Have you ever wondered what you could do to make your home safer? Picture this: you’re curled up on the couch watching a late-night thriller movie and the home invasion scene comes on. As the villain effortlessly breaks through the terrified homeowner’s window, you glance over at your living room window and suddenly you’re concerned about your own safety.
I know the feeling. I’ve been there, double-checking my locks and leaving a light on because I’m worried that someone might break-in. It felt like there was nothing I could do to make my house safer, but get this: I was wrong.
That’s right – there IS something that you can do to make your windows 4-5 times stronger. And you know what? All you need to do is choose a different type of glass – tempered glass.
Maybe you’re thinking that you have already taken other steps to secure your house. Great, but don’t stop reading just yet, because tempered glass does more than help keeps bad guys out. We will also be sharing how tempered glass can protect you and your family from accidental injury.
Want to find out more about this special glass and how it works? First off, let’s start by introducing the world of glass. Frankly, most of us don’t know all that much about glass and we just assume it is all created equal. But consider this: there are many types of glass and each is designed for a different purpose.
By now you’re probably wondering what type of glass is used in everyday windows and how to tell if your existing windows are regular glass or tempered glass. But before we go into how to identify the type of glass that you have, we need to learn about both kinds.
What Kind of Glass is Used in Windows and Doors?
The standard type of glass that you can expect to find in basic home windows is called annealed glass. Annealed glass is a softer glass that is cooled slowly during production to help it withstand temperature fluctuations.
A stronger type of glass which can also be found in homes and businesses is tempered or toughened glass. Tempered glass is a variety of safety glass which gains its strength from the rapid heating and cooling process that it goes through during production.
International building codes require that tempered glass be used in certain locations such as near showers, hot tubs, and stairs where the risk of someone falling into the glass is higher. When purchasing, expect the tempered glass to cost more than annealed glass.
What Makes Tempered Glass a Good Choice?
Tempered glass is a preferred window material choice for two reasons: durability and safety.
Want to see just how much abuse a tempered window can take? In side-by-side window pane tests, baseballs and golf balls simply bounced off a tempered glass window, but they shattered the annealed glass. Keep that in mind the next time you see a flock of neighborhood kids headed down the street to play baseball.
Fair warning: even a tempered glass window can be broken, but if it does break, it breaks much differently than annealed glass. This is where your family’s safety comes into play.
Annealed glass breaks into sharp shards that can get embedded in little feet and hands. If your elderly parent or your little child falls through an annealed glass window, they are going to end up with nasty cuts.
This is where the tempered glass fits in. When tempered glass breaks, it breaks into small, smoother and more rounded pieces than annealed glass. Your loved ones are much less likely to cut themselves on the smooth edges of broken tempered glass.
How to Tell if Glass is Tempered
So how do you tell if you already have tempered glass windows? It’s easier than you think. There are a few ways to find out if a window is tempered (and only one of them involves breaking the window).
You start by checking for an etched stamp in one of the window corners that say “Tempered” or “Temp.”
No stamp? Don’t stop yet because there is still a chance your window is tempered, and the stamp is simply hidden by the window frame.
Wait for a sunny day, then put on a pair of polarized sunglasses and look at the window in question. If it is tempered, you will see a series of dark, shadowy lines across the glass. These are leftover by the rollers that the window pane sat on during tempering.
The Bottom Line
To recap, the most common types of glass used in homes are annealed and tempered. Tempered glass is specially treated to be stronger and safer than annealed glass, so it is used in more high-risk locations where it is mandated by building code. Expect tempered glass to break less easily and if it does break, to be less sharp and dangerous than annealed glass.
Now go take a look at your current windows and see if they are tempered. If not, give us a call and we will walk you through how to make your home safer with tempered glass.
You work hard to earn what you have, and the last thing you want is for someone to break into your home and steal from you. Unfortunately, the most recent FBI crime reports document an estimated 1.4 million annual burglaries in the United States.
Each of these break-ins costs the homeowner an average of roughly $2,400, not to mention the time of dealing with insurance companies, police reports, and home repairs or the emotional and mental impact.
You may not be able to make your home 100% burglar-proof, but there are some simple, actionable steps you can take so your home becomes less appealing to a burglar out trolling for easy targets.
Reinforce (and Lock) Your Doors
One of the first entry points burglars go to is your front door. Is it locked? Good job – you passed the initial test.
Now, what else can you do to make your door stronger?
In most forced entries, the door itself isn’t what breaks. Usually, the weakest point is actually the doorjamb. A swift kick to a non-reinforced doorjamb splinters the wood. To combat this, newer doors are being made with heavy metal reinforcing plates.
Not in the market for new doors? Upgrade the security of your existing doors by installing metal-reinforced box strike plates with 3” screws.
Some other DIY door security upgrades include replacing existing deadbolts with quality Grade 1 deadbolt and swapping out the deadbolt strike plates and screws as well.
Lock Your Windows
The second most common entry point in home burglaries is through windows. The good news is that there are some easy steps you can take to make your windows more burglar-proof.
