As each year passes, it seems, there are more to choose from. As manufacturing techniques get ever more sophisticated, it enables newcomers to join the fray and offer their new-to-the-market products, but let’s take a closer look at the functions of a window today, what advantages there are over what was available decades ago, and what to look out for that might go overlooked.
Modern windows do more than let the light into your home
As more and more is asked of a window in the performance of its function, you could say that more and more the window is an opportunity for its core functions to fail. We all know that, years ago, you could open the hood of your car and perhaps fix what just went wrong with it. Today, there’s little point in opening the hood of a modern car because, well, you need a bank of computers just to diagnose what the problem is. It’s good in one way – cars have become orders of magnitude more reliable – but bad in another sense in that it takes only a minor flaw for your car to leave you stranded at the side of the road. In the balance, though, cars are almost perfect in the quality of their manufacture these days. A simple Ford Focus today, you can reasonably expect, will be more reliable than say a luxury Mercedes rolling off the production line in Germany in 1970. What was ‘word class quality’ then, would be slammed today by consumer advocate organizations and customers alike. Although windows for the consumer market are clearly not as sophisticated as a modern car, they are far more complex and serving multiple purposes today than they were one of two generations ago. Let’s look at what a modern window does, and examine then what you should look for in a manufacturer.
A window should last a long time
You should be able to expect the new windows you install in your beautiful home to, well, last longer than you do. The materials used today are scientifically produced to meet very exacting standards. That might sound like marketing-speak, but I mean it in this way. Two generations ago, materials were selected on availability. That means, if wood was available, stuff was made out of wood. One reason, for example, the Boeing company was started in the Pacific Northwest was that there were trees of many times growing in abundance here. If coal was plentiful under the ground of a given state, that state became a coal mining and supply state. It was all about what was close to hand. Nature gave you the hand of cards you had to work with, and luck, therefore played a big part in things. Today, a purpose is examined, chemistry and physics are applied to the problem, and a new material, chemical or pharmaceutical agent is created. One that never existed before. If we need a window frame that must resist direct ultraviolet light, then we (humans) put our scientific minds to it to produce a new material that does just that. Further experimentation and calculation allows us to incorporate more and more advantages in the window frame we create. It seems like there is an infinite number of solutions we can create within our scientific and engineering communities. Whatever problem the consumer, military or theoretical research communities come up with, science jumps in and appears always able to meet the need. Sometimes that’s in small steps – like finding a cure for cancer, for instance – and sometimes it seems to happen overnight. With all that science behind us, it is reasonable to expect a modern window frame to last a long time indeed.
Window manufacturers who have been around a long time, therefore, are more likely to know what lasts and what does not. When vinyl window frames first emerged on the market, they seemed to work fine at first, then began to fail a lot in the early years of their expected life. Soon it was obvious that the first generation of vinyl window frames fell short by a long way, and those manufacturers who had originally rushed into a quick product solution found themselves with many unhappy customers who need to be ‘made whole’ again. It was an expensive misstep, but the industry learned from that experience to be more cautious, and to focus on the ‘long game’. Products needed to be tested far more thoroughly if they were to live up to the promise of new technology.
Flexible window frames, yet strong enough to protect the panes
Stone or brick houses don’t flex much. They’re made differently to wood frame homes which do bend and flex a little to accommodate a storm, for example. Well, glass doesn’t bend much at all, and for that reason, a window frame becomes the interface between the ‘flexible’ house structure and an inflexible glass pane. The frame cannot simply bend as much as the house does, but it must at the same time become part of the house, you could say, while protecting the rigid panes of glass it supports. That one feature of a window frame is essential if you want the glass in the window to last a long time. It needs to have that flexibility built into it. It’s not a product you could easily make on your workshop bench, and even if you could, your windows might present a problem to the first house inspector that needs to quantify the value of your home.
Windows that create a near perfect seal and protection from the outside
A window frame, together with its panes of glass, of course, must offer you an almost perfect seal, both to keep the warm air in (or cool air if it’s an air conditioned home) and the inclement air out. If you’re spending money heating or cooling your home, a small gap in a window frame can significantly increase your utility bills, and cost you a lot of money over the lifetime of the window frame.
Another source of ‘pollution’ is noise pollution. A modern window should offer you a lot more protection from noise pollution that one from a couple of generations ago. One thing you will notice, if all goes well (and it should), is a much quieter home when the windows are closed.
Think about the sound proofing qualities of your new windows, and ask your professional about which manufacturers are better at delivering that benefit.
Check back next week for more.