What is a Replacement Window Spacer?

When you’re in the market for replacement windows, you’ll probably hear a lot about the NRFC ratings, the glass and the installation itself, but another important factor is the replacement window spacer.

What is a Replacement Window Spacer?

Any replacement window that has more than one pane of glass will have some type of spacer system.

The spacer is not simply the space between the panes of glass but it is the material that is used to hold the glass in place from between the panes. It also keeps the seal of glass air tight to keep in inert gas like argon or krypton gas.

replacement-window-spacer
Here you can see a triple pane glass unit with 2 spacers. The spacers are the gray pieces that separate the pieces of glass and keep the gas sealed inside.

Why is the Type of Spacer Important?

The spacer is one of the factors that affects the overall efficiency of the windows.

If the spacer is aluminum, the efficiency of the window will not be as effective as a spacer made of stainless steel (which is less conductive).

Many window manufacturers are now offering ‘warm-edge’ spacers that are generally made of a composite material. This type of spacer can help to improve the condensation rating (and by improve, we mean lower the likelihood of condensation, but you can read more about that here).

What Type of Window Spacer Should I Get?

My two cents worth is that you can ask the company you’re considering hiring if they have a some type of ‘warm-edge’ replacement window spacer. Generally the cost to upgrade should be quite nominal.

It’s included in our triple pane windows at my company, but nearly any replacement window company worth it’s salt should be able to  upgrade double pane windows with a high performance spacer as well.

Andrew Zahn is the owner of Zen Windows in Central, PA.   Andrew has worked in home improvement sales, marketing and public relations before opening his own window company.  If you’re in central PA and you’re thinking about new windows you should reach out to Andrew.  He’ll be the easiest window company you’ve ever dealt with. 

2016 Window Tax Credit Details and Information

As an observant window shopper you may have heard about the 2016 window tax credit.  There have long been tax credits associated with energy efficient replacement windows and the federal government has just extended the tax credit for new replacement windows and energy efficient doors.

Which windows qualify?

Over the years there have been different methods for determining which windows and doors qualify for various tax credits.  In 2016 the government is using the Energy Star guidelines to determine which replacement windows and doors qualify.

If your new windows and doors are Energy Star certified then you’ll qualify for the tax credit.  Most manufacturers offer many qualifying options.

What are the 2016 Energy Star guidelines?

The guidelines vary based on where you live.  This is a pretty reasonable method as folks in Phoenix need different windows than folks in Maine.  The exact requirements for your location are shown here and your window installation company should be able to make sure they’re offering you windows that will qualify.

2016 Energy Star tax credit requirements for windows and doors
Windows and doors that meet or exceed the ratings shown here will qualify for the 2016 federal tax credit.

How much is the tax credit?

The tax credit for 2016 is based on the cost of the windows.  You’ll be eligible for a federal tax credit of 10% of the cost of the windows, not including labor costs, up to $200.

The tax credit for doors is similar.  It’s 10% of the cost of the doors, not including labor, up to $500.

This is only $200?

If you’re one of those people who says, “oh, it’s only $200 well that’s nothing” then please make a check out to me for $200 and drop it in the mail.

I know it would be better if it was $2,000, but c’mon $200 is $200.  Go buy your sweetheart something nice and quit your grumbling.

Is this a tax credit or a tax deduction?

This is a tax credit.  This means your tax bill will be reduced by $200.  There is no consideration for how much you make or how much you pay.  If you owed $10,000 in taxes you’ll only owe $9,800 if you spent over $2,000 on qualifying windows.

If you’re owed a tax refund (since starting a business I can barely remember what a tax refund is), your refund will increase by $200.  So, if your refund would have been $3,000 it will now be $3,200 if you purchased qualifying windows.

What if I already purchased windows?

If they meet the Energy Star requirements and you’ve purchased them in the last few years you’re eligible for the same credits.

What documents do I need?

You do not need to submit anything with your taxes.  You just let them know how much you spent on the windows and you get the credit.  It might be a smart idea to keep a copy of your invoice and the manufacturers certification statement in your files just in case you need to prove anything one day.

What if I used this tax credit last year?

If you’ve used a tax credit for any energy efficient home improvement in the past you probably cannot add this credit to that one.  You get one shot whether you use it for new windows, a new furnace or one of those fancy tankless hot water heaters (I just got one of those bad boys, endless hot water, I love it).

Should I ask a tax professional if I have questions about this?