For starters, inspect your windows’ existing locks and ensure that they work. Next step – actually lock them any time you are away from home and at night when you go to bed.
After-market security bars that are easy to remove from the inside, but keep the window closed.
A final security measure is a glass break sensor that will notify you if your window is broken. This can be a stand-alone sensor or may operate as part of a larger home security system (more on that later).
Hide (REALLY hide) the Spare Key
If you are one of the 18% of Americans who leave a spare house key hidden outside, you may want to rethink that practice. At the very least, choose a less obvious hiding place.
A recent survey found that 35% of homeowners said they stashed a spare door key in a fake rock and a scary 25% of respondents simply slid the key under the door mat (the first place a would-be burglar is likely to look). 
If you must have a spare, store it in your vehicle, at work or with a trusted nearby family member, friend or neighbor.
Light Up Your Yard
In addition to some strategically placed ornamental lighting, install motion-sensor floodlights that can be turned on after everyone has gone inside for the evening.
Pro Tip: Be sure to install the floodlights in a high enough location that a burglar can’t simply walk up and unscrew the lightbulb.
Don’t Give Them a Place to Hide
Now that you’ve illuminated your yard, where do you think a potential burglar will want to go? That’s right – they will be hiding anywhere they can.
You don’t have to remove all of your landscaping, but do conduct your own risk assessment of your property as it is now.
Are there easy hiding places like soft hedges and shrubs near doors, windows or other entry points? What can you do to make those places less inviting?
Install a Home Security System
Are you curious about home security systems but wondering whether they are actually effective?
A study conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Criminal Justice Department found that 83% of potential burglars would try to find out if a house had an alarm system. If they learned that the house had an alarm, 60% would choose another, less well-protected target.
If an alarm system was discovered mid-attempt, 50% of burglars would always leave and 31% would sometimes leave.
This means that only 13% of burglars will always continue the burglary after finding out that you have a security system.
Now that you’re ready to look into them, there are many home security systems to choose from, both professionally monitored and non-monitored.
Learn how the systems work, then choose the best fit for you.
Complete systems typically come with a control panel, door and window sensors, motion sensors, surveillance cameras, a high-decibel alarm plus yard signs and window stickers to advertise that your house is secured.
Commit to Consistently Using Whatever Security Measures You Have Installed
An unlocked door provides easy access to your home and even the most elaborate and high-tech home security system does you no good if you don’t consistently arm it.
Complacency is dangerous and can put you and your home at risk. Whatever steps you take to secure your home, choose options that you are confident you and your family will commit to using on a regular basis.
Look at our video!
Imagine what it would be like to transform that dark, gloomy spare room into a bright, sun-filled retreat by day and an indoor stellar observatory by night. Now wouldn’t it be great if you could let in all that light without needing to install windows that provide your nosy next-door neighbor a clear view into the room?
The solution is simple – skylights. Now maybe you have been avoiding skylights because you heard horror stories about leaks and other problems. Admittedly, skylights can seem like a somewhat counter-intuitive concept. After all, why would you want to take a perfectly good roof and cut a hole in it?
The good news is that modern skylights are much more reliable than their original counterparts. You can have your bright natural light and a weatherproof house too. Just plan for your skylight installation and choose the skylight that is right for you.
Not sure how to choose a skylight? We have put together the necessary information on skylight types, materials, and coating options to prepare you to pick out the perfect skylight.
Ready? Let’s get started.
What conditions does your skylight need to withstand?
Before we dive into what specific types of glass are best for skylights, let’s first talk about what challenging conditions your skylights need to endure.
As that gorgeous natural light comes streaming into your room, it first passes through the skylight. That means that whatever material your skylight is made of must be designed to handle extended UV light exposure.
Rain, snow, sleet, hail, ice – these unforgiving elements all land directly on your roof and skylights. Be sure they can take it.
Tree branches are the most likely cause of impact damage, although other airborne debris from a heavy wind-storm can also cause damage. Know how your skylight will react to impact damage.
What types of skylights can I choose from?
Skylights come in two operational types, giving you options for how your skylight functions.
Just like they sound, fixed or inoperable skylights don’t open and close. They simply remain stationary and let light in.
If you want your skylight to function more like a window and allow both light and air to come in, choose a venting or operable style of the skylight. These skylights can either be opened manually, with a remote or – on very high-end models – automatically, based on built-in rain and moisture sensors.
What materials are skylights made from?
Sound like you know what you’re talking about when you refer to your material choices as your “glazing options.” Skylights can be glazed with either plastic or several types of glass, although glass is usually preferred.
Does it matter which skylight glazing you choose? Yes, it does, so let’s check out the pros and cons of each.
Plastic is the original glazing option and one that has been used for a long time. It has a few pros, but many cons and it is becoming a less common choice.
The preferred glazing for skylights is glass and there are several variations of glass to choose from. They share some similar pros and cons along with having their own unique traits.
What exactly is tempered glass? Check this out: when a piece of glass has been tempered, this means that it was super-heated and then cooled rapidly. This process results in a piece of glass that is 4-5 times stronger than the original. If a sheet of tempered glass breaks, it shatters into a lot of small, more rounded pieces instead of sharp shards.
