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Buying Windows in San Francisco, California
If you are remodeling your home, building a new family home, or replacing the windows in your home because they are no longer energy efficient, you have a lot of purchase options to sift through. Not only are there various operational styles, design options, and materials to choose from, you must also take into consideration your location and how it should influence your purchase.
As a homeowner or apartment dweller who lives in San Francisco, you should understand the building codes and permit requirements related to installation of new windows. In addition to this, the climate of your region should be taken into account before making a purchase. The area of California where San Francisco is located is unique, requiring both heating and cooling during different seasons of the year. Energy efficient windows will provide your home with the most protection from the elements, and result in lowered utility bills.
Basic Information About Buying Windows in San Francisco
Before you look at the specifics of buying windows in San Francisco, it is helpful to understand some basic information about buying windows for your home. Windows are available in many operational styles, designs, and materials, and knowing the options available to you will help guide your shopping. First, you will need to determine if you are purchasing new construction or replacement windows. Since new construction windows are secured directly to the studs or frame, they should only be purchased for new building or remodeling projects where the studs will already be exposed. Replacement windows, on the other hand, are the perfect choice for a simple window replacement because they are custom built to fit into the space left behind by the old window without disruption of the surrounding wall.
Next, you will want to decide on the operational style of the windows for your home. The double-hung is among the most popular choice for residential windows. This window has two vertically hung sashes, with one sliding upwards to open and the other downwards to open. If you are looking for a single sash operational window, casement, hopper, and awning windows all open outwards to provide ventilation for the home. Larger windows options such as bay and bow windows are also very popular, having a series of windows placed at a curve to extend into the outdoor environment.
There are also many aesthetic decisions to be made, including the color of your windows, the materials used for construction of the frame, and the type of hardware used on the window.
Requirements for Replacing Windows in San Francisco, California
While some cities do not require permits for basic replacements, especially if the structure of the home will not be disturbed, San Francisco requires permits for any type of window installation. Because San Francisco has certain rules concerning material and energy efficiency ratings, and since they require all homeowners to obtain design approval from their neighborhood councils, homeowners are asked to wait to make a purchase until they have received a permit. If you own a home 50 years old or older, you will also need to pursue a specific permit for historic properties. Because of the varying requirements in place in the City of San Francisco, it is best to contact the Planning Information Center with specific questions at 415-558-6377.
Once you have obtained the proper permit, and you have selected the windows you would like installed, you will need to hire a contractor for the work. In San Francisco, all contractors are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance covers the expenses of medical bills and missed work if one of their employees is injured while working on your home. Additionally, contractors are required to have a general builder’s license from the City of San Francisco before installing windows in a home.
Paying for Windows in San Francisco
Similarly to much of the United States, tax credits for energy efficient home improvements ceased to be offered in 2014. However, the City of San Francisco is currently offering an assistance program for minor home rehabilitation projects including window replacements, roof repairs, or bathroom remodels. Assistance is available in the form of loans up to the amount of $35,000 for qualifying low income households. These loans are available at low interest rates, somewhere between 2 and 3 percent, and there are minimal fees at the time of the application.
For homeowners who do not qualify for an assistance program, there are more conventional ways to pay for new construction or replacement windows. Of course, saving up to pay cash is the best way to pay for home improvement. When that is not possible, you can pay for windows using a home equity line of credit or a zero interest credit card.
Buying Windows for the Climate in San Francisco
The climate should be taken into consideration before buying windows for a San Francisco home. San Francisco is located in the north-central zone, according to ENERGY STAR®. This area of the United States requires the use of both heating and cooling depending on the time of year, but has a fairly mild climate year round. In the winter, for instance, the temperatures are not much lower than 50 degrees. Because the city is located on the coast, the summer months remain mild, averaging a high in the 70s most of the season.
Using the labels created by the National Fenestration Rating Council, or NFRC, you can easily determine which windows are appropriate for the climate in San Francisco. On this label, you will find four numbers, the U-Factor, the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, the Visible Transmittance, and the Air Leakage ratings.
The amount of heat lost or gained through a window is represented by the U-Factor rating. A higher number represents a window that allows large amounts of heat loss or gain. Because of this, windows with a high U-Factor will require your heating and cooling system to work harder to keep your home comfortable during seasons of extreme temperatures. In San Francisco, it is best to buy a window with a U-Factor of no more than 0.30.
The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient represents how much solar radiation passes through a window. During the winter season, a high solar heat gain coefficient can be beneficial in climates with very cold temperatures because the solar heat will help to heat the home. However, in the summer, a high solar heat gain coefficients can overheat your home, requiring your air conditioner to work harder to keep your home cool. In San Francisco, it is best to buy a window with a solar heat gain coefficient of no more than 0.40.
In San Francisco, there are no requirements concerning Visible Transmittance ratings, so you are free to choose a window based on the view you prefer for your home. The last number to consider is the Air Leakage rating, which represents the amount of air passing through a window. In San Francisco, windows musts have an air leakage rating of no more than 0.30.
There is always a benefit to buying the most energy efficient windows available. According to ENERGY STAR®, windows meeting the requirements they provide can save homeowners in California as much as $126 in utility costs each year.