Knowing your priorities will help you find the best value in windows.
Synopsis: The double-hung window remains one of the most popular window styles in the country. Contributing writer Scott Gibson breaks down the buying decision for double-hungs into four categories. The first is energy efficiency, the second is durability, the next is appearance and the final category is functionality.
The venerable double-hung sash window has been letting light and air into American homes as long as there’s been an America, and it remains one of the most popular window types in the country. And while they’ve come a long way from those early “wind holes,” you can still buy double-hungs with essentially the same chain-and-weight mechanism that made them the talk of Europe in the mid-1600s.
Double-hungs today are all about choice—and price. A budget 2-ft. by 3-ft. window with a vinyl frame and double-pane glazing costs as little as $100 at a home center. Or you can spend four or five times as much on a window like the Alpen Series 725 double-hung, built with a foam-filled fiberglass frame and triple-pane glass. Ultimately, manufacturers say, the cost of a window equals the sum of its parts. Cheaper windows use cheaper materials (vinyl instead of aluminumclad wood, for example), come in limited sizes and colors, lack custom features, and have glass with fewer coatings and higher U-factors.
What, then, is worth paying for? It depends on your priorities. Are you building an energy-conscious house in Maine, or restoring a vintage bungalow in Tennessee? Are you choosing windows for a showcase home perched on an ocean bluff, or for a modest Cape for an aging parent? A look at four key factors—energy efficiency, durability, appearance, and functionality, along with the costs associated with each—can help you choose the window that fits your needs and your budget, too.