The Bottom Line on Windows in Your Custom Home
When most people plan their dream home, they simply do not put enough thought into their windows. While they might care about the basics — the number of windows, for example — they neglect other important considerations that can make a huge difference in their long-term satisfaction.
That explains why over 60% of new windows are used in replacement remodeling projects, rather than new construction. But as any builder will tell you, it is always better — and less expensive — to do it right the first time.
To that end, let’s take a quick look at some of the things you should keep in mind about the windows in your Dallas custom home.
Windows can be constructed from several different materials, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:
Wood — Most typically made from Pine, Fir, Knotty Adler, or Mahogany
- Versatile, easiest to customize
- Natural, eco-friendly
- Woodgrain patterns create unique beauty
- Can be painted or stained any color
- Excellent thermal performance
- Not available with most window manufacturers
- Requires regular care and maintenance
- Vulnerable to warping and rot
Wood Clad — The exterior of the wooden window is covered in another material, usually vinyl or aluminum.
- Interior/Exterior dual color options
- Energy efficiency
- Not available with most manufacturers
- The exterior cladding can separate from the wood interior
- Least expensive
- Resistant to corrosion, warping, and swelling
- Low maintenance
- Slimmer frame profile allows more glass
- Available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes
- Worst thermal performance
NOTE: The thermal rating of most basic aluminum windows is so poor that they do not meet the minimum energy codes required in North Texas.
Vinyl — Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC — a type of plastic
- Resistant to corrosion, warping, and rotting
- Extremely low maintenance
- Very energy-efficient
- Limited color options
- Lower-grade vinyl windows are susceptible to UV degradation
- Because vinyl is not especially strong, frames and sashes can be comparatively bulky.
Fiberglass — A composite material of glass fibers and plastic polymer.
- Very strong — up to 10 times stronger than vinyl
- Excellent thermal performance — 500 times less conductive than aluminum
- Takes less energy to manufacture than vinyl or aluminum
- Extremely low maintenance
- Able to withstand temperature extremes from -40 degrees to 350 degrees
- Thin frame and sash profiles allow for more glass
- Not available through all manufacturers
- Requires very strict safety precautions during installation
Composite — The windows are made of two or more materials, such as resins and wood particles.
Every manufacturer that produces composite windows uses their own proprietary mixture, and as a result, the quality and performance can vary widely.
Glass and Gas
Because most of your window opening is glass, that glass package is the biggest factor determining how good the thermal performance of your window really is. Most people think that merely having a “double-paned” window is enough, but here’s the thing — “double-paned” does NOT mean “energy efficient”…it only means that there are two pieces of glass.
In DFW, always look for soft-coat low-emissivity (low-e) glass. This special glass is coated with a microscopic layer of metallic oxide which helps reduce heat loss during the winter and helps reduce heat gain during the winter, cutting each by up to 50%.
In top-quality energy-efficient windows, low-e is an important feature of an insulated glass package, where the window panes never directly touch the frame. Instead, each of the double (or even triple) panes is seated in a non-conductive bulb seal that prevents thermal transference and creates a closed air space.
The air in that closed space is then removed and replaced with a heavier-than-air gas, typically argon or krypton. This further slows down any thermal transference through the glass itself. A low-e, gas-filled, insulated glass package also helps prevent frost buildup or condensation between the panes.
Deciphering Window Ratings
Because you will hear a lot of lettered values thrown around when discussing windows, it is very easy to get a bit confused. But the National Fenestration Rating Council has standardized four values that determine energy efficiency.
- U-Factor — Measures how well a window keeps heat in. The lower the value is, the better the window’s performance is. According to the International Energy Conservation Code, the U-Factor for a window in the Dallas-Fort Worth area should not exceed .32.
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient — Measures how well a window keeps heat out. Again, the lower the SHGC is, the better. According to the IECC, the SHGC for a window in the Dallas-Fort Worth area should not exceed .25.
- Visible Transmittance — This value shows how much natural light passes through the window. The higher the number, the less you may need to rely on artificial lighting. In the DFW region, the best windows will have a VT rating of .60 or greater.
***FUN FACT: Artificial lighting uses 15% of all the electricity in the United States***
- Air Leakage — This value tells you how much air comes through the window when it is closed. Obviously, you want to look for the lowest number possible.
To make it easier to determine the type of windows that are best for your custom DFW home, the NFRC created this Window Selection Tool. After you have decided the type of window you need, you can find the specific manufacturers by referring to the NFRC’s Certified Products Directory.
What are the Hottest Window Trends for Dallas Custom Homes in 2021?
The pandemic changed the way most of us look at our homes, highlighting the fact that we need and expect more from our homes than ever before. How does that translate to what we want out of our windows?
First, there is the aforementioned energy efficiency. Because we are spending more time at home, we want to be comfortable, no matter what the weather is like outside. And because heating and cooling costs are always rising, we also like the idea of saving money.
How much money?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat loss and gain through windows accounts for up to 30% of a home’s heating and cooling bills.
Next, the idea that bigger is better now includes windows. Homeowners are requesting wider, taller windows and choosing the largest styles available. For example, while a traditional double-hung window may max out at 48 inches wide by 72 inches tall, opting for a fixed casement window means that maximum size can grow to an immense 72 inches wide by 80 inches tall.
Blurring the Lines
Homeowners are maximizing their space by erasing the rigid boundaries between the indoors and the outdoors. For example, instead of installing a boring bank of hung or picture windows, homeowners can instead open things up and choose a single large sliding window.
Not only does this make the opening a convenient pass-through to the outside, opting for one window lets more natural light into the home.
***FUN FACT: Exposure to natural light has several proven health benefits.
When designing their custom home, Dallas owners want it all — energy efficiency and savings, comfort, more natural light, versatility, and of course, convenience.
Advances in window and hardware technology make it easier for anyone within the home to operate its windows — the elderly, the physically challenged, and even small children.
For example, earlier this year, Pella introduced the innovative and patent-pending Easy Slide Operator, which makes opening and closing awning and casement windows as easy as using a dimmer switch. Instead of time-consuming and possibly-difficult cranking, users can slide the window into the desired position.
The Bottom Line About the Windows in Your Custom Dallas Home
In some ways, choosing to install top-quality windows while building your custom Dallas home is an almost-foolproof decision. According to Remodeling, 65% of what is spent on a window installation is recouped as added resale value. That is on top of the energy savings enjoyed month in and month out.
And when you factor in the other benefits — added comfort, convenience, natural light, and ease-of-use — it’s easy to see why windows are worth a second look.