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Replacement Window Buying Guide for Pennsylvania
Installing new or replacement windows is a major home improvement project requiring careful planning and consideration. It may be that you are replacing existing windows or purchasing windows for a newly constructed home. In any case, the project should require careful planning, purchasing the appropriate type of window for your home and ensuring a certified contractor installs them according to the Pennsylvania Building Code.
Window Basics in Pennsylvania
It is important to purchase the right type of window for your project. Windows manufactured for new construction have a nailing fin around their perimeter that allows you to secure it to the rough opening or studs of a wall. Replacement windows do not have a nailing fin. Fasteners are used to secure it to the existing frame through the window assembly. This allows for easier installation by eliminating modifications to the rough opening.
- Operable windows are those that open.
- Fixed windows do not open.
- Every window type has, at least, one sash which is a sheet of glass and a framework of vertical styles and rails.
- A pane refers to a sheet of glass in a window frame.
- Glazing refers to the method used to secure the glass in the framework.
Window Considerations in Pennsylvania
Many considerations are necessary before purchasing new or replacement windows. You must take into account the style of your home, the importance of ventilation, privacy, security and required maintenance. In addition, you must also decide if your new windows will emphasize decorative focal points or practicality.
Common Types of Windows Used in Pennsylvania
There are many types of windows used in the construction industry. The following information will describe the most common window types:
- Double-Hung windows offer a classic look that incorporates both upper and lower sashes that are capable of opening. This provides you with the ability to lower the upper sash, which allows warm, ceiling air to escape or raising the lower sash to allow cooler air to enter. Most double-hung windows incorporate a handy feature, which allows you to tilt the sashes inward to clean the exterior surfaces. This would prove to be a valuable asset in multi-story structures.
- Single-Hung windows are similar in appearance and incorporate some of the same operating features as the double-hung version mentioned above but only the lower sash is operable.
- Accent windows are fixed windows available in geometric shapes.
- Sliding windows incorporate one or more panels that slide horizontally on both upper and lower tracks. This feature allows you to open either half of the window for ventilation.
- Bay windows are designed to protrude between 30 and 45 degrees from the home’s exterior for aesthetic appeal and to create additional storage and seating areas inside the home.
- Casement windows are hinged windows that pivot out and away from the home providing superior ventilation. A crank assembly is used to open and close the window.
- Skylights are fixed or operable windows installed in the ceiling. Their primary function is to enhance interior areas with natural sunlight.
Window Frame Materials Used in Pennsylvania
The type of window frame you choose should be based on your area’s climate as well as your maintenance concerns and aesthetic appeal.
- Wood frame windows are a popular choice particularly for the aesthetic appeal of interior areas when climate is not a concern. Wood-frame windows usually require a special order from the supplier and are most often used in new construction.
- Clad-wood frame windows incorporate both the beauty of wood for the interior and the toughness of an aluminum or vinyl jacket for exterior protection.
- Aluminum frame windows are an economical, versatile and durable option for new or replacement windows. The light aluminum material simplifies installation, is corrosion resistant, and requires little maintenance.
- Vinyl framed windows are rapidly becoming the material of choice in the construction industry. Vinyl framed windows use rigid, impact-resistant PVC “polyvinyl chloride” for frame construction. The material does not rot, fade or require painting. Hollow chambers incorporated in its design resist heat transfer and condensation.
Windows and Energy Efficiency in Pennsylvania
New or replacement windows are available with energy efficient features designed to conserve energy and reduce your utility costs.
- Double paned windows use two layers of glass for enhanced insulating properties. Argon gas is most often used to fill the void between the panes as an additional insulator.
- Triple pane windows use three layers of glass for enhanced insulating properties. Argon gas is most often used to fill the void between the panes as an additional insulator.
- Low-emissivity “Low-E” windows utilize a special coating on the glass that allows light to penetrate, but blocks much of the heat associated with it. The special coating also retains inside heat during the winter months helping to keep your home warm. In addition, Low-E glass filters and reduces the amount of ultraviolet rays that enter your home, which can cause carpet, upholstery and furniture to fade.
