Soft-Lite Pro vs Soft-Lite Classic

We’ve received a few requests recently to compare the Soft-Lite Pro vs Soft-Lite Classic windows.  As you’ll see below these two window models are pretty similar.  In fact, they are essentially the same window with a few small differences.

Soft-lite pro vs Soft-Lite classic windows reviewsAs you can see here, the two windows are essentially the same.  This picture points out the biggest difference between the Soft-Lite Pro vs Soft-Lite Classic windows.  The exterior design of the frame is a little busier on the Pro model.  We tend to like the simple look of the classic, but it’s your house, pick out whichever style you like best.

Another difference between the two models is the foam insulation in the frame.

Soft-lite foam filled frames

As you can see in the picture above, the foam insulation in the frame is standard with the Soft-Lite Pro and it’s optional with the Soft-Lite Classic.  Typically foam insulation in frames is mostly about the sales pitch.  It typically doesn’t have much affect on the ratings, but if you like the idea make sure it’s included.

The last difference is the reinforcement in the sash.  As you can see in this picture the Pro model comes with standard reinforcement in the sash and the Classic does not.

soft lite pro classic reinforced sashThe reinforcement helps the window stand up to extreme windows and can also help with intrusion prevention.  This is more important for very wide windows or for windows that will be subjected to very high winds.  Generally speaking we recommend getting windows with reinforced sashes.  The cost isn’t very high and it does make them stronger.

That’s it!

Those are all of the differences in the Soft-Lite Pro vs Soft-Lite Classic windows.  Typically when contractors offer the Classic window for a few dollars less than the Pro they’re not ordering the foam filled frames or the reinforced sashes.  If you want these features be sure they’re included.  Once they are added in the pricing should be about the same between these two windows.

If you have any more specific questions about Soft-Lite windows just let us know.  You can find more detailed information and reviews of Soft-Lite products right here!

Soft-Lite Pro Windows Reviews

The Soft-Lite Pro window is very similar to the Soft-Lite Classic window as they both fall in the middle of the Soft-Lite window line.

The Soft-Lite Pro window aren’t especially remarkable, but they have decent ratings, larger glass area than other options, and are typically offered at a better price than other Soft-Lite windows.  As we go through the review we’ll look at the style, the warranty, the ratings, and the drawbacks.

So how about the Soft-Lite Pro ratings?

When you look at the nfrc ratings you’ll see that the Soft-Lite Pro windows tend to be unremarkable.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there isn’t anything fantastic abut ratings like these.  For more detailed explanations of what the ratings mean click here.

As with most replacement windows there are many glass options that can affect the ratings.  This model is available with triple pane glass and U-Factors as low as 0.18.  This range of U-Factors (from 0.30 to 0.18) is pretty typical.

You’ll probably also notice that the Visible Transmittance ratings for this window are considerably better than the Soft-Lite Imperial LS and the Soft-Lite Elements and  that we’ve reviewed in the past .  This means you’ll get much MORE glass area with similar efficiency ratings with this model.

How about air infiltration or air leakage?

So the degree to which Soft-Lite focuses on air infiltration ratings is kind of a joke within the industry.  The degree to which some salespeople dwell on these ratings can be downright comical.  In this case the air infiltration rating is 0.07 to 0.11 depending on how the window is equipped.

In their brochure they highlight the 0.07 number and put the 0.11 number in the fine print in the bottom. The ratings aren’t always as good as they might first appear.

These ratings are fine, but they aren’t remarkable.  We’ve written at length on how air infiltration ratings are misconstrued so we won’t repeat everything here.  Just remember that these ratings are just fine and you’ll probably never notice the difference between this and a window with “better” ratings.

What about the style options?

One thing we’re not thrilled with about the Soft-Lite Pro windows is the complex design on the exterior.

We know that windows with all sorts of fancy lines, details and designs on the exterior can look sharp when a sample is sitting on your kitchen table.  Just remember that once the windows are installed you want them to look like they’ve always been part of the house rather than some fancy thing that was added later.  This design it’s nearly as busy as some, but it looks a little too complicated in our mind, but it’s your house, get what you like.

How about the Soft-Lite Pro warranty?

If you’ve been shopping for windows you’ve seen that most say they come with a “lifetime warranty”.  You need to really read the warranty to see what is actually covered.  In this case there are several important limitations:

  • Soft-Lite does not cover labor to fix a warranty problem
  • Soft-Lite does not cover glass breakage
  • Soft-Lite does not cover shipping of replacement parts

These limitations aren’t necessarily deal breakers they are more limited than what you’ll find from many other manufacturers.  You may find that your local dealer adds to the warranty.  That’s fine, just make sure you have it in writing.  You should also know that the warranty is only as good as the company that backs it.

