It is nearly impossible to tell the difference between high quality and budget windows judging by appearance alone. While you can clearly see the difference in quality of certain items such as clothing and cars, this is not always the case with vinyl windows. You may not physically see a difference, but the real quality (or lack thereof) of a budget window truly lies below the surface. Before you snap up the most economic window that you can get your hands on, let’s take a look at the anatomy of a true budget window.
Budget Window Vinyl Frame Composition
The vinyl used to build budget windows consists of a large amount of calcium carbonate. Higher levels of calcium carbonate in vinyl window frames make the window susceptible to cracking, peeling, and warping. Calcium Carbonate is used as a filler ingredient that makes it appear as if there is more vinyl than there really is. Higher quality vinyl windows use less calcium carbonate and more titanium dioxide. Higher levels of titanium dioxide result in higher quality vinyl that will last through years of harsh conditions.
Air-Filled Panes That Lose Energy
One of the most popular energy saving features is an invisible gas called Argon. Argon is injected between the two panes of glass of your dual pane windows, and it provides more thermal efficiency. When you are using a budget window at the bare minimum price, there will not be any gas present between your window panes; your window will literally be full of stale air.
Budget Window Glass Glazing
In addition to Argon, Low-E coating is another energy efficiency option that coats your window’s glass. Low-E is used to reduce the amount of ultraviolet light that enters your home, keeping your energy bills down regardless of the season. Just like gas inserts, Low-E coating is not applied to budget windows. This means that the sun’s rays can stream right through your glass and heat your home up like an oven.
No Foam Filled Frames
Quality windows are typically foamed-filled for insulation benefits. This graphic from Berkeley Lab showcases the incredible insulation advantages of a foam-filled window vs. a window that is hollow. The window on the right is filled with foam, while the window on the left is hollow. Budget windows do not come with insulating foam, which can lead to colder homes in the winter and hotter homes in the summer. See it for yourself on this government-backed thermal graphic.
Only Two Panes
Perhaps one of the biggest disadvantages of budget windows is that you will always be cornered into selecting dual pane. Triple pane windows are affordable, but they won’t be found on the line of budget windows from your run-of-the-mill window company. The good news is that you are able to buy quality Triple Pane windows at the price of dual pane from Window Depot. If you are looking to save a buck, Triple Pane for the price of dual pane makes perfect sense.
Budget windows may be economically convenient, but they do not carry much weight in terms of energy efficiency and long term solutions. For the best bang for your buck, invest in quality windows that help lower energy bills and last for years to come.