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From time to time, we compile some of the most frequently asked questions from our clients. We have organized those questions into the following categories:

  1. Insurance & Tax Discounts
  2. Design Characteristics
  3. Testing & Permitting
  4. Cost
  5. Energy Efficiency
  6. Miscellaneous

1. Insurance & Tax discounts

Q: If I install hurricane impact-resistant windows and doors in my house, do I obtain insurance premium discounts?

A: Yes, many insurance companies are offering discounts for impact-resistant windows and doors. In order to obtain the discounts, all home openings must be protected. Policy holders with questions about mitigation should contact their insurance agents to be certain that they are receiving proper credit for any steps taken to strengthen their home. Premium discounts may be up to 45%.

Q: Is there a tax credit for energy efficient windows and doors?

A: Yes, windows and doors may qualify for a tax credit. Please consult a CPA for advice.

2. Design Characteristics

Q: What is the main assembly difference between a standard-glass (single glazed) and a hurricane impact-resistant window?

A: Impact windows and doors main design characteristics are the shatter-resistant glass securely fastened to a heavy-duty aluminum frame. The impact-resistant glazing consists of two layers of annealed or tempered glass bonded to an intermediate layer of a shatter-proof membrane. This membrane is typically made of Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB), a plastic film which varies from .015 to .090 inches in thickness, depending on the design pressures needed. Other interlayers are also available. If the outer glass breaks, the shattered pieces will adhere to the PVB film. However, standard-glass windows are made of standard float glass that, when broken, will fracture in large sharp pieces.

Q: Do hurricane windows and doors come in different glass colors?

A: Yes, hurricane windows and doors are available in a variety of color tints, including gray, bronze, blue and green. Gray, bronze and green colors carry about a 5% premium; blue is typically more expensive.

Q: Why are high-impact windows (or any other impact protection system) so important in maintaining the structural integrity of the roof of a property?

A: Windows and doors play a crucial role in maintaining the building envelope of a structure. A broken window can easily be the trigger for massive destruction of a structure during sustained hurricane force winds. When high-speed winds enter a house, they create a significant difference in inside/outside air pressure. When this difference occurs, the structure will most likely lose its roof. It is widely known that when a structure loses a window and allows a point of entry for the wind, massive destruction will follow.

Q: How do I know if my windows are impact resistant?

A: Examine the reflection in the glass. Hold your hand up to the glass and look at the reflection. Impact resistant glass contains two sheets of glass, and you should see two different reflections. Look for a permanent mark in one of the corners of the glass. The mark will include the supplier’s name, place of fabrication, the date it was manufactured, thickness and any certifications or safety standards that the glass meets.

3. Testing & Permitting

Q: How can I make sure that the windows or doors that I am purchasing are in fact impact-resistant products?

A: For a window or door system to be considered impact-resistant certified, it must meet testing standards set forth by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). One of the most rigorous requirements comes from the Florida Building Code which, given the increase in frequency and strength of hurricanes in recent years, has incorporated many of the lessons learned from prior hurricane-driven disasters. The Florida Building Code, for example, requires that every exterior opening in a structure be protected against wind-borne debris. This protection can be accomplished by either storm shutters or by impact-resistant windows and doors. To learn whether or not a product is considered impact resistant, ask your window dealer for a copy of the Notice of Acceptance (NOA) issued by Miami-Dade County. The NOA is the document issued by the County which provides specific information, including dimensions, parts, materials, accessories and installation guidelines, about the particular product in question. The NOA certifies whether or not the product has passed the impact-resistant test. This product also sets forth an expiration date allowing you to know for how long the approval is issued. NOAs can be downloaded at the Miami-Dade County’s website.

Q: What is the difference between small missile and large missile impact products?

A: Large missile impact – A product is tested as large-missile resistant after it has been exposed to various impacts with a piece of lumber weighing approximately 9 pounds, measuring 2″ x 4″ x 6’ (no more than 8′) in size, traveling at a speed of 50 feet per second (34 mph). Then the product must pass positive and negative wind loads for 9,000 cycles, with impact creating no hole larger than 1/16 x 5″ in the interlayer of the glass. If you live in a building where doors and windows are located 30 feet or less above grade (above ground level), then the products must pass the large-missile test. If the doors and windows are more than 30 feet from the ground, then they must be either large or small missile compliant.