Do you remember playing with a laminating machine and sandwiching a piece of paper between two sheets of the laminate material? Perfect. You understand laminated glass.
To make laminated glass, one sheet of clear vinyl is encased between two sheets of glass. They are bonded together, creating a super-strong, impact-resistant glass. If the glass somehow does break, the sheets all hold together with minimal loose glass falling inside your house.
As if that’s not enough, there’s more. Laminated glass blocks a whopping 99% of UV light and it also has soundproofing properties.
Now you may be wondering if you should use tempered or laminated glass for your skylights and how to choose. The good news? You don’t have to.
Here’s the thing: the absolute best kind of glass for a skylight is tempered-over-laminated. This hybrid approach combines the strengths of both tempered and laminated glass to give you the strongest, most resilient, best quality skylight you can imagine.
What coatings are used on skylights?
Your choice of glazing isn’t the only factor that determines how well your skylight performs. You can further enhance the performance by adding coatings to your glass.
Just like on your car windows, adding tinting to a skylight helps it to absorb more of the solar heat and keep it from transferring inside. This keeps your home cooler in the hot summer months.
The Midwest is blessed with both heat and cold, so a Low-E coating can really benefit you here. This type of coating helps improve energy efficiency in both the summer and winter. The coating reflects your home’s inside temperature back inside instead, so you keep more of your cool summer air or toasty winter air in.
The Bottom Line
Skylights can bring light to an otherwise dreary room while still maintaining visual privacy. Remember to select a skylight that stands up to all the stressors that it will be faced with. Skylight glazing options include both plastic and glass although glass is usually preferred. The best kind of glass for a skylight is tempered-over-laminated and coatings can be added to further enhance the skylight’s performance.
Are you ready to install a skylight in your home? Contact us and let us know what room in your home is ready to be upgraded with a skylight.
Imagine someone breaking into your home, stealing your possessions and traumatizing your family. Are you ready for a scary statistic? Every 18 seconds, another home in the United States is burglarized.  You may think that sounds like a lot, and you’re right. According to these statistics, a staggering 4,800 households a day go through the emotional and financial rollercoaster of coping with being the victim of a burglary.
The good news? You don’t have to be one of them. If there was something you could do to lessen the chances of your life being impacted by burglary you would, right? Of course!
So, what can you do? Let’s discuss. Most burglars get into a house through doors or windows. In 23% of home burglaries, the burglars enter through a window.  And you know what? That means that by hardening up your defenses and making your windows less appealing targets, you are reducing your potential of being a victim.
Ready for some actionable tips? Let’s dive into 8 easy ways to burglar-proof your windows and protect your home.
1. If your windows have locks, use them
Yes, it’s common sense, and most of us are very good about closing and locking our windows when we will be away from home for a long time. Where we tend to slip up is when we are just making a quick 20-minute run to pick the kids up or grab a cup of coffee. The fact is that most burglaries occur during the daylight and burglars are quick. They need only 8-10 minutes to ransack your home and be gone.  Avoid complacency and take the extra time to secure all windows before leaving the house.
When else are you likely to leave your window open? What about when you go to bed? The breeze may feel lovely, just keep in mind that, especially in a first-floor bedroom, your open window is also inviting to burglars.
2. Install secondary locks which are visible from the outside
Your windows may not have locks, or the locks may not be very sturdy. In this case, simply add your own secondary locks or window bars.
There are pin locks and several other styles of window locks that work with everything from a double hung window to sliding windows. Choose the one designed for your particular type of window. Not sure how to install it? The internet has got your back; watch one of the many videotutorials that guide you through the process.
3. Update your landscaping
Do you remember that time you were learning to ride a bike and you ended up crashing into the rosebush? None of us voluntarily crawl through dense rosebushes or other prickly vegetation – burglars included.
Proper inhospitable landscaping near first-story windows can be a deterrent – just make sure that it is trimmed and that it won’t provide a welcome source of concealment for a would-be burglar.
Tall trees close to the home can be used as ladders to second-story windows, so keep that in mind when choosing your landscaping.
4. Choose windows made with pre-laminated glass
Burglars prefers a quiet mode of entry, but sometimes they are still willing to risk the noise of breaking a window to get in. What they aren’t willing to do is continuerepeatedly hitting a window long enough to break through the extra resistance of a pre-laminated glass.
If you are due to replace your windows, consider asking for a quote on upgrading the type of glass in the new windows.
5. Apply a break-resistant film on the inside of windows
Are you stuck with regular window glass and no plans of replacing the window in the near future? It’s okay – you too can make your window protective.
It’s quite simple really. Just add an impact resistant window film to the interior of your existing windows. This film is applied much like a window tint and it functions similarly to pre-laminated glass. Your windows will be many times stronger and harder for a burglar to break.
6. Use an alarm system that detects broken glass
Home alarm systems have come down in price and studies have confirmed their effectiveness as a crime deterrent.