Our complete breakdown of the Soft-Lite window warranty will be published soon.

How about drawbacks of this Soft-Lite Pro window?

One drawback is the fact that Soft-Lite is a relatively small manufacturer.  While they have been growing, their total sales just recently surpassed $50MM according to Window and Door magazine.  This may sound like a lot, but for a manufacturing company it’s relatively small.  The risk there is that smaller companies that made fine products (e.g. Gorell, Schuco, Kensington, Republic, etc) have come and gone.  When one of these companies goes away all of the folks who purchased their products are left with no warranty.  This is a risk with any company, but it is very important to recognize with a smaller company like Soft-Lite.

Another drawback to consider is the use of inexpensive hardware in the Soft-Lite Pro window.  They use the cheaper constant force balance mechanisms to let the windows open and close.  These are common among lower end windows and they’re known to have shorter operating lives than other types.  Is this a high deal?  No, but it is one way Soft-Lite has cut cost out of this product that you should be aware of.

So what’s the bottom line?

At the end of the day, if you’re set on getting Soft-Lite windows the Soft-Lite Pro is a decent option, but you may want to take a look at the Soft-Lite Classic as it’s essentially the same window with cleaner lines.  We tend to think the “higher end” windows look like they’re trying too hard and the mid-range windows tend to offer the best value.  There are a few drawbacks mentioned above and I wouldn’t pay more for this window that comparable windows from other manufacturers, if you can get good pricing from a reputable local company this window could be a good value.

Take a look at more reviews of windows from Soft-Lite or other replacement window manufacturers.

Disclosure: based on the info provided here and our detailed consideration of all of the replacement windows available today our company has elected to occasionally offer Soft-Lite windows in several markets.

 

Soft-Lite Classic Windows Reviews

The Soft-Lite Classic window falls in the middle of the Soft-Lite window lineup.  There is nothing particularly remarkable about the Soft-Lite Classic windows, but they have solid ratings, large glass area, and are typically offered at more competitive prices.  As we go through the review we’ll look at the ratings, the style, the warranty and the drawbacks.

So how about the Soft-Lite Classic ratings?

The Soft-Lite Classic windows tend to come with relatively common efficiency ratings.

As with all windows there are several glass options that can affect the ratings.  With triple pane glass they can achieve U-Factors as low as 0.18 which is common.  This range of U-Factors (from 0.30 to 0.18) is pretty typical.  T

You’ll probably also notice that the Visible Transmittance ratings for this model are considerably better than the Soft-Lite Elements and the Soft-Lite Imperial LS that we’ve reviewed previously .  This means you’ll get MORE glass area with similar efficiency ratings with this model.

How about air infiltration ratings?

So the degree to which Soft-Lite focuses on air infiltration ratings is kind of a joke within the industry.  The degree to which some salespeople dwell on these ratings can be comical.  In this case the air infiltration rating is 0.07 to 0.11 depending on how the window is equipped.

These ratings are fine, but they aren’t remarkable.  We’ve written at length on how air infiltration ratings are misconstrued so we won’t repeat everything here.  The short answer is that these ratings are just fine and you’ll probably never notice the difference between this and a window with “better” ratings.

What about the style options?

One thing we like about the Soft-Lite Classic windows is the simple design on the exterior.  It doesn’t have all of the curly fancy business on the outside that you’ll find on some other Soft-Lite models.

We know that windows with all sorts of fancy lines, details and designs on the exterior can look sharp when a sample is sitting on your kitchen table.  Just remember that once the windows are installed you want them to look like they’ve always been part of the house rather than some fancy thing that was added later.  This simple design lends itself to that style.

How about the Soft-Lite Classic warranty?

If you’ve been shopping for windows you’ve seen that most say they come with a “lifetime warranty”.  You need to really read the warranty to see what is actually covered.  In this case there are several important limitations:

  • Soft-Lite does not cover glass breakage
  • Soft-Lite does not cover labor to fix a warranty problem
  • Soft-Lite does not cover shipping of replacement parts

These limitations aren’t necessarily deal breakers they are more limited than what you’ll find from several other manufacturers.  You may find that your local dealer adds to the warranty.  That’s fine, just make sure you have it in writing.

Our complete breakdown of the Soft-Lite window warranty will be published soon.

