Windows are one the few features that affect the appearance of both the inside and outside of your home. They also majorly affect your home’s overall comfort and energy efficiency. Windows provide natural light, ventilation, and views of your surroundings. Choosing the right windows for your new home is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. This week’s mini lesson will be the first a short series we’ll do on windows. Today we’ll cover the different window styles and some quick tips to help you with your home’s window design.
Let’s get started with a few window pro terms:
The frame is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the framework that surrounds and supports the entire window unit. In other words, it frames the entire window.
The sash is a frame within the frame. It most often refers to the moveable part of the window, but technically the stationary part of the window is also called a sash.
Decorative strips of wood, metal or other material that visually divide the window. Grilles give the glass the appearance of multiple, smaller window panes. The grilles form a grid-like pattern on the glass of the window. Grilles are most often seen on windows of more traditional houses. Windows without grills give a more contemporary look. Adding grilles to your windows usually adds to the cost of the windows, so if they’re not that important to you, or the look of your home, you might as well not order them.
So, for the typical window that is opened from the bottom and be raised upward, there is one window frame that surround the entire window unit, and there are 2 window sashes. The one at the top of the window is a stationary sash and the one at the bottom is a movable sash. And some window have grilles, also called grids or muntins, and those grills subdivide the glass into smaller units.
Moving on to this week’s mini lesson...
Not all windows claiming to be energy efficient are. An easy way to choose windows that have proven to be energy-efficient is to look for products that meet ENERGY STAR® requirements.
The ENERGY STAR program was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. The program helps consumers identify products that save energy. Energy Star standards for windows change from region to region. This assures that windows include specific features that will help them perform well in different climates.
For example, for hot climates, Energy Star windows have a low solar heat gain coefficient. In colder climates, windows will have a low U-value. Remember,
U value is the measure of unwanted heat flow. We’ll talk more about solar heat gain coefficient and U value, plus other factors that affect energy efficiency of windows in upcoming mini lessons. For now, know that choosing ENERGY STAR qualified windows will help you save energy, save you money on your utility bills and increase the comfort of your home.
Now, let’s go over the different styles of windows that you’ll have to choose for your new home. Keep in mind that you don’t have choose just one style of window for your entire house. You don’t want to choose so many styles that your house looks like a hodge podge, but choosing a primary style plus a couple of alternative options is completely acceptable. As you’ll soon learn, some window styles work better in certain spaces than others. Choose window styles based on your home’s architecture, the purpose and location of the window, and your budget.
There are 9 styles that we’ll go over today.
Our list starts with what is one of the most common windows found in the United States...
1. Single-hung windows
Single-hung windows have a bottom sash that opens by sliding upward and an upper sash that’s fixed. Only half of the total window can be opened for ventilation. Single-hung windows are especially common in spec homes, that is non-custom built homes, and apartments. That’s because single-hung windows cost less than many other window styles. These windows are classic and go with many types of architecture— from traditional to contemporary.
2. Double-hung windows
Double-hung windows look very similar to single-hung windows, but double-hung windows have two sliding sashes in a single frame. The top sash slides downward and the bottom sash slides upward.
Double hung windows are great for creating air flow through the house. You can open the bottom sash to allow in a cool breeze to come through the lower part of the window, and you open the top sash to help pull hot air from inside the house to the outside.
Double-hung windows are also well-suited for homes with small children because you can open the top sash for ventilation and keep the lower sash closed, preventing children from climbing out of the bottom window.
If you like, you can pay extra for rotating or tilting features that allow for easier cleaning.
3. Fixed windows.
Fixed windows don’t open or vent, so they provide light and a view, but no ventilation. Fixed windows come in many sizes and shapes, including circles, ovals and hexagons. Smaller fixed windows with unique shapes are often used primarily as decorative accents. My current house has a smaller oval window in the laundry room. It provides some light, but it mainly adds some visual interest to the outside of our house.
Larger fixed windows that are used to enhance a view are sometimes called picture windows.
Fixed window can be one of the most economical choices as long as they are not too large or too fancy as far as shape.
4. Casement windows
Casement windows open like doors. They have a single sash that hinges on the left or right side. Most often, a crank handle is used to open the window and the sash swings outward when opened.
Casement windows offer an unobstructed view since they have no framework through the center of the window like you’d see with a single or double hung window. So for houses with a view, casement windows are an excellent choice.
Casement windows can be used with many architectural styles, but are especially popular with Mediterranean, contemporary and transitional styles. Remember, transitional homes are a blend of traditional and contemporary. Casement windows are also often used in higher end homes.
They offer more ventilation than single or double-hung windows because the entire window can be opened. And typically casement windows have less air leakage than other styles.
Because they swing out, they should not be installed where they open into areas of traffic flow, such as decks or front porches.
5. Awning Windows
Awning windows are hinged at the top and open outward from the bottom. They're often placed above or below other windows and over doors for extra ventilation and light. Like casement windows, they have less air leakage than many other windows. Awning windows are usually wider than they are tall.
As their name suggests, awning windows create the appearance of an awning when open. Awning windows are often installed in coastal, beach houses.
6. Hopper-Style Windows
Hopper style windows are the opposite of awning windows. They're hinged at the bottom and open at the top. They can swing either inward or outward. Both hopper-style windows and awning windows can be used as transom windows, which are next on our list.
