Well-placed windows are a defining quality of a well-constructed home. Whether the structure is a house, a duplex, or an apartment, windows serve an essential role in both lighting and designing its character. They are an essential tool when it comes to building today’s sustainable, energy-efficient homes.
That’s in part because window technology has changed dramatically in recent decades. The wooden, elegant--but often drafty--windows of the early 19th century that opened freely on a hinge were once considered the signature mark of an upper-class home. They let in the breeze on a sunny day but they also were less likely to block all of the rain and wind during a storm.
Today’s windows employ technology and materials that can better safeguard against water leakage and uncomfortable drafts, said Matt Kiernan, director of strategic innovation for Pella.
“Glass technology and corresponding material and manufacturing advancements have drastically improved the quality, performance, and longevity of windows and doors over the past 50 years,” said Kiernan. The use of fiberglass and other materials, and the advent of technology to better stabilize a room’s temperature have helped to increase the durability and function of today’s windows.
But our expectation of what a window can, and should, do has also changed over the years, said Kiernan. And those concepts continue to improve the way that windows are made, as well.
“Today, many windows are built standard with features that allow you to clean them more easily, operate them with lesser operating force, and install them faster with proven designs built to work in congruence with your home,” Kiernan added.
“Through our research and interactions with homeowners, we strongly urge homeowners consider how they interact with their current windows or wish they could do but can’t.”
Building a “window checklist” that defines the way the window is meant to function helps homeowners and designers ensure that the right kind of window is selected, and the right textures, colors, and hardware are factored into the room’s design.
Kiernan said it’s also important to consider the climate in which you live when selecting the type of window and glazing you require.
“Not all glass, window material, designs, and installations methods are created equal,” said Kiernan, so it’s important to factor in how the window will interact with the environment and the climate conditions it will be subjected to. The glazing that is used on windows in Arizona where temperatures can peak to triple digits during the summer is different from what is used on windows in the colder climes of the Midwestern states, where temperatures can plummet below 0° F.
For warmer temperatures, Kiernan said products like Pella Windows’ SunDefense low-insulating glass with Argon helps to reduce both the glare and the penetrating heat of the summer sun.
“Depending on the region of the country, to get the best performance and longevity of your windows, you want them customized to your climate, neighborhood and needs,” said Kiernan, who added that noise factors, like busy streets and the materials a building is made from can also affect what windows a homeowner chooses -- just as it affects the types of windows and glazing that an architect may choose when designing a brand-new home.
“Architects have a big challenge – first, they must coordinate how windows will fit or enhance the home’s aesthetics, and second, they must also consider and imagine how the homeowner will live everyday life in the home, and how its windows and doors can support or improve that living.
Kiernan said some of the mistakes that homeowners commonly make when selecting new windows include choosing a window design or glazing based on what they see offered in a showroom or the configuration of an empty house.
“A window can seem really easy to open until you put a couch in front of it, or realize that at a certain height or weight, the way the window is situated makes it ergonomically challenging,” Kiernan explained.
Thanks to the recent improvements in window manufacturing though, homeowners and architects also have one more guidepost to help them choose the right window product for the locale: EnergyStar ratings. The same certification system that is used to determine the energy efficiency of a washer or dryer is also used by architects to determine which window types and glazing products are suitable for which climate zones and conditions.
“Glazing or glass options are a critical component to a more enjoyable and often times more energy-efficient home,” said Kiernan, who noted that Pella’s windows are EnergyStar-rated.
“Pella's InsulShield glass collection options are designed for specific climate types, and in many cases, depending on where you live, the EnergyStar ratings and requirements are different. Hence [it’s important] to make sure you get an appropriate glass package to fit your geographic area and regional EnergyStar requirements.”
Image credit: Unsplash/Matthew Hamilton (cropped)