To maximize your benefits, opt for a modern system that includes security cameras and motion sensors. It should have the ability to detect broken glass. The other important factor in this equation? You and your family. A home security system is only effective if it is actually armed and utilized. Consistency is key. Make arming the system part of your routine whenever you leave your home and at bedtime.
7. Close blinds or curtains
Open blinds or curtains are a window-shopping invitation to criminals. All they have to do is peep in to see what valuables you have laying around if anyone is home and even if your security system is armed or not. Make it harder for them by closing the blinds or at least angling them to obstruct the view from outside.
8. Leave an inside light on
Let your windows work for you by using them to send a potential burglar signals that someone is home and awake. After closing your blinds most of the way, turn on a light that is visible from the window.
Many burglars are opportunists and they are drawn to homes that are easy, “soft targets.” Just the simple act of leaving a light on may be enough to deter the burglar.
Now it’s time to take action – follow up on these tips and be proactive. Develop a plan, then take steps to burglar proof your windows so you can deter criminals from breaking into your home.
We would love to hear your suggestions. Leave a comment sharing your best techniques for making your windows and home safer.
Planning for a window installation as a homeowner is pretty straightforward. Get an estimate, choose a company, order the windows, agree on an installation date and prepare your house. The installers show up on time, complete the work perfectly, and everyone is happy. Easy peasey, right?
Now imagine coordinating those logistics as a property manager who, in addition to going through the process most homeowners do, must also consider the installation’s impact on commercial or residential tenants. Everyone loves the thought of renovations until you start to talk about scheduling and suddenly they want the installation to be done outside of normal business hours or not during the time that their baby takes an afternoon nap.
Sounds like a potential headache, doesn’t it?
If you are a property manager looking for advice, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to discover some tips and tricks that will set you up for smooth, successful window installation.
Challenges Faced by Commercial Property Managers
What are commercial tenants most concerned about? You guessed it – profitability. Notify a commercial tenant of your intent to replace the windows in their location and they may say, “Great. Now how much down time is that going to cause me, and how will I be compensated for it?”
You may also be asked if the installers can perform their work on a day or time when the business is closed in order to minimize the potential impact on customers.
Challenges Faced by Residential Property Managers
Window replacement in residential rental properties can be tricky in its own way. Residential tenants may not welcome the thought of a team of contractors coming into their home. They might be concerned about the possibility of their personal possessions being damaged during the install or be frustrated by the need to adjust their plans to accommodate the renovations.
Depending on the level of impact, residents may ask questions about whether they will get a discount on their rent that month or be otherwise compensated by the landlord for the inconvenience. Be prepared to field questions about whether contractors are allowed to enter the unit under the terms of the lease agreement.
How to Plan a Successful Commercial Window Installation
1. Gather Information
Prior to scheduling the installation, ask the contractor what days and hours the installers are available to work. Be sure to note if there are different rates for nights or weekends.
Contact the commercial renter and confirm their business hours. Check to see if they have any upcoming events which they expect to generate additional customer traffic.
Once you know your scheduling options, if at all possible, work with the renter to choose an installation window that meets their business needs and causes minimal disruption to normal operations.
3. Educate Yourself
Discuss the terms of the lease agreement with the landlord. Be sure you know what the lease agreement and local or state laws say regarding renovations and landlord/contractor access while the building is occupied by a renter.
Prior to installation day, ensure the renter knows which windows are being replaced and what access path the crew will need to complete their work. Give the renter as much advance notice as possible so that they know what merchandise, fixtures or equipment they may have to move to prepare the area.
How to Plan a Successful Residential Window Installation
1. Review the Lease Agreement & Laws
The first step for a residential rental unit is to review the lease agreement and applicable laws. Is the landlord allowed to perform this type of renovation/repair while the unit is occupied? If so, what type of advance notice needs to be provided to the tenant?
2. Consider Scheduling Options
For a single-family residential rental, are the renters planning on moving out soon or will they be taking a vacation? Perhaps the installation could be timed to take place during the upcoming vacancy.
Managers of multi-resident complexes would do well to think about timing the installation so that it doesn’t occur during holidays or times of year when the weather is likely to be too hot or too cold. Resident comfort, especially for the elderly or small children is important.
3. Provide Advance Notice& Information
As soon as you know the installation date and time, advise residents. Let them know what to expect and be prepared to answer questions like, “How long does a window installation take?” or “How do I prepare for a window installation?”
4. Be Available During Installation
More occupied units mean more potential for problems during the installation. As property manager, your being on-site and available to assist will be welcomed by both the contractors and the tenants.
The bottom line is this: Tenants, both commercial and residential, will be grateful that their landlord is attentive to building maintenance and is replacing old windows. They will also be concerned about how the replacement process will impact them.
So, you need to replace your home’s windows. You are weighing the pros and cons of a DIY install versus hiring a professional service.
Saving money on installation is tempting, but you start to worry about what could go wrong. You wonder, “Does installing my own windows void the warranty?” or “What are the benefits of hiring a window replacement service?”
And guess what? You’re right to ask those questions. Replacing your own windows may sound like a basic 1-for-1 exchange, but is it really that simple? What does the process involve?