Yes.  I’m a window person not a tax advisor.  This is the best info I have based on my experience.  Please don’t email me saying I cost you tax money.  Call your tax preparer with any questions.

Are Foam Filled Windows Better?

Are Foam Filled Windows Better?

One of the more common questions that we here in the Milwaukee area, is regarding foam filled windows. Are they actually better?  Is the upgrade worth the money? Which type of foam is better, injected or push-in? The answer like many things in life of course is… It depends.

Are foam filled windows better?
Here are two different types of foam filled windows. Is one better than the other? Check the U-Factor.

Foam Filled Windows have benefits

Foam filled windows will provide some benefits across the board, the debate really comes down to how much of a benefit, and is it worth the added expense. My first recommendation to replacement window shoppers is to check how this option affects the U factor of the window. Some foam filled windows will have a U factor that improves by 2+ points, others will not budge at all. There are a variety of factors for this, most notably in the design of the extrusion(the “inner-framing” of the window).  Windows that have many chambers will often see less impact on U factor, because those dead air spaces actually do a decent job of insulating. This is not necessarily reflective of product quality, it is just a different means to an end.  That said, the primary benefits to foam filled windows will be superior thermal performance (measured by U factor and condensation resistance), as well as a little bit of extra structural stability. It could be be conceivable to improve sound transmittance as well, however the impact here is probably negligible in most cases.

Types of Foam Filled Windows

The two common methods to foam fill windows are injected foam, where spray foam is actually injected into the extrusion, and push in foam, where expanded polystyrene is cut and pushed in. Despite what sales people may tell you, both are effective methods when executed properly, and each does have its own minor pros and cons.  Injected foam is generally higher density, and therefore a better insulator.  This advantage is somewhat mitigated however by the fact that these are pretty small spaces, so the actual increase in R factor is minimal. The downside of injected is that spraying foam can produces air pockets and inconsistent fill. Push in foam eliminates that potential issue, however this type of foam must be cut to exacting tolerances where it provides a tight fit in the chamber to be effective. The manufacturers that do this right, have CNC machines that cut the foam precisely to fit.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, the option for foam filled windows is better, however the value of it depends on the price vs performance increase. This is generally a pretty inexpensive option, so it does make sense in many cases. The one thing to keep in mind, is that when comparing two different products, the type or even presence of foam filling does not necessarily make that product better than the other. A precisely designed and manufactured unit will be the better option, with or without foam.

Brandon Erdmann is the owner of HomeSealed Exteriors in Milwaukee, WI.  He’s a window installation expert, a supporter of this site and an all around great guy.  If you’re in the Milwaukee area and you’re thinking about new windows you should give Brandon a ring.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Best Window Company in Milwaukee – HomeSealed Exteriors

We know our readers in the Milwaukee are are looking for a fantastic window company.  Luckily for you the best window company in Milwaukee is right here, HomeSealed Exteriors.

I’ve known Brandon the owner of HomeSealed Exteriors for a number of years through his work writing about windows online. We have very similar business philosophies and I know Brandon and his team routinely go the extra mile for their customers.

Here's Brandon and his beautiful family.
Here’s Brandon and his beautiful family enjoying a summer afternoon in Milwaukee.

I’m particularly excited to have Brandon on the team because in addition to being a fantastic business owner he’s also a great writer.  In addition to being a supporter of the site he’ll be contributing guest posts on a variety of topics as past of our ongoing effort to help folks understand the replacement window business.

One of the best and most unexpected benefits of this site is the way we’ve been able to connect with great window companies all over the country.  It’s reassuring to know that in just about every city there are other folks operating the same way my company does.  We know window shopping can be difficult which is why we love recommending companies who make the process easy.

What’s the story with this company?

HomeSealed Exteriors has a founding story that is very similar to my own.  Both Brandon and his wife have several generations of family history in the remodeling industry.  After installing windows for several other Milwaukee area window companies Brandon was tired of seeing the dishonesty and shady sales tactics that were so prevalent in the replacement window business.  That’s why he decided to take the leap and start his own business back in 2004.

Since then the company has grown to become one of the leading window installation companies in all of Milwaukee.  They were named one of the fastest growing companies of the year by Window and Door Magazine and they’re in the Quality Remodeling Top 500 Remodeling Companies in the Country.  They’ve also won the Angie’s List Super Service Award four years in a row.

homesealed_logo

You know Milwaukee can have harsh seasons and HomeSealed Exteriors carries windows that will keep you comfortable all year long.