How about drawbacks of this Soft-Lite Classic window?

One drawback to consider is the use of inexpensive hardware in the Soft-Lite Classic window.  They use the cheaper constant force balance mechanisms to let the windows open and close.  These are common among lower end windows and they’re known to have shorter operating lives than other types.  Is this a high deal?  No, but it is one way Soft-Lite has cut cost out of this product that you should be aware of.

Another drawback is the fact that Soft-Lite is a relatively small manufacturer.  While they have been growing, their total sales just recently surpassed $50MM according to Window and Door magazine.  This may sound like a lot, but for a manufacturing company it’s relatively small.  The risk there is that smaller companies that made fine products (e.g. Gorell, Schuco, Kensington, Republic, etc) have come and gone.  When one of these companies goes away all of the folks who purchased their products are left with no warranty.  This is a risk with any company, but it is very important to recognize with a smaller company like Soft-Lite.

So what’s the bottom line?

At the end of the day, if you’re set on getting Soft-Lite windows the Soft-Lite Classic is one of our favorites.  We tend to think the “higher end” windows look like they’re trying too hard and the mid-range windows tend to offer the best value.  There are a few drawbacks mentioned above and I wouldn’t pay more for this window that comparable windows from other manufacturers, if you can get good pricing from a reputable local company this window could be a good value.

Take a look at more reviews of windows from Soft-Lite or other replacement window manufacturers.

Soft-Lite Imperial LS Windows Reviews

Here we’ll take a look at the Soft-Lite Imperial LS windows.  When comparing Soft-Lite windows you’ll notice that different dealers will often offer or recommend different models.  For some dealers the Imperial LS is the fanciest model they offer while other will push the Soft-Lite Elements model.  These two models are relatively similar except that the Imperial LS window is often offered at a lower price so it typically represents a better value.

As with most replacement windows these days there are many glass options to chose from.  These options will affect the ratings so it’s important to make sure you pick the one that is right for you.  Remember that lower is not always better.

Ratings for the Soft-Lite Imperial LS windows vary from a U-Factor of 0.28 down to 0.17.  The solar heat gain ranges from 0.28 to 0.24.

As you can see, these ratings are solid, but they’re not one of a kind.  For example the visible transmittance rating of 0.51 and lower for a double pane window is a little low.  That is due to the fact that the Imperial LS window uses a thicker frame than some other options.  If you’re going with double pane glass there are other windows that will give you more light at the same efficiency ratings.  The salesperson offering the Soft-Lite Imperial LS windows typically won’t point that out.

From a design standpoint, the Soft-Lite Imperial LS windows are available with two different types of locks that both look sharp.  The recessed hardware shown below has a very clean, simple look that many folks appreciate.

They also offer the Auto-Majik self locking lock.  Despite the horribly awkward name, it can be a convenient option.  I’ve never felt that locking windows myself was too much of a chore, but if you do this will save you a step.

One drawback to the Soft-Lite Imperial LS is the balance mechanism that they use.  The balance mechanism is the component that lets the window open and close and prevents it from falling.  It’s a little bit of a surprise that Soft-Lite still uses constant force balances even in their nicer offerings.  They’ll tell you why it’s great, but we’ve received a few Soft-Lite samples with coil balances and they both have issues.  We’ll be uploading some videos showing how they perform soon.

Typically higher end windows have moved away from these coil balances for several reasons including longevity.  Instead of switching the type, Soft-Lite opted to change the name.  They call it an Endura-Force balance.  These balance mechanisms do work ok, and they are easy enough to replace when they fail, but it would be a nice touch to do away with these balances.

How about the Soft-Lite Imperial LS warranty?

As is the case with all quality replacement windows they come with a “lifetime warranty”.  As always you need to really read the warranty to see what is actually covered.  In this case there are several important limitations:

  • Soft-Lite does not cover labor to fix a warranty problem
  • Soft-Lite does not cover shipping of replacement parts
  • Soft-Lite does not cover glass breakage

These limitations aren’t necessarily deal breakers they are more limited than what you’ll find from several other manufacturers.

 What’s the bottom line?

The Soft-Lite Imperial LS window is a fine option.  There’s nothing too remarkable about it and the pricing offered by local dealers can vary quite a bit.

When comparing options don’t be swayed by a salesperson who may tell you that this is the absolute greatest product ever produced by mankind.  It’s a good window, but you can find similar products from other manufacturers.  As always there are no vinyl double hung windows that are worth $800 per window.  If you’re buying this one in the $400-$500 range you’re probably getting a decent value.  If you’re getting quotes any higher than that for typical windows it would be wise to keep looking.