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of hiring a window replacement service compared to going the DIY route.
Expert measurements and better selection of windows
What size windows do you need? Are your windows standard or custom sizes? You can take your own measurements for replacements, but keep in mind that if your numbers are off by even half an inch, you may end up with windows that are too large for their openings. You will have to send them all back (potentially paying a hefty re-stocking fee) and waste time waiting for the correct size to arrive. Windows that are too small will have to be supported by shims or also returned for a different size.
Even worse, incorrectly sized windows aren’t as energy efficient and are more prone to air leaking around the frame. This means that you won’t get the best return on the money you spent upgrading to energy efficient windows.
Experts have the training and skills to quickly determine what size and type of window to recommend for your home. One of the benefits of hiring a window replacement service is the guarantee that the windows they order will fit correctly.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, you may also get better pricing through a professional window company than by going to a big box home improvement store and selecting products off the shelf. Window companies can buy in bulk at lower prices and then pass those savings on to you.
Need to replace custom windows? A window replacement service can help you source exactly what you need.
Cleanup and disposal assistance
Whether you decide to DIY or hire an expert window replacement service, you will need to prepare your home by:
If you do your own window replacement, the cleanup and disposal portion of the project (including its additional cost) will be solely your responsibility.
A professional installation company, on the other hand, may include debris removal and disposal in their quote. Be sure to include this on your list of questions to ask potential installers.
Fast and efficient installation
Honest answer – what is your time worth? Next question: how long will it take for you to install a window? Your time is worth money and that money is wasted if you spend an entire day struggling to install a single window.
The 10-step installation process takes professionals an average of 1 hour per window. A team of installers can generally complete an entire small home in just a single day.
Unless you have installed a lot of windows in your spare time, odds are it will take you a lot longer than it will take the professionals and you will be less prepared to fix any challenges that may arise during the process.
Another often overlooked factor in the decision to DIY or hire a window installer is logistics. If you install your own windows, do you have all of the necessary tools? If not, are you going to buy them or rent them? Both options incur extra cost and if you choose to buy the tools, you will need a place to store them or will have to take the time to sell them once the project is complete.
Professionals bring all the tools with them and take them away when the job is done. You don’t have to worry about any of these logistics.
Remember that question you had earlier about whether installing your own windows voids the warranty? Well, the answer to that is, “It depends.”
For most windows, the manufacturer’s warranty states that “damage caused by improper installation” is not covered. If you have the skills and tools to correctly install your own windows according to the manufacturer’s specifications, you most likely will not void your manufacturer’s warranty.
If, however, any part of your do-it-yourself install doesn’t meet those specs, and you submit a warranty claim later, an inspector could deny your claim citing an improper installation as the cause for product failure.
Avoid the potential long-term costliness of a voided warranty by hiring the professionals. One of the benefits of a window replacement service is that the team is trained on the proper installation methods for your windows. Installers will usually provide an installation warranty that guarantees the quality of their service.
This can combine with your manufacturer’s warranty on the windows themselves to provide you with the best possible coverage. As with any warranty, be sure to ask for copies of both policies and ensure that you understand what is and is not covered.
Hiring a professional window replacement service, rather than attempting to install your own windows, benefits you in many ways including:
*Confirm these services/features with your potential installer prior to signing a contract
Now that you know the benefits of window replacement services, it’s your turn – which route are you going to choose for your home window replacement? Are you ready to simplify and expedite the process? We are happy to provide a free quote to get you started.
“Energy efficiency” – it sounds so environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible, but what exactly does it mean? Is it just a fancy buzzword or does it have a quantifiable impact on the quality and performance of our windows?
If energy efficiency is quantifiable, what makes a window energy efficient? Who does the quantifying and how do they communicate that to the public?
What are the benefits of purchasing an energy efficient window vs a non-energy efficient window?
These are some of the questions that come up while shopping for new windows. Let’s break them down and provide the answers you need to make the best decision for you and your home.
What is energy efficiency?
Quite simply, energy efficiency describes a product’s ability to provide the same service using less energy than a similar, non-efficient product.
What does this mean to you? Energy efficient windows are better at maintaining the temperature inside your home regardless of whether you are in the middle of an arctic freeze or a record heat wave. This helps you to avoid higher utility bills since you won’t need to run your heater or air conditioner as often as if you had a non-efficient window.
Who issues energy efficiency ratings?
A third group – the Efficient Windows Collaborative (EWC) – is an excellent third-party resource for educational materials and minimum NFRC ratings recommendations based on what area of the country you live in.
Most of us have heard of Energy Star, even if we are not sure what exactly an Energy Star rating means. The Energy Star program is a joint venture between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Energy.
Appliances, insulation, windows, lighting, electronics and heating/cooling products are all tested, and their efficiencies compared to a baseline value. Products that meet a certain threshold are given the Energy Star sticker of approval.
National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC)
The NFRC is a nonprofit independent organization created by industry leaders. Its purpose is to provide consumers with an objective analysis of the energy performance of a particular window, door or skylight.