If you’re interested in talking to Brandon and his team about your project there are three easy ways to get started:

  1. Give them a ring at 414-545-0405
  2. Send them an email at [email protected]
  3. Fill out the form below and they’ll be in touch

Feel free to contact them however you’d like and be sure to tell them that Dan from TheWindowDog.com sent you!

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The Best Window Company in Atlanta – Window Universe!

Announcing the Best Window Company in Atlanta – Window Universe!  My good friend Don owns the  Window Universe store in Atlanta and he’s standing by waiting to help you with your window project.

Don over at Window Universe has been in the business for years and he knows windows inside and out.  He’s currently offering some fantastic windows with professional installation from factory authorized installers.  His lifetime warranty is backed up by the manufacturer who is a billion dollar company with 60+ year history in the manufacturing business.

Window Universe reviews

What can Window Universe do for me?

They can do a lot of great things for you, but the most important is that they can make this process easy.  Don and his team are experts at this and they know how to cut through all of the usual fluff to get you the info you need at the best prices in town.

It’s really easy.

Do they offer other products?

They sure do.  In addition to great windows and doors you’ll also see that they offer siding and roofing options to completely transform your home.

Even if you’re just thinking about windows now,  you can be sure they’ll be ready to help when it’s time to replace your roof down the road.  It’s nice to know you have a guy in the business.

How do you know Don at Window Universe?

That’s a great question.  As you probably know we’ve been working on this site for a while now and it’s gained quite a bit of attention in the industry.  I thought I knew a lot of people in the window business before and I know a whole lot more people now.

Don’s been a fan of the site for a while and he reached out a while back to see if we could work together.  After working together for several years he opened a Window Universe location in Atlanta to take his business to the next level.  He’s currently working on a few guest posts to help folks make sense of things and his many years of experience and invaluable.  Now that we have a business relationship I wanted to make sure our readers (you!) knew about this great local company too.

So how do I get a quote from Don? 

Good question.  His system is a little different from some other companies out there.  His process starts with an email.  When you fill out the form at the bottom of this page an email will be sent directly to the owner of the company.  Don will then be in touch to schedule your appointment.

You’ll see the form asks when you’re typically available and how urgent your need is.  This cuts out a few steps and helps them serve you faster and more efficiently.

If you’re in the Atlanta area and you’re thinking about new windows you owe it to yourself to fill out this form just to see what Window Universe can do for you.

Be sure to post a comment to let everyone know how it goes!

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When are you available?

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We will NEVER share this info with anyone and you’re going to LOVE what Don has to offer!

Are you the best window company in your town?  We’d love to meet you and our readers would like to find you.  Meet us here.

Best Window Company in Chicago – LJ Neal & Sons

People have been asking us to recommend a window company in the Chicago area for quite a while now so it’s about time we finish this post!

I’ve known the owners of LJ Neal & Sons for a while and I can tell you they are the best window company in Chicago.  They’re a family owned business and they’ve been operating in the Chicago suburbs for over 60 years.  They use the same no-pressue sales process that we’re always talking about.

LJ Neal best window company chicago
LJ Neal & Sons is the best window company in Chicago. They’re the company you’ve been looking for.

You came to our site looking for information on replacement windows and hoping to find the best company in your area.   Hopefully you’ve found our information to be helpful and if you’re in the Chicago suburbs you’ve now found the best window company in Chicago right here.

Leo and Bridgette are supporters of the site and they’re available to help you with your project from start to finish.  In fact, they’re working on some new posts for the site that explain the types of triple pane windows and I think our readers are going to love them.

Does LJ Neal & Sons serve my area?

If you’re in the suburbs of Chicago they probably do.  From Orland Park to Naperville to Gurnee they cover just about all of the Chicago suburbs.  If you’re in the area and you’re thinking about new windows you should definitely give them a ring.

What kind of windows does LJ Neal & Sons offer?

Like most window companies they’ll offer a range of options to fit the needs of most customers.  As you can see in the logo above they specialize in triple pane windows and that makes sense in Chicago.

I grew up in the Chicago area and while I’ve since moved away to warmer climates I can tell you Chicago is an area where triple pane windows make a ton of sense.  Luckily LJ Neal and Sons will have triple pane and double pane options so you can pick the option that works best for you.

LJ Neal is the best source for replacement windows in chicago
This is a true family owned business. You can see the resemblance!

Will they send some pushy salesperson to my house?

