1. MATERIALS. Think about how you want the interior of your home to look. Do you want to be able to change colors when your décor changes? Or are you the type of person that wants it done once…and never worry about changing the look again? The materials that windows are made of are wood, vinyl, composites or aluminum. Then there are the combinations of those materials. Wood with aluminum or vinyl cladding, vinyl with vinyl, “foil” or wood interior laminates, thermally broken aluminum, solid vinyl, cellular vinyl and wood-dust /vinyl-dust composites. Each one has characteristics that may solve your particular needs.
2. GLASS. There are dual pane, triple windows 12 lite , dual pane with a film sandwiched between them, plus many types of glass coatings that reduce heat, light and UV radiation from passing through. You absolutely want at a minimum, a Low E coating which reflects heat off the glass. In the winter, when the heat is coming from inside the house, you want it to bounce back into the house. In the summer, when the heat is coming from outside, you want it to bounce off and stay outside. This is what Low E glass does. There are many grades of Low E. Get the best you can afford. You may also find windows with self cleaning coatings.
3. FEATURES. Everybody wants to have their windows to tilt-in for easy cleaning. Almost all new windows can do this today. However, some are easy to tilt, and some are difficult to tilt. You may want to try them out before you buy so there are no surprises. There are various options, such as dual locks, screen locks, vent locks for partial opening, all available on most quality windows. Stay away from “single hung” windows. These are the ones where the bottom sash goes up and down and tilts in for easy cleaning, but the top sash does not even open! Single hung windows are a cleaning nightmare!
4. COLORS. Today’s state of the art windows are available in a surprising variety of color combinations. Manufacturers can make a vinyl window with the same color on both sides such as bright white, soft white, tan or almond etc. Or they can paint the exterior surface with a long lasting paint that binds to the vinyl. There are dozens of exterior colors available using this method. Then there are what are known as co-extruded frames. This is where the base interior color is extruded (like toothpaste coming out of a tube) and a secondary color extruded on the exterior surface at the same time. This process makes an even longer lasting exterior color surface. The third method is to apply a vinyl laminate to the exterior surface. This is also a very stable method due to the space age glues used in production. Interior laminates are also available in various woodgrains and even paintable-stainable “foils” which look and feel like wood. Finally, you can even get real wood laminates on the interior, with maintenance free vinyl on the exterior. Pick a color/material combination that goes with your home!