New windows can make your home quieter, more attractive, and less drafty, and they don’t need painting. They’re also easier to clean than old windows with combination storm and screens and can reduce your carbon footprint.
To check which windows can keep out rain and wind without leaking, we tested 21 double-hung and four casement-style windows, two of the most popular configurations. We found significant differences between brands in types and frame materials. Working with an outside lab, we subjected the windows to heavy, wind-driven rain and winds of 25 and 50 mph at outdoor temperatures of 0° F and 70°F.
Top 7 Vinyl Replacement Windows
- Park Ridge Products basement slider window is the perfect choice for your new construction...
- Park Ridge Products basement slider window is manufactured with a heavy duty extruded...
- Silver Line Building Products Corp.
- 25 year warranty
- Will not fade, crack, warp, or peel
- Integral J-channel,Tilt-In Cleaning
- Rough opening 24 in. W x 24 in. H. Exact window size is 23-1/2 in. W x 23-1/2 in. H
- Energy efficient insulated glass is standard
- Constructed from white plastic
- Spring loaded design
Replacing windows involves many decisions. If you want new windows, we’ll help you choose the best ones for your home. Here’s what you need to know.
Price doesn’t indicate performance
Among double-hung clad wood windows, a pricey and bottom-rated window from Andersen, $500, wasn’t good at keeping out cold air and was so-so at keeping out rain. A $450 Kolbe vinyl double-hung was impressive, but a top-rated $260 Simonton was even better. All of the casement windows aced all tests. Prices varied by frame material; the top-scoring American Craftsman vinyl window, $260, is the least expensive casement. All prices are for a 3×5-foot window.
Match windows to climate
Look at the overall scores in our window Ratings, then zero in on test results that apply to where you live. If your home is exposed to high winds and cold temperatures, look for windows that were excellent at low-temperature wind resistance.
Don’t overspend on options
Upgrades can easily add 50 percent or more to the base cost of a window. Focus on features that add value. Low-E coatings improve efficiency, but triple glazing probably isn’t necessary unless you live in an extremely cold climate. Double-hung window sashes that tilt in make cleaning easier, and full screens allow optimum airflow when the top window is lowered and bottom window raised. Finer meshed screens let more light through and do not obscure the view as much as standard screens.
Anatomy of a window
1. The frame provides structure.
2. Cladding protects the exterior of a wood or composite window and is made of vinyl, aluminum, or fiberglass, eliminating painting.
3. The sash is the moving part of the window; it can be tilted in for easy cleaning.
4. Insulated glass Double-glazed windows have a sealed space between two panes of glass filled with air or another gas that insulates better than air. Argon gas is standard on many windows, but the energy savings won’t justify paying extra for it.
5. Low-E coating is transparent and improves the efficiency of the glass by reflecting heat yet letting light in. The coating is applied to the outside of the glass in warmer climates to reflect the sun’s heat out; in colder areas, it’s applied to the inside glass to keep heat in.
6. Grilles are decorative and are available in different patterns to match architectural styles.
Know the numbers
You’ll see these numbers on Energy Star and National Fenestration Rating Council window labels:
U-factor, or U-value, usually ranges from 0.20 to 1.20. The lower the number, the better the window is at keeping heat in.
Solar heat gain coefficient is between 0 and 1. The lower the number, the better the window is at blocking unwanted heat from the sun. In warm climates, you’ll want the lowest number you can find; in cold areas, a higher number is better.
Visible transmittance indicates how much visible light a window lets in and is between 0 and 1. As the number increases, so does the light.
Window Frame Materials
- Vinyl is a common material for replacement windows. Vinyl windows are made from rigid, impact-resistant polyvinyl chloride (PVC), with hollow chambers inside to help them resist heat transfer and condensation. Vinyl windows don’t require painting or finishing, and the material doesn’t fade or rot.
- Aluminum windows can be an economical option for replacement windows. They’re durable, light and relatively easy to handle. Aluminum windows are corrosion-resistant and require little maintenance.
- Wood is popular, particularly for the interior parts of a window. It’s available on new construction windows. Wood doesn’t conduct as much heat or cold as other materials and doesn’t allow as much condensation. Wood windows often come unfinished, but you can save work by purchasing them pre-primed on the exterior or interior surfaces. You can also buy them pre-painted in a few standard colors.
- Clad-wood windows offer the benefits of wood on the inside but are covered on the exterior with a tough, low-maintenance jacket of aluminum. The cladding makes the exterior durable and prevents rot. Clad-wood windows are available for new construction.