THE SENSIBLE HOME : Window Frames Can Cut Drafts, Noise, Dust


QUESTION: I want to replace my ugly, drafty windows with no-draft, no-maintenance windows. Are the new easy-to-clean designs of vinyl and fiberglass windows efficient and durable?

ANSWER: Replacement windows made with vinyl or fiberglass frames are the best choice for almost any climate. They require zero maintenance and are the most efficient. I installed new foam filled vinyl windows in my own home.

Selecting the proper type of frame material and new high-efficiency glass reduces wasted energy by up to 80% and virtually eliminates drafts. Outdoor noise, dust and the fading of furniture and curtains are reduced too.

Although all replacement windows look alike, there are significant quality differences among the various designs. The efficiency ratings (U-value) can vary as much as 50% for similar looking windows. Consider the "total window U-value," not just the "glass U-value," for accurate comparisons.

Fiberglass and vinyl frame and sash materials are natural insulators, formed with many insulating cavities inside the frames. This reduces heat transfer and increases the strength of the entire window.

Several vinyl window manufacturers inject foam insulation inside of the frame and sash cavities. Because the frames are custom sized to window openings, the foam can be injected with no voids as they are being made.

Fiberglass frames, although more expensive than vinyl, are extremely durable and efficient. Some new attractive designs are available with interior stainable oak veneer surfaces and optional brass trim. The veneer snaps off when the windows are tilted in for easy cleaning.

Because fiberglass expands and contracts at about the same rate as glass, the frames are made to tighter tolerances. This provides long-term airtight and smooth operation. Fiberglass is virtually indestructible and very secure.

The best vinyl windows use welded construction at the corners. This forms a strong, airtight and waterproof unit. Designs assembled with screws can loosen over time and become leaky. Welded corners also look much cleaner.

Select windows with one of several designs of "warm-edge" technology spacers between the sealed glass panes. Warm-edge spacers create a thermal break between the glass panes to reduce energy loss, noise and condensation.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, the formed-in nailing flange on vinyl and fiberglass windows makes installation easy. It also reduces water leakage.

Write for Update Bulletin No. 758 showing a buyer's guide to 30 high-quality fiberglass and vinyl window manufacturers listing frame materials and insulation, styles, spacer types, U-value efficiency ratings and high-efficiency glass options. Please include $2 and a business-size self-addressed, stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

Thefts of Energy Are Expensive, Dangerous

Q: I was wondering about how much energy is stolen from utility companies, and does it really raise our utility rates?

A: On a national average, about 1% to 2% of the total energy produced by utility companies is stolen. Utility rates are usually based on return on investment, so the honest bill-paying consumers are picking up the tab, not the stockholders.

This amounts to a substantial amount of money. For example, the Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. estimates that theft costs its customers millions of dollars each year. It is also extremely dangerous to tamper with an electric meter.

Letters and questions to Dulley, a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant, may be sent to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

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