A Clear Take on the Confusing Choices of Windows


Question: Our old windows are leaky, hard to clean, ugly, etc. We need replacement windows, but there are so many styles, materials and glass options that I am confused.

Please help me decide what to get.

Answer: There are more replacement window options than there are new car options, and it can become very confusing.

By selecting the proper windows for your home, you can cut your utility bills, eliminate carpet and furniture fading, improve the appearance and minimize maintenance.


Your first decision is the style of window to get: single or double-hung, casement, slider, hopper, awning or tilt-turn.

You do not have to get the same style you had before and you can mix styles.

For most homes, casement and tilt-turn windows are most efficient and secure. When closed, they compress the weatherstripping for the most airtight seal. They are also secure against unwanted intruders. In the summer, they tend to direct gentle breezes into your home.

Replacement double-hung windows and sliders are convenient for cleaning and provide a more open outdoor view. By their design, though, they use loose friction seals that can wear over time. Tight-sealing hopper and awning designs are often used for specific-purpose windows, as for a bathroom or basement.

The next decision is the frame material to select. The primary materials are wood, aluminum, fiberglass and vinyl. For the greatest strength, durability and security, choose fiberglass or aluminum.

For the lowest maintenance, choose fiberglass or vinyl windows. If your budget is tight, locally made vinyl and aluminum are good choices. Wood does require maintenance, but it is often the most attractive. For the lowest utility bills, you cannot beat insulated vinyl or fiberglass frames.

The glass is the heart of any window. For almost every climate, low-emissivity (low-e) glass is the minimum to select.

There are two types of low-e glass: hard coat and soft coat. Soft coat, also called sputter-coat, is more efficient than hard coat, but it sometimes is slightly more expensive.


Beyond basic low-e, there are many glass options with benefits that depend on your climate.

Even with basic low-e glass, your climate determines whether the low-e coating is on the indoor or outdoor pane.

Ask to make sure that your window contractor installs them properly in your home.

Super-efficient Heat Mirror glass uses low-e coated film in between the glass panes. There are several grades. A higher number, for example Heat Mirror 88, is best for colder climates. Lower numbers--66, 55, 44--block more of the glare and heat for warmer climates with a heavy cooling load.


Write for (or instantly download Update Bulletin No. 755, a replacement window selector guide for styles, frame materials and glass types for various climates, and a selected list of replacement window manufacturers.

Please include $3 and a business-size, self-addressed, stamped envelope, and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Leak’s Gone, but Now the Faucet Vibrates

Q: We had a hot water faucet that dripped in the bathroom. I just fixed it to stop wasting the hot water, but there is a vibration sound now when I turn on or shut off the water.


What did I do wrong?

A: You did the right thing by fixing the leak. Just a small drip of hot water every several seconds can really push up your utility bills.

The seat, the washers or the retaining screws are probably loose, so they can vibrate and rattle when the faucet is only slightly opened. Take it apart again and retighten all the components.

Cleaning Drains the Natural Way


Q: My mother used to clean drains the natural way with vinegar and baking soda, but I do not recall how much of each to mix together.

Do you know how to do this and if it works?

A: This is a good natural method to keep drains open without the use of harsh and environmentally unfriendly chemicals. This method may not open already clogged drains, but it can keep them from getting clogged.

The purpose of using baking soda (a base) and vinegar (an acid) is to create a churning action inside the drain.


Dump one-half cup of baking soda into the drain and then pour one-half cup of vinegar over it.

To keep the drain free from clogs, repeat the process as needed at regular intervals.

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