How is energy efficiency quantified?
Both the Energy Star program and the NFRC quantify the energy efficiency performance of products and communicate that data to the rest of us in a standardized way that we can understand.
How do they do that? Let’s find out.
Energy Star keeps their rating pretty simplified. A product either earns the little blue star sticker of approval or it does not. For a product to be Energy Star approved, it must meet standards for U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient. Each Energy Star sticker also indicates which of the 4 U.S. climate zones the product is rated for.
The NFRC bases their rating on the two factors considered by Energy Star as well as an additional 3 metrics. This means that a window which is approved by the NFRC will also meet Energy Star standards, but not all Energy Star windows will also be NFRC approved.
The 5 factors that the NFRC tests and rates are:
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)
Air Leakage (AL)
Visible Transmittance (VT)
How are energy efficiency ratings communicated?
When windows meet or exceed the rating standards, manufacturers label them with a certification sticker.
Look for the blue Energy Star sticker and/or the white NFRC label on the window pane.
The NFRC label is useful for comparing one window to another because it gives the numerical values the window received in each of the rating categories.
How do the prices of energy efficient windows compare to non-efficient windows?
In general, energy efficient windows tend to cost a bit more initially than less energy efficient windows.
The trade-off is that over the lifetime of the window, energy efficient windows will help decrease the amount of your energy bills whereas non-efficient windows will lead to higher heating and cooling costs.
What long-term savings can I expect from choosing energy efficient windows?
According to Energy Star, replacing old doors, windows, and skylights with energy efficient options can save you up to 15% annually on your energy bill.
What are the take-aways?
Window treatments are like women’s bangs or manicures. They can make a bold statement or add a sophisticated accent to your room. Classic, trendy, rustic, glam – play with materials and textures. Have fun showcasing your personal style and accentuating your rooms’ beauty.
You may choose to shop based on your practical needs or your stylistic desires. In either case, you will be choosing both a type of treatment and a print/color/style that matches your aesthetic vision for your room.
First, ask yourself some practical and functional questions. The answers to these questions will guide you to the type of treatment that is the best fit for you.
6 Questions to Help Find the Right Type of Window Treatment
New window treatments aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. As you start to explore your needs, you will find that specific rooms in your house would benefit from different types of window treatments.
1. Is privacy a consideration?
Balancing your desires for both light and privacy takes some finesse.
A bathroom, for example, feels more open with natural light, yet visual privacy is crucial.
In the case of the bathroom, the window’s main purpose is to allow light in, not to provide an unobstructed view of the outdoors.
For these types of windows, adhesive patterned frosted glass treatment films are a creative option. The pattern of the frosted portions protects your visual privacy while the bits of clear glass in between allow light to flow in.
Want to have more flexibility and keep an unobstructed view? Tier-on-tier shutters are a traditional solution that provides maximum control over the light-to-privacy ratio. Open the top set of shutters to welcome in the sunshine while keeping the bottom set closed to prevent nosey neighbors from peering in.
2. How much light do you want to allow in?
For some rooms, window treatments can serve a very important functional purpose. We usually think of windows as letting light in, however, in some cases, the ability to block the light out is equally meaningful.
Do you work a night shift and need to sleep during the day?
Imagine creating the full dark movie theater experience in your home media room on a Sunday afternoon. You may see the value in a blackout curtain.
Does the afternoon glare of the sun stream into your home office and cause a maddening glare on your computer screen? Take a cue from corporate offices and invest in a solar shade.
3. Is the room often humid or damp?
Window treatments for areas like bathrooms can be particularly tricky.
Most woods and fabrics don’t hold up well to extended periods of time in moist environments.
Aluminum blinds are also a no-go unless you enjoy the look of rust.
Avoid cleaning up mold and mildew. Choose a more forgiving option like faux wood blinds, honeycomb shades, or vinyl shutters.
4. Are the treatments going in a location where they are more likely to get dirty?
Go into your kitchen and look at the placement of the window(s) in comparison to the sink and to other potentially messy areas.
Instead of having to do an internet search for how to get splashes of marinara sauce out of elegant drapes, pre-plan and choose a more location-appropriate window treatment.
A roman shade dresses up the upper portion of the window and can easily be raised to a level that keeps it above all the mess.
5. Do you have pets or young children?
Creamy floor-length or pooled curtains are breezy and airy. They are also a potentially irresistible temptation for toddlers cruising the house and looking for something to pull up on or indiscriminately use as a napkin.
Dogs and cats also appreciate repurposing long window treatments as chew toys or scratching posts.
Reserve the long curtains for your bedroom and keep the window treatments throughout the rest of the house child and animal friendly.
6. Are these treatments a long-term investment or more of a seasonal statement?
Know your plan and budget before you go shopping. Seasonal window treatments are fun and creative, yet meant for short-term use. You may not wish to spend too much on treatments that you don’t keep up year-round.
Save your budget for the investment pieces that you will use daily (think that blackout curtain the bedroom and the solar shades for the office.)
