How to Choose the Best Vinyl Replacement Windows for Your Home

Tips to help you pick the best replacement windows for your budget and lifestyle.

Published November 29, 2021

As long lasting as windows are, there will come a time when your home’s windows are no longer effective and will require replacing. It’s a reality many homeowners have to face because the signs it’s time to replace your windows are hard to overlook. From difficulties opening and closing the windows and locking them shut, to drafts, leaks, and condensation build-up, there are many warnings when a window has reached the end of its usefulness.

Fortunately, buying new windows isn’t an everyday home maintenance project. It’s likely your old windows have been in place for up to 25 years, and you can usually expect the same from your new ones.


Replacement windows come in many types of materials

Choosing the best windows for your home starts with picking the window frame material best suited for your budget and lifestyle. One of the most popular choices is vinyl, although you can get frames made of wood, metal, composite, or fiberglass.

Vinyl replacement windows are popular for many reasons:

  • Vinyl-framed windows require little maintenance and do not need to be painted, stained, or refinished.
  • The frames come in a variety of colors and finishes to suit any design preference.
  • Vinyl frames are durable and resistant to water and heat-related damage.
  • Vinyl windows are an attractive and affordable option.


Vinyl replacement window styles available

There are many types of replacement windows, you’ve likely got several styles within your own home. Some of the most common types of vinyl replacement windows include:

  • Double hung windows - A double hung window has two panels of glass, called sashes, that open to allow for the free flow of air. Double hung windows open up or down from the bottom or top sash. Single hung windows are also available, but only open from the bottom. The top sash of a single hung window is fixed in place.
  • Picture windows - Picture windows are usually large, wide windows that do not open but allow in a considerable amount of natural light into a room.
  • Slider windows - A slider window has two or more sections of glass (sashes), where at least one will slide on a track to the left or right so it opens for ventilation. There are no hinges.
  • Casement windows - Casement windows have hinges on the side so that they can be opened outward, similar to a door. They often have a hand crank for opening.
  • Bay windows - A bay window is a three-paneled window that juts out beyond the exterior wall of your house. Inside the home, having a bay window usually gives the room more living space for shelving, storage, or seating.
  • Bow windows - Similar to a bay window, a bow window also sticks out beyond your home’s outside wall. However, a bow window appears rounded, a look that is achieved with four or more window panels.
  • Awning window - Awning windows have hinges on the top so they can be opened outward at the bottom. These windows are usually wider than they are tall.


Picking the best windows for where you live

Where you live isn’t likely to affect your decision on whether you buy a double hung window, slider window, or casement window, for example. It will, however, affect other choices you make regarding your new windows.

Are impact windows needed? An impact-resistant window is ideal for areas prone to hurricanes and tornadoes. If an impact window is compromised, the glass doesn’t shatter into jagged sharp pieces. Instead the glass typically cracks into a spider web-like pattern and stays intact to minimize the risk of injury. Impact windows are available for double-hung windows, casement, and sliding windows as well as many other popular options.

Do you want to maximize your home’s energy efficiency? To help save money on your energy bills look for windows with the ENERGY STAR® label because the label maps where the window is best for use. Make sure the zone on the window’s label matches the area where you live.

There are also four performance ratings on the label you should pay attention to as well: U-factor, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, Visible Transmittance, and Air Leakage. Out of these four, the U-Factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient ratings are most geographically relevant because some windows are better at keeping the warm air inside, while others are better at keeping it out:

  • The U-Factor is about a window’s ability to keep a room’s heat in. The rating ranges between 0.20 to 1.20, and the lower the number the better for the colder, northern parts of the country.
  • The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient is about a window’s ability to keep unwanted heat out. The rating ranges from 0 to 1, and the lower the number the better for the warmer, southern parts of the country.

The remaining two ratings, the Visible Transmittance and Air Leakage, are less specific to where you live but are important to your window buying purchase regardless.

  • The Visible Transmittance rating (which ranges from 0 to 1) gauges the level of light a window lets in. The higher the number, the more natural light in the room.
  • The Air Leakage rating measures how drafty the window is when new. The lower the number the better and the rating should not surpass 0.3.


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