Nope.  The owners, Leo and Bridgette, will personally come to meet with you to discuss your project.  That’s fantastic service.  In fact, they’ll even meet you on your installation day to introduce you to the installation crew.  You won’t find too many company with owners that involved in your project!

How can I get more info?

Great question.  There are two easy ways to contact them.  Regardless of how you reach out be sure to let them know that Dan from TheWindowDog.com sent you!

Option 1 is to give them a ring to schedule your appointment right now.  You can reach them at 630-929-6190.  That’ll be the quickest way to get things moving along.  I promise they’re friendly and you’re going to love what they have to offer.

Option 2 is to fill out the form below and they’ll reach out to you.  Your info will ONLY go to LJ Neal and Sons and we will always protect your privacy.

If you have any questions throughout the process I’m sure Leo and Bridgette will be glad to help.  Don’t forget you can always reach out to me as well.  Either post a comment anywhere on the site or drop me a line through the contact link and I’ll be glad to help.

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We will NEVER share your info with anyone and you’re going to LOVE what Leo and Bridgette have to offer!

 

Are you the best window company in your town?  We’d love to meet you and our readers would like to find you.  Meet us here.

Bow vs Bay Windows – What’s the difference?

We get asked about the differences between bow vs bay windows all the time. We finally decided it was time to whip up a post with the correct answer for all to see.

best replacement windows of 2015

To put it simply the difference is in the layout of the windows.  Both bow and bay windows stick out from the house, but they have a different look.  Bow windows are made up of equal sized lites or panels while bay windows have a center section that is larger than the sides.

We may need a picture for this one.  First we’ll start with a bay window.

bay window vs bow window price and cost

Ok, so that’s a bay window.  3 panels, and the center is larger than the sides.

Now, here’s a bow window:
bow-windowSee the difference?  The bow has several panels and they’re all the same size.  A bow window can have 3, 4, 5, 6 or more panels, but they’re always the same size.

Is a bow window better than a bay window?

Nope, it is really just a style difference.  Do you prefer the look of the larger picture window in the center or a bay window or would you rather have several symmetrical panels?  One is not better than the other, they’re just different.

What is the price difference between a bow and a bay window?

The difference in cost is typically pretty small.  Many manufacturers will charge more for a bigger window, but the difference between a bow and a bay is typically not a huge driver of the cost.  A bow window with many panels (called lites) will typically cost more than a bay window with only 3 lites.

A cost difference of a few hundred dollars wouldn’t be unusual, but you shouldn’t see much more difference than that.

As you’re shopping for new windows be sure to check out our detailed window reviews here.  If you’re looking for anything that you can’t find be sure to post a comment or send us an email.  We read every single one and we’ll do our best to respond.

 

Single Hung vs Double Hung Windows

Here’s a little bit of terminology that is often misunderstood.  What are the differences between single hung vs double hung windows?  Here we’ll take a look at the basic definition and we’ll look at some of the other advantages and disadvantages including the cost, the operation, the screens, how they function and the typical price.

best replacement windows of 2015

First things first!  The basic definition:

Both single hung and double hung windows open up and down.  The difference is that in a single hung window the bottom sash opens up and down, but the top does not move.

In a double hung window the bottom sash slides up and down AND the top sash also opens and closes.

Perhaps this picture will help:

single hung vs double hung windows
Here is the difference between a single hung and a double hung window.

So there it is, the difference is in how the window operates.  People often confuse double hung with double pane.  For the difference between double pane and triple pane windows check this out.

Ok, so how important is this difference?

Well, that’s really up to you.  One important thing to keep in mind is that a single hung window does not allow the top sash to tilt in for easy cleaning.  That means the bottom will tilt in, but the top will not.  Is that a big deal?  Only you can decide.

Beyond that many people don’t open the top very often so the difference is not important to them.  We open the top quite a bit in my house as the window dog is a redbone coonhound from the hills of West Virginia and he would go straight through a screen if he saw a varmint in the yard.  For us it is very important that the top opens, but you may have different priorities.

What is the price difference between single hung vs double hung windows?

This is a question we get asked a lot.  The difference typically isn’t huge, but it can add up.  The two windows are essentially the same with the single hung having less hardware.  The cost difference between the two will depend on the manufacturer, but it wouldn’t be uncommon to see a price difference of $20-$40 per window.

If you have 20 windows in your house that amount can add up.  We’ll often suggest switching to single hung windows as a way to save a few bucks, but it really just depends on how you plan on using them.