- The rate at which heat flows through the window is measured by the U-Value or U-Factor. Lower values represent better insulating properties.
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient “SHGC” represents the amount of solar energy that passes through the window. In warmer climates, it would be beneficial to purchase windows with a lower SHGC value to block summer heat and reduce cooling costs. But homeowners in colder climates, like Pennsylvania, might consider a window with a higher SHGC rating to allow more solar energy to pass through to help warm your home.
- Tempered windows utilize a type of safety glazing. In the event of an accident, the glass crumbles into small bits rather than shattering, which could lead to serious injury.
- Sound Transmission Class “STC” ratings indicate the window’s ability to repel noise from the outside. A higher number represents less sound transmission through the window.
Obtaining a Building Permit in Pennsylvania
Replacing existing windows when the opening or structure is not altered does not usually require a building permit in most municipalities. However, new construction applications or those that require structural alterations require a building permit. Before beginning a window installation project, it would be wise to check with the local building department in your town or city beforehand. Additional information regarding window installation in Pennsylvania can be found in its Uniform Construction Code by clicking here.
Purchasing Windows in Pennsylvania
Most major home improvement centers sell new and replacement windows with many stocking the most common sizes on their shelves. The retailers also allow you to special order windows through their suppliers to fit most applications. Window installation services are available through most home improvement centers with many offering special financing options.
Another option for purchasing new or replacement windows in Pennsylvania is going through a window supplier or contractor. A sales representative will measure your window openings and provide you with an estimate. Upon accepting their offer, an in-house installation technician or sub-contractor will deliver and install the windows.
Hiring a Window Contractor in Pennsylvania
When hiring a window installation contractor you should verify that they hold the required license and insurance coverage necessary to do business in state. Pennsylvania contractors are required to hold Workers Compensation Insurance to cover any employees. The insurance covers job related injuries suffered by the employees while on the job. This releases you of any financial liabilities related to their injury, which protects you, your home and your financial assets against potential lawsuits related to the injury.
They should also carry general building license and liability insurance. The general building license provides you with an additional assurance — not a guarantee — that they are qualified in their field of expertise.
Liability insurance covers any mishaps on the job site resulting in property damage. This could be any sort of job related circumstance such as broken windows, broken plumbing or incorrect installation. In any event, it provides you and your home with additional protection.
Return on Investment (ROI) in Pennsylvania
New window installation provides a good ROI. Aside from the aesthetic appeal they add to your home or business, you can expect to receive a higher property value should you sell your home in the future. Inoperable, inefficient, and dated windows can really drag down your property values. The increased energy efficiency with most new window types also provides a great marketing tool and is attractive to energy-conscious buyers.
Pennsylvania State Incentives, Rebates, and Loan Programs
There may be cost-cutting rebate and incentive programs available in Pennsylvania. Since funding and qualifications for these types of programs are constantly changing, the following links provide a list of searchable databases to find current and up to date programs in Pennsylvania.
- The U.S. Department of Energy maintains a search mechanism for available tax credits, rebates and incentive programs.
- The U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program provides energy efficiency improvements to eligible families.
- The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency allows you to search for rebate and incentive programs by zip code.
- Energy Star’s rebate finder allows you to search cost-cutting programs for window, door and skylight installation.
- Pace “Property Assessed Clean Energy” funds energy efficiency and clean energy improvements.
In addition to cost-cutting programs you may also qualify for financing and loan programs for new or replacement window installation in Pennsylvania.
- Adams Electric Cooperative offers low-interest loans for up to $25,000 for new or existing, energy efficient improvements including storm windows and doors and energy efficient windows and doors.
- AFCFirst’s Power Saver Plus Financing Program provides homeowners with no closing cost, fixed rate loans for Energy Star rated and high-efficiency air sealing and insulation, heating and cooling systems, windows and whole house improvements.
By taking advantage of the cost-cutting and finance programs listed above, you can reduce the out-of-pocket expenses associated with new or replacement window installation.