Soft-Lite Elements Windows Reviews

Here we’ll take a look at Soft-Lite Elements windows.  We were recently asked to write this review by one of our loyal readers are we’re happy to help.  When looking at Soft-Lite Elements windows you’ll quickly learn that they are billed as the “most energy efficient windows” produced in North America.  While they are awfully energy efficient when paired with the most expensive glass options, that level of efficiency is probably overkill for most folks.

Since they make the efficiency a cornerstone of the pitch for the Soft-Lite Elements let’s start there.  When the Elements window is ordered with the Solar Ultimate Glass the ratings are very low.

They advertise these windows with a U-Factor of 0.16 which is pretty darn good.  The trick is that lower isn’t always better when it comes to efficiency ratings.  For example, a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient of 0.21 is pretty low.  That’s great if you live in a climate that is dominated by high sun, but it’s not so good if you live in a colder area.  In colder regions you want to take advantage of the sun and this option would block out too much.

Perhaps more importantly the visible transmittance rating (VT rating) is pretty low with this option.  A rating of 0.37 means that the window will look dark.  It would be smart to look at a sample window with this glass option before purchasing to make sure you’re comfortable with how it will look.

Of course you probably wouldn’t pick this glass option unless it made sense for your home and in your climate.  The important takeaway here is that the claim of “the most efficient window” isn’t really relevant unless you’re going for bragging rights.  It is much more effective to pick a window and a glass option that is right for your home and your climate.

What about the look of the Solf-Lite Elements windows?

In our opinion when some windows try to be “high end” they end up working  a little too hard.  For example, the exterior of the frame of the window is full of curly designs that can look a little busy.

Some folks like all of these lines and the salesperson will probably tell you all about how this gives it the look of a wood window, but in our mind it’s a little much.  We like windows that look like they were always part of the home rather that one that tries too hard to stand out.

This is certainly a style factor and you might like a different look than we do, but consider that a window that looks fancy when sitting on your kitchen table might look a little too busy when installed in your home.

Another style feature on the inside of the Soft-lite Elements window gives it a very clean look.  The Elements window does not have the traditional tilt latches.  The tilt latches are incorporated into the locks which keeps the interior of the window looking clean and uncluttered.

In the past we have seen folks who struggled with how to tilt in their windows when they have this hardware.  It’s not exactly intuitive, but it works well enough.

The salesperson talked a lot about air infiltration.  Is it that special?

Air infiltration ratings are a big part of the pitch for the higher end Soft-Lite windows.  Their ratings are good, but they’re not unmatched.  For example, the published rating for a Soft-Lite Elements window is 0.01.  While there are several reasons this rating is a little deceptive (reasons described in our post on air infiltration ratings), there are other windows out there that achieve the same or very similar ratings.  We know every manufacturer wants to do their best to accentuate their strengths, but in our mind Soft-Lite goes a little too far with this pitch.

How about the warranty for Soft-Lite Elements Windows?

As is the case with all quality replacement windows they come with a “lifetime warranty”.  As always you need to really read the warranty to see what is actually covered.  In this case there are several important limitations:

  • Soft-Lite does not cover labor to fix a warranty problem
  • Soft-Lite does not cover shipping of replacement parts
  • Soft-Lite offers 2 versions of their window warranty, one with glass breakage coverage and one without.  Make sure you know which one you’d be getting.

These limitations aren’t necessarily deal breakers they are more limited than what you’ll find from several other manufacturers.

What’s the bottom line?

To sum things up, the Soft-Lite Elements windows are a nice option.  They can be configured to have great ratings, but the marketing claims tend to push the envelope a little too far.  Realistically they’re pretty darn similar to the ratings offered by many other windows.   It’s important to remember that unless you’re planning on living in the home another 50 years you may not realize any savings with a 0.01 difference in any particular rating.

If you’re looking for a “high end” option, you like the local dealer and you’re comfortable with the pricing, this is a fine option.  Just don’t let anyone make you think you have to spend $800 per window to get good quality.  You have several other options to achieve similar ratings so be sure to shop around if your not comfortable.  At $400-$500 for a typical double hung window this is a fine option.  Much more than that and you’ll be better served to keep looking.

Due to the way Soft-Lite windows are typically marketed you may be able to find a better value in the Soft-Lite Imperial LS window which is very similar.  There isn’t much reason to pay any more for one than the other.