The best time to make a decision about purchasing new windows is NOT while a tropical storm is whipping up in the Caribbean. Hasty decisions to get hurricane protection installed on your home (or any structure) will rarely result in the purchase and installation of the proper type of product or degree of protection.
We tend to get anxious and forget the most important rule of common sense purchasing – don’t purchase a big ticket item without making sure it is what you want or what you need. No one likes to feel taken advantage of nor do they enjoy finding out, after the fact, that they didn’t make the best purchase. Impact-rated windows (sometimes referred to as just “impact windows”) are one such item that many homeowners feel compelled to buy without doing the proper research. If you don’t get the pertinent information it’s easy to make a poor choice that could result in buyer’s remorse. Here are a few tips and some information to help guide you in your decision making:
1. Old isn’t bad. Before you even consider new windows – impact-rated or non-rated – have an independent energy audit performed on your current windows. Most power companies like TECO, FPL or Duke Energy should perform this service for nothing. A professional audit can run as much as $500. You may find out from the audit that spending just a few hundred dollars to weatherize your current windows may save a fair amount of money on your energy bill. You may even find out the you will save even bigger bucks by not needing new windows at all.
Even if your windows are old they may still be good – especially if they are old wood windows. Installing some replacement felt strips, a few seals and some caulk can make a world of difference in the performance of your current windows. Don’t think that new windows will be the solution to water leakage, either. Even brand new windows can allow water to get into your home in an amount that is “within manufacturer’s acceptable standards”. Unfortunately, this is a phrase commonly used to address warranty issues regarding leakage of both air and water. For some reason their “acceptable standards” never seem to be as high as the ones that you thought that you paid for when you signed their contract.
2. Hurricane proof? Impact-rated windows are a “sacrificial” form of hurricane protection. They are designed to break but after they are broken they are not supposed to allow the wind to pressurize the interior of the building. Many folks misunderstand the term “impact-rated” thinking that it means “unbreakable” or “hurricane proof”. None of these terms are accurate. In fact, impact-rated windows break a lot easier that window companies would like you to know. Just to be clear, there is no such thing as a hurricane proof window or unbreakable window for residential use available from any of the major U.S. window manufacturers.
There are lots of online videos that show you the mess that results from a broken impact-rated window. If you don’t want the expense, mess and inconvenience of replacing them after they suffer storm breakage, vandalism or a maintenance accident, you need to protect them. You could always opt to let them get broken and then file a claim with your insurance company, but we all know what happens to your policy rates when it comes time to renew.
3. Accidental breakage. Never rely solely upon impact-rated windows for hurricane protection on the ground floor. A tap with a hammer or getting struck by a rock will result in hundreds of dollars (or more) in damages. Whether the rock comes from a lawn mower or the hammer from a window maintenance accident, they will both cost you big bucks to have the window replaced.
4. Vandalism. Because of their high replacement cost, make sure that your chances of a “smash & grab” break-in attempt is nil before considering impact-rated windows. A vandal or street thug with a hammer, center punch tool, rock, slingshot or glass cutter can do thousands of dollars in damage to impact-rated windows very quickly. In most cases, regular windows with clear security panels are a more cost effective approach.
5. Beach houses. If you live on the beach, always shutter your windows (impact-rated or not) to prevent etching of the glass by the wind-driven sands during a storm. Some insurance companies already require shuttering them so if you don’t, your wind damage claim for this type of damage might not be honored.
6. Energy saving? Don’t fall for the energy savings claims about new insulated impact-rated windows paying for themselves. Independent studies have proven that the pay-back time using energy savings is in excess of 40 years – no matter what the salesperson tells you or what chart they use. The more expensive the unit, the longer the pay-off, not counting ongoing replacement costs for seal failures of I.G.U.s (insulated glass units). Find out more about energy saving windows by doing a search for “Wood Window Replacement/Energy Analysis”. There are many independent studies available that refute the window industry’s energy saving claims. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has also issued written warnings to some of the glass manufacturers who have made unsubstantiated energy savings claims. Please beware.
7. Repair or replace? Find out how far into the future that replacement parts for your windows will be available. Get any assurances in writing. If there are no replacement parts available after only 10 years, it will mean that any window with broken springs, latches or seals won’t be repairable. This means you will be buying new windows, again! This is one way that window manufacturers assure themselves of future business. You can read more about this in any of the replacement window online forums.
Speaking of replacement, most window warranties are “pro-rated” and only pay for a small percentage of the replacement cost after the first few years of ownership. For example, if your new windows come with a 20 year warranty, ask a company representative to show you a hypothetical scenario of how much a new window would cost (using current prices) if it only lasted 15 years. Make sure that you are informed of all maintenance procedures that the homeowner must perform to keep the warranty in force. Most “no maintenance” claims made by the salesperson only apply to the 1st year. After a year the homeowner is responsible for caulking and other duties on an annual basis throughout the entire length of the warranty. Also, check what the “acceptable range” is for water penetration. Very few impact windows are guaranteed 100% water tight during a tropical storm and I doubt that any of them are when they are 10 years old. Using shutters to keep the water and wind away from the windows is the best way to prevent leaks. duke energy customer service