Window Treatment Styles
Now that you have narrowed down your window treatment’s style, the next – and arguably most fun – part of the process is to select the aesthetics of your treatment. How do you want your treatments to look and feel?
Fabric curtains are perhaps the most common and readily available type of window treatments. Curtains come in many colors, palettes, and prints. You can even make your own custom curtains using a sewing machine and your choice of fabric.
If you love the classic style, accent your rooms with long pleated panels in a floral print. Fabrics can be as light as rayon or silk or as heavy as a damask or velvet. For a formal, classic look, add a box-pleated valance on top.
Vintage farmhouse style comes alive with a soft floral Roman blind or tab-top curtains. Focus on the ease and simplicity of use. Internal shutters in the right wood can also work here.
Decorative aluminum screens are a new type of window treatment that pairs naturally with modern interior design. The screens are strong, industrial, and relatively inexpensive. Choose one in your favorite geometric print.
If your window treatment focus is on practical factors like cost, longevity and ease of use, look into blinds.
Wood panels function much like adhesive patterned frosted glass treatment films, except they add the natural warmth of wood. Unlike the frosted glass, wood panels are susceptible to moisture damage, so be sure they are used in a room that stays dry.
Is it important for you to choose a product that is naturally and sustainably made with as little impact on the environment as possible? An internet search for “natural window treatments” will led you to companies that create impressive natural options including biodegradable roman and solar shades.
Step outside the box and embrace your unique, quirky design sense. Homeowners looking for a more creative take on window treatment have more and more options.
Roller shades or roller blinds can be customized with artwork prints.
Before you go out shopping for window treatments, know your practical needs and aesthetic desires then choose a type of treatment that will satisfy both. Prepare to fall in love with your home all over again.
Upgrade Your Front Door and Increase Your Curb Appeal
What first impression is your home making? As visitors approach, do they see rustic practicality? Upscale elegance? Modern minimalism? Historical charm? A home in need of a renovation and facelift?
Try something: Go outside, stand on the curb and look at your house as if you are seeing it for the first time. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you want to change?
Siding, roofing, landscaping, windows and doors come together to create the curb appeal of your home. If tackling all those variables sounds daunting or if your home improvement budget doesn’t cover such extensive renovations, it’s okay. You can still make a lasting impact by changing just a single item: your front door.
A front door is a natural focal point for your home. Make that focal point work for you by trading out your old, boring door for a statement piece.
There are so many materials and styles of doors to choose from and options for every budget. Hire a professional and you can focus on the fun of choosing the perfect door, not the nitty gritty details of measuring, leveling, and installing.
Ready for some inspiration?
Choose Your Front Door Material
The material you choose impacts the cost, energy efficiency, durability and security of the door.
Common exterior door material options include:
Aluminum is lightweight and relatively resilient. Aluminum doors will last a long time without the need for much maintenance. They are also inexpensive and can be painted.
Despite its strength, aluminum may weaken under high temperatures and it is a poor insulator. An aluminum front door may increase heating and cooling costs in areas prone to temperature extremes.
Bamboo is more than just a well-known flooring and textile alternative. It is also making an appearance indoors. Composite doors constructed of a blend of bamboo and jute are water and termite resistant.
Bamboo’s biodegradable nature makes it a preferred choice for homeowners seeking an environmentally friendly material.
Choose fiberglass doors for their durability and versatility. If you are looking for a lightweight, energy efficient, sturdy door that will last a long time with minimal maintenance, fiberglass should be on the short list.
Since fiberglass is such a popular choice, these doors are readily available in many finishes and styles. Fiberglass doors can even be finished to imitate a wood grain at a fraction of the cost of real wood.
It may sound surprising, but glass front doors are indeed an option. Visually, they provide a stunning and unexpected look.
The trade-off with glass is the decreased durability, increased security risk and heightened maintenance concerns. The hefty weight and substantial price are also deterrents for many homeowners.
Steel is a trendy new door material that feels very modern with its cold, industrial vibe. Doors made from steel are durable and need little maintenance.
Improve your home’s level of security along with its style when you opt for a robust steel door. Keep in mind that the lower the gauge, the thicker and sturdier the steel will be.
Vinyl or PVC doors are formed from a lightweight, sturdy, resilient material. If your focus is on finding the most cost-effective, effective option for a front door replacement, vinyl may be the winner.
With a vinyl door, you no longer need to worry about termites or moisture damaging your door.
The most historic choice for exterior doors is, of course, wood. Although wood doors are still used to lend a rustic or traditional feel to a home, this material is increasingly being adapted to have a place in modern luxury homes.
Wood feels warm and inviting. Its substantial weight makes a bold statement of strength and protection.
Choose Your Front Door Style
Congratulations – you have chosen the material for your front door. Now, what do you envision that door looking like? What style speaks to you?
If you are still figuring it out, here are some ideas to get you started:
Craftsman doors are a slight variation on a traditional solid hinged door. Their straight, traditional lines reflect this style’s no-nonsense Quaker roots.
Not quite sure what a Craftsman door looks like? The signature style feature is the set of 1-3 windows set on the top one-third of the door. The remaining two-thirds of the door on the bottom is solid.