We hope that helps, for more detailed info on the greatest replacement windows check out these reviews.  If there is anything you’re looking for that you can’t find just post a comment or send us an email.  We read every single one and we do our best to respond!

 

Replacement vs New Construction Windows

Folks ask us all the time if they should get replacement windows or new construction windows.   Are the windows the builder uses when they build a new home really any better or worse than the replacement windows that are sold by companies all over town?

best replacement windows of 2015

We’re going to get to the bottom of this great debate right here.  Get ready!

Before you can understand which option is better for you, you’ll need to understand what the terms mean.  Basically a new construction or new home window is designed to be installed before the siding or brick is installed on the exterior of the home.  A replacement window is designed to be installed after the siding or brick is already on the home.

Take a look at this picture.  Here you can see two Pella windows that I bought from Lowes.  The two models are very similar, but one has a fin that goes around the perimeter.  This is called a nail fin and it is the only real difference between replacement vs new construction windows.

new home vs builder grade vs replacement windows.
This nail fin around the edge of the window is the only difference between replacement vs new construction windows.

That’s the only difference.  Now, some people of varying degrees of honesty may tell you there are other differences beyond the nail fin (also called a nail flange).  Let’s take a look at what someone might say.

New constriction windows are builder grade windows.  They’re cheap and flimsy.

This is often true and it’s something to watch out for, but it’s not always the case.  You can see in our review of the ThermaStar by Pella Series 10 new construction window that many of them are cheap.

Manufacturers build new construction windows with builders in mind.  Believe it or not they’re more focused on the builder who buys thousands of windows than you, the guy looking to install 15 new windows in your home.

They know that builders want windows fast and cheap so that’s what they make.  Builders know that when you’re buying a new home you’re looking at the fancy tub and the shiny kitchen.  The windows are often an afterthought so they don’t spend any more money than they need to.

Here’s one way to think about it. When you’re buying a new home you’re buying a whole lot of things all at once.  You’re less focused on each individual thing.  When you’re buying replacement windows you’r just buying windows.  You’re focused on the windows and you’re trying to get the best products you can.

Manufacturers of both new construction and replacement windows know this very well and they prioritize quality and costs based on the typical customer for each product.

If you’re buying new construction windows and you’re looking for quality be careful.  It’s easy to go wrong here.

New construction windows will give me more light than replacement windows.

This may be true, but it may not.  You’ll need to have a good idea of how the windows will actually go in before you can make that determination.  Remember, the only real difference is the nail flange.  The window itself is the same.

Often times replacement windows are installed inside the existing wood window frame.  This is called a pocket installation because the window is placed in a pocket in the old frame.

There is nothing wrong with this installation method. In fact all new vinyl windows have a 3.25″ jamb depth because they’re designed to be installed in a wood frame.

Could you get more glass area by removing the existing wood frame?  Maybe, but maybe not.  If you remove the wood frame a new wood frame would typically need to be installed.  Sometimes this comes with the windows, sometimes the installer will build it on site, but it is typically part of the installation.  Is the new wood frame any thicker or thinner than the old wood frame you removed?

I have no idea, it depends on your house and you’re installer, but the difference is probably not dramatic.  This is often used as a sales tactic, but it typically doesn’t make any noticeable difference.

New construction windows form a better seal than replacement windows.

I would expect this idea is spread by folks who are more familiar with new construction window installations.  When installing a new construction window it’s easy to see how it’s sealed.  Typically the nail flange is fastened to the sheathing then there is a moisture barrier (like a house wrap) and flashing tape applied in a specific manor around the window.  When done properly it looks solid and it’s easy to see that it’s done.

In a replacement window installation it’s harder to see because you’re relying on the seal of the existing frame behind the siding.  There are literally millions of replacement windows installed each and every year with no epidemic of leaks so it’s safe to assume that if they’re installed properly there is no greater risk of a leak from a new construction or new home windows compared to replacement windows.

So, which one is better?

Like most things in the window business there isn’t necessarily an easy answer.  In general new construction windows are cheaper and of lower quality than replacement windows, but there are nice new construction and cheap replacement windows.  The best strategy we can suggest is to find some local experts to take a look at your home and make a few suggestions.

We know the window business can be difficult to navigate and we applaud you for taking the time to do your research before making a decision.  We would suggest doing the same thing when calling local window companies.  We’ve done some of the work for you.  For starters you can find our list of the best local window companies right here.