7. Transom Windows
Transom windows are most often used in combination with other windows or above doors. They can be either be fixed or venting units that open and close, like the awning or hopper style windows that we just talked about.
Transoms are typically installed beneath or on top of the primary window units. They help give the illusion of a larger window and allow for more light. If the transoms are venting units, they can also increase airflow. Transoms are often used in a walls of windows. Transom windows are available in many different shapes, including square, rectangular and half-circles.
8. Bay window and bow windows
Bay windows and bow windows are made from a combinations of windows. Bay windows consist of a large center window bordered on either side by smaller windows. The windows can be stationary or operable.
A bow window is similar to a bay window, but consists of several windows that create a rounded, outward projecting arch, like a pot belly projecting on the outside of the house. Both bay and bow windows provide wide open views, plus they can make a room look larger than it really is. Many people add a window seat to bow and bay windows.
9. Sliding windows.
Sliding windows are exactly what they sound like, they slide open horizontally. They’re one of the least expensive options, and they require little maintenance. They provide about the same amount of ventilation as single and double hung windows since only half of the window can be open at one time. Sliders are typically available as single-sliding units, where only one sash moves, or double-sliding units.
One of the biggest advantages of sliding windows is that they are easy to operate. Sliding windows are ideal for difficult-to-reach spots, like over the kitchen sink. If you’ve ever tried to rise a single or double hung window that over the kitchen sink, you know how tricky that can be. A casement window can also work over a kitchen sink, as long as it doesn't open into a flow of traffic.
So to recap:
1. Single-hung windows have 2 sashes, but only the bottom sash can be opened.
2. Double-hung windows have 2 sashes and both of them can be opened.
3. Fixed window provide light and a view, but cannot be opened.
4. Casement windows open like a door, with a crank handle.
5. Awning windows hinge at the top and open at the bottom and look like awnings when opened.
6. Hopper style windows are the opposite of awning windows— they are hinged at the bottom and open at the top.
7. Transom windows are usually used above or below other windows or above doors. Awning and hopper style windows can be used as transoms.
8. Bay windows and bow windows bow away from the house to expand your view and add dimension to the exterior of your home.
9. Sliding windows slide from left to right. They are one of the most economical operable choices.
Now, let’s go over some quick tips that will help you with your home’s window design.
1. Minimize east facing, and especially west facing, windows because the sunlight coming through those windows can be too intense. South-facing are appealing in all but the hottest climates because they let in the most light. North-facing windows provides soft light, but not much warmth, so try not to add too many north facing windows if you live a very cold climate.
2. Homeowners in especially windy areas should consider choosing mostly casement windows since window experts say they perform better than other window styles in high winds.
3. To increase natural light coming through windows, choose windows with screens that roll up and out of sight when not in use. This will cost more, but might be work it for the extra light.
4. In warmer climates, install white or light colored window shades, drapes, or blinds that will reflect heat away from the house. In colder climates, use dark window coverings that will attract the sun’s heat. If you want to get really energy efficient, you can use window coverings that are light on one side and dark on the other side, and flip them as the seasons change.
5. Install awnings or overhangs over south- and west-facing windows in hot climates. This will decrease the amount of sun and heat that enter your windows.
6. Choose the brand of window that you want first, and then look for a contractor who is specially trained by that manufacturer. Ask your local Home Builder’s Association or the window manufacturer for a list of recommended installers.
7. Choose fixed windows wherever possible.
Add enough operable windows to each area of your house to provide adequate ventilation. Once you’ve added enough operable windows to give you the desired amount of fresh air, fill in the window design with fixed units. That way you will maintain your views, natural light and overall design, while saving money.
8. If any window is within 18 inches of the floor, or near a window seat, order tempered or impact resistant glass for safety. Many building codes require it anyway. Tempered glass is heat-treated during the manufacturing process and crumbles if broken rather than shattering. Also consider tempered glass if you live on a golf course or near a playground.
9. Don’t assume that the smaller the window the cheaper. That’s not always true. I read that a 4’x4’ window costs the same to produce as a 2’x2’ window. So, be sure to compare prices.
10. Save money by choosing fewer windows and less expensive styles, not by buying poor quality windows.
Buying super cheap, poor quality windows is not the way go. Your windows are not where you want to pinch pennies. They are too important to the overall comfort and energy efficiency of your home. So buy the best quality windows that your budget will allow, but maybe fewer of them. And talk with your house designer or window salesperson about how you can alter your window design to save money without significantly sacrificing quality or energy efficiency.
That’s it for this week. Come back next week for a mini lesson that will help you understand the different materials used for making windows and which materials are low maintenance and best for your climate and budget.
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Alright, let’s see if you can get a perfect score on your quiz this week.
1. What is the term for the decorative, grid-like strips of wood, metal or other material that visually divide the window, giving the glass the appearance of multiple, smaller window panes.
D. All of the above
The answer is D, All of the above. Grilles are also called grids, muntins and several other names. They’re added mainly for decorative reasons, but can add to the cost of your windows, so if you can take them or leave, it’s probably best to leave them and save some money.
2. To save money, should you buy more operable or more fixed windows?
The answer is… buy more fixed windows to save money. Get as many operable windows as you need for adequate ventilation, then fill in the design with fixed windows, which are generally less expensive.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me. Come back next week for another episode of BYHYU.