We previously talked about the orientation of windows, shading and size of windows. We’ve also talked about the performance of windows. Remember, the lower the u-value the better.
When it comes to choosing window frames there are few factors that should to be taken into consideration.
- Look/ visual appearance
- Longevity / maintenance
- Sustainability factors/ carbon footprint
- Purchase price/ maintenance cost
Looks/ Visual Appearance
When it comes to the appearance and colour of a window opinions and taste vary a lot. While some might prefer the sleek look of a black window frame, others might prefer the warmth of a timber window. What colour to choose depends mainly on the look that you are after. Although keep in mind, dark and black window frames can get really hot in summer and lead to un-wanted heat gain inside your home.
Longevity / Maintenance
When selecting windows you should also think about any potential maintenance and maintenance cost for the future. While timber windows are beautiful they will require regular tender love and care. Whereas aluminium frames or upvc frames can look after them self. You might wonder why I haven’t mentioned steel frames here. Well, yes, they can also look pretty much after them selves. But the problem is that they are a great conductor for heat. Which might be great if you want to heat your garden as well. But if you are thinking about building an energy efficient home this would not be your best choice.
The actual performance is the one thing that you must pay real close attention to. Be careful when dealing with a window manufacturer who tells you how energy efficient their windows are, but fails to give you an actual performance. If you are aiming for an energy efficient window you should ideally aim for a u value of under 3. A standard double glazed timber window will range around a u-value of 2.9. Whereas a standard double glazed aluminium window can sit between a U-value of 4-5. I personally would stay clear of that. Reason being the aluminium, similar to steel, is a good conductor, meaning heath and cold travels through it easily. So not ideal for a window frame. Right?
If you do like the look of aluminium windows, and the fact that they don’t require any maintenance, you have to look for thermally improved aluminium frames. The actual technique behind the thermal break is quite complex and therefore double glazed thermally broken windows are often quite expensive, compared to standard double glazed timber or Upvc windows. Most manufacturers have thermally broken systems with a u-value around 3 available.
Of course, there are several high end window companies on the market, that can offer you a high performance window. But those windows can be quite dear.
On the other hand there are the Upvc windows. I know, a lot of people don’t like them. Because they say they look cheap and like plastic. Well, this can be true, depending on where you are getting the windows from. There are a lot of Upvc windows on the market imported from overseas that do look plasticy and flimsy. I wouldn’t trust their u-value specifications wither. But this is not what I mean. I do refer to good quality frames. Like they are common in most European countries.
We had actually ordered the windows for our own house from Germany. Reason being their excellent performance and low price, compared to what’s available on the Australian market. But there are also a few companies here in Australia that have great products. If you want to know more about who to talk with, just get in touch and I can give you some details.
Upvc windows also don’t require any maintenance and can have different frame colours and mullions, so can be used for period feature windows as well as sleek modern designs.
Sustainability factors/ carbon footprint
When thinking about the environment, timber windows clearly appear to be our best choice. However, this might not always be practical, due to maintenance or cost factors. I do believe, in the end, if you invest in a good window, that will last for future generations, it does not matter as much if the product used might not be as green as others.
Which window is right for you?
This is really a bit of a personal choice question and depends on the look you are after as well as on your budget.
In an ideal word, when money would not be an issue I personally would love to get composite windows. That are windows that have a beautiful timber frame internally and a robust, maintenance free aluminium frame externally. Those windows do look beautiful and most of the supplier have really high performing window systems available. But they come with a big price tag.
My personal choice are Upvc windows. In my experience they are the most affordable high performing window systems. And often windows with a u-value of under 2 can cost the same or less than a timber or thermally broken aluminium window with a u-value of 3 or more.
So when you start looking for windows, definitely have a look at some real good Upvc windows. There are much better than most people think.