A Craftsman style front door is, of course, often found in Craftsman homes. It feels classic and timeless.
Dutch doors are, historically, a rustic choice. Dutch doors were originally designed to allow air and sunshine into farmhouses while keeping all the livestock out.
This style of door is divided horizontally so that the top half may swing open while the bottom half remains closed.
Dutch doors are still primarily made from wood as they have been for centuries.
The signature of a modern style door is its clean, unobtrusive lines accented by large, minimalistic hardware. Geometric patterns can add interest and are a simple way to make the exterior of an older home appear more contemporary.
Bamboo, steel and glass are all popular material choices for modern doors.
In a world where so many elements are straight, square and rectangle, an arched door adds a feeling of unexpected whimsy and historic nostalgia. Wondering where you may have seen an arched front door before? They are most common in Tudor style homes.
If you fancy an arched door, be aware that their unique shape means that they are usually custom ordered and built to fit rather than mass-produced to a standard spec size. This raises their cost.
What Do I Do Next?
You have a good idea of what material and style you would like for your new front door. So, in order to upgrade your front door, the next step is to contact a professional company, ask some final product questions and get an estimate on the cost of the door and installation.
Take some before and after photos because this is a transformation that you will want to remember and share.
Ask most homeowners if there is anything they dislike about their large windows, and invariably one of the top responses will be: cleaning them. This twice-yearly task is an often-dreaded part of home maintenance. Window washing sounds relatively straightforward, but professional washers use very specific techniques.
Very few people know the best way to clean windows.
Too many homeowners have invested time and effort into cleaning their windows only to realize on the next sunny day that streaks and grime still mar their view.
Don’t be one of these unfortunate homeowners. Learn from others’ mistakes and set yourself up for success when you put into practice these tried and true window cleaning tips:
Use the best window cleaning solution
To fully remove built-up dirt and grime from your windows, you need to use the right cleaning solution. The best window cleaning solutions are heavy-duty enough to provide results yet gentle enough to not damage window frames, trim or your home’s siding.
Commercial solutions are available, but not necessary. Homemade solutions are inexpensive, more environmentally friendly and easy to make.
The most effective DIY window cleaner has just three everyday ingredients:
Vinegar, especially white vinegar, is acidic. The acid helps to loosen stuck on dirt, tree pitch, and residue from previous cleaners. It also helps to minimize and avoid streaks.
Many DIY cleaner recipes use water and vinegar. However, the addition of dish detergent is critical to window cleaning success. The dish detergent contains soap which acts as an emulsifier. The soap helps lift the loosened debris and allow it, as well as oils, to mix with the water. The whole mixture can then be rinsed off leaving behind a sparkling clean window pane.
To make your window cleaner:
Use the most effective window cleaning tools
Before getting started on your window cleaning project, ensure you have all the tools and equipment you will need.
The basics include:
Choose the right day to clean
The first tip professional window cleaners will give to schedule your cleaning for a cloudy day or a time of day when the windows are not in direct sunlight. The faster the window dries, the higher the likelihood that the cleaner will dry on the window before you can remove it.
Don’t skip the prep work
It is tempting to dive right into cleaning the glass because, after all, that is the part of your windows that is generally most noticeably dirty.
Before tackling the glass, turn your attention to everything surrounding the glass.
Your interior window frames are likely coated in a layer of dust. Exterior frames may have cobwebs, leaves, dirt and other debris wedged in the corners. Take care of these issues first so that you don’t drag extra dirt onto the panes when you are cleaning them.
Use the soft-bristle brush to remove debris from your exterior frame gently. Wipe both the interior and exterior frames using a lint-free cloth and household cleaner.
Now that your frames are clean, it is time to move on to washing your windows.
Learn your technique from the pros
Expert window washers make their technique look like a fluid dance. Watch them in action, and you will see that the best professionals don’t move their applicators and squeegees at right angles, but instead use an “s” or “snake” pattern that helps prevent streaking.
The basic window washing process used by the pros is:
Remember to clean all parts of the windows, not just the panes
The panes are the first place we notice dirt since we look through the glass. That doesn’t mean that we are done cleaning once the glass is sparkling.
The act of window cleaning is more all-encompassing than that. The next time you tackle window cleaning, go the distance and remember these often-forgotten areas:
Use this opportunity to check for any maintenance needs
Pair your semiannual window cleanings with your spring and fall window inspections. While you are cleaning the windows and frames, be alert for any of the signs that your window seals have failed or that your windows need to be replaced or repaired.
Taking the time for proper cleaning and maintenance will pay dividends by improving the look of your home and extending the life of your windows.
Mix up some cleaning solution, order yourself a deluxe squeegee and start practicing those “s” patterns. Your windows will thank you.
Lake Bluff, Illinois' top provider of quality replacement windows and doors. My name is Russ Armstrong and I focus on offering energy efficient options for any home. All of our products and services are backed by a lifetime guarantee. Call us today for a free estimate and to find out how you can save money on your heating and cooling bills.