

Source: Vitro Architectural Glass

Source: Vitro Architectural Glass

 

Speak to a Reputable Window Contractor

Are you ready to take the next step toward adding new windows to your home? Take a moment to browse the listings of local window contractors here on eieihome.com. Select a few professionals who service your area, then compare reviews, visit contractor websites and request quotes.

For your protection, only select a licensed window installer and be sure to confirm that they are insured, can provide references and offer workmanship warranties. Remember, the quality of your installation service is just as important as the quality of your new windows!

 

Lead Image Source: Fibretec Windows



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