PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Spring is popular time for home improvement jobs like replacing windows. And now there are so many styles and materials to choose from. In this week’s Angie’s List, Jim Donovan shows you some thing you should consider if you’re thinking of getting new windows.

Whether you’re thinking of moving, or planning to stay in your home for a long time, you can’t go wrong replacing old windows.

“If you replace your windows you can save as much as 30 percent on your heating and cooling bills. In the long term you can potentially get 70-80 percent of that investment back,” said Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks.
So how do you know it’s time for a change?

“If you see fogging between the glass of the windows, that would be a good time to look at it and then always look at your energy bill. If you think your energy bill is too high, a good place to start would be your windows,” said window contractor, Joseph Daniels.

There are several materials to choose from, but some are easier to take care of than others.

“Today, consumers can choose from vinyl, wood and even fiberglass. The most popular choice tends to be vinyl because of their durability and the fact that they are low maintenance,” said Hicks.

But before you decide to hire anyone for the job make sure you get an in home estimate.

“The estimate should be in writing. The company should include the pricing information and also the window rating. That way you can make apples to apples comparisons of the estimates,” said Hicks.

Windows materials range from wood, metal, fiberglass and vinyl.

• Vinyl is the most popular choice because of their durability and the fact that they are low maintenance.

• If you want the look and feel of wood, fiberglass is probably your best bet; but it’s not inexpensive.

• If the look and feel of wood is truly a high priority, you might be better off adding high-quality secondary
storm windows with a low-emissivity glass to your existing windows. They’ll offer the energy performance of many replacement windows and often, improved noise reduction.

• Storm windows can be a good option for homes in a historic district because of their flat, narrow profiles and they are relative concealable/

• There are a variety of composite windows on the market that also look like wood, but you’ll likely find the cost is similar to fiberglass.

If you’re in the market for new energy efficient windows, look for these indicators:

• U-factor: Indicates a window’s overall insulating value. An efficient window should be rated 3.0 or below.

• Solar heat gain co-efficient: Measures how well a window deflects incoming solar heat. An efficient window should be rated 3.0 or below.

Design pressure rating: The design pressure rating represents how well the window drains water and how strong the window frame is. You want a window with a design pressure rating between 35 and 45. The higher the number, the better the frame, the more rain drainage it can withstand, and the more wind pressure it can endure.

Angie’s List Tips for Hiring a Window Company:

• Who to hire: Work with a reputable contractor who has good references, proper insurance, a solid business record and certified installers.

• Shop around: Get bids from at least three different reputable window companies. The salesperson should show samples of the products and provide pricing and the ratings for each window type so you can compare what fits your style and budget. Avoid companies who won’t provide the American Architectural Manufacturer’s Association’s (AAMA) ratings

• Window costs: While size, materials and other variables play a role in window replacement costs, expect to pay approximately $350 to $500 per window for vinyl replacement windows – this price typically includes installation. Affordability is almost always a concern when shopping for windows, but it’s important to avoid low-performing vinyl windows that won’t offer long-term energy savings. You want a vinyl window with a good air infiltration rating.

• Installation counts: Bad installation can compromise the effectiveness of even the best windows. Be sure the windows are installed according to manufacturer’s instructions; otherwise, your warranty may be void.

• Ask about lead certification: Contractors performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes built before 1978 must be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

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