Selecting the Right Window

Aluminum window

Fall is here and winter is looming around the corner.  With the dropping temperatures, energy use and efficiency (or lack thereof) in our homes become more apparent.  Homes with old or single pane windows tend to feel drafty and down right cold in the winter.  One way to increase the energy efficiency of your home is to replace old windows (approximately 25-40% of the average home’s energy is lost through inefficient or leaky windows).  If you are remodeling, building new, or are just interested in replacing your windows, there are many different types of windows on the market and it can be confusing to determine which one would be the best product to use for your project.

Knowing the basics for selecting an energy efficient window will help as you decide on the look and style of the windows.  Here are the minimum requirements you should consider for your windows:  double-pane insulated glass (air or gas filled), low-e glazing to help keep heat in during the winter and UV out, airtight frames, and Energy Star rating.

Below are descriptions of several types of windows that may be appropriate for your project:


pros: 1) Paintable and stainable, 2) Easy for manufacturers to make custom sizes and designs, 3) Highly energy efficient frame, 4) Long lasting if maintained properly

cons: 1) Regular maintenance is required (peeling paint can expose the wood and lead to rot), 2) Price point may be higher than other types of windows

manufacturers: Lindal, Marvin, Sierra Pacific, Kolbe


pros: 1) Give you the look of a traditional wood window, 2) Highly energy efficient frame (one of the most energy efficient window frame types), 3) Low maintenance and durable in all types of weather, 4) Option for either fiberglass or natural wood interior, 5) Paintable.

cons: 1) Price point may be higher than other types of windows

manufacturers: Milgard


pros: 1) Price point may be lower than other types of windows, 2) Low maintenance and durable, 3) Thin frame profile for maximum glass, 4) Style is suited for a contemporary home

cons: 1) Energy efficiency is more difficult to achieve (be sure to choose a thermally-broken window if selecting an aluminum window), 2) Limited frame color selection, 3) Not paintable (can be shop painted)

manufacturers: Milgard, Marlin, Fleetwood

Composite (Frame and sash is made from more than one type of material) :

pros: 1) Frame composition is tailored work with the weather, climate, and design requirements, 2) Exterior can be aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass, 3) Interior can be natural or painted wood, 4) High energy efficiency, 5) Low maintenance and durable, 6) Paintable if fiberglass exterior

cons: 1) Price point may be higher than other types of windows, 2) Vinyl and aluminum exteriors are not paintable, 3) Limited color selection if vinyl or aluminum exterior

manufacturers: Milgard, Loewen, Marvin, Andersen


pros: 1) Low price point, 2) Good energy efficiency, 3) Extremely low maintenance

cons: 1) Thicker profile than other types of windows, 2) Frame finish has a plastic look , 3) Color selection is limited, 4) Not paintable

manufacturers: Milgard, Kolbe, Marlin

In addition to saving on your energy bills, there are rebates and tax credits available for installation of energy efficient windows.  To learn more about the tax credits and to see if you qualify for either 2009 or 2010, follow the link to:

For a more in-depth look at the energy efficiency of the various frame types, please visit the Efficient Windows Collaborative website.  This site allows you to select the city you live in and evaluate the energy efficiency of the different window types based on the climate in the location.

Feel free to contact Heidi Helgeson with H2D at 206-370-4762 or at if you have questions on selecting the right window for your project.


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