Small missile impact – A product is declared small-missile resistant after it has been exposed to various impacts with 10 ball bearings traveling at a speed of 80 feet per second (50 mph). The product is then subjected to wind loads for 9,000 cycles.

Q: What are the wind load calculations?

A: Wind load refers to the wind pressures applied on a structure and the components comprising the structure (garage doors, entry doors and windows). Wind-load pressures are measured by pound per square foot (psf) and are displayed in positive and negative numbers because wind pressures are acting both toward and away from a building surface. When the forces act toward the structure, they are categorized as positive pressures. When wind pressures act away from the structure, they are labeled as negative pressures. Impact-resistant windows and doors are tested for both pressures, negative and positive. The NOA (Notice of Acceptance) shows detailed wind-load pressures for each window dimension that passed the test. Wind-load calculations refer to both negative and positive pressures that structural engineers will calculate for us in order to cost-efficiently design a glazing solution for a specific property or structure. Without the wind load calculations, we don’t know with certainty if the window meets the potential wind forces during a hurricane.

Q: Are garage doors tested for impact-resistant compliance?

A: Yes, garage doors typically account for the largest opening in a building and are a critical component to the structural integrity of the building’s envelope.

Q: How long does it take to obtain a permit?

A: The turn-around time to pull a permit varies significantly from municipality to municipality. Once we submit the necessary paperwork, it generally takes us about 1 to 2 weeks to obtain a building permit approval. At times, the process can take longer if permit reviewers have comments about a drastic change in style between the existing windows and the proposed new windows. Each municipality has its own turn-around time and its specific workflow process.

4. Cost

Q: Why shouldn’t I buy standard size windows and doors?

A: Installing standard-size windows and doors may require additional stucco work to the exterior, and drywall or other materials to the interior, all of which can give your home a major “patched-up” appearance. Most manufacturers do not charge extra for custom sizing. Custom-manufactured windows and doors are the best value in the long run because installation is faster and little or no “cosmetic” work to the inside or outside of your home is required. Moreover, an exact fit means better waterproofing and better thermal performance which results in lower energy bills. We order custom-manufactured windows and doors to fit your home perfectly, making your home more energy efficient and helping to curb fuel bills. They also allow you to “custom design” your windows and doors. There are several options available to you that affect appearance, performance and functionality.

Q: Do replacement windows and doors really pay for themselves, or is that just a sales line?

A: Yes, replacement windows and doors really do pay for themselves, but only if you select high-quality, energy-efficient windows and doors. Savings will vary, but expertly engineered and well-built windows and doors lower home energy consumption. These energy and maintenance savings will allow you to recoup your window and door investment over time.

5. Energy Efficiency

Q: What makes a window or door energy efficient?

A: Numerous factors make a window or door energy efficient, including how the frame and sashes are engineered and built, type of glass used (single, double, or triple-pane), weather stripping, type of low-emissivity coating on the glass and the presence of argon or krypton gas.

Q: What is an R-value and how important is it in selecting windows and doors?

A: Although the U-value is actually the important number in evaluating windows and doors today, most people are more familiar with the related concept of R-value (or R-factor). The R-factor of a window or door is the measure of its resistance to the transfer of heat flow. The higher its R-value, the greater its insulating ability.

Q: What is a U-value?

A: U-value (or U-factor) is the measure of the window’s ability to conduct heat or, in other words, the amount of heat transmitted through the window. The lower a window’s U-value, the better the window is at insulating your home.

Q: What is the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient?

A: The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) represents the amount of heat going into a home. The lower the number, the less heat penetrates the home. When a home is primarily air conditioned, the SHGC value is the correct rating to inquire about. Hurricane impact-resistant windows or doors with clear glass feature a SHGC of 0.72, while Bronze and Gray glass hold a 0.55 and 0.56 SHGC value, respectively.

Q: What is Low-E and how important is it to have it on your windows and doors?

A: Low-E stands for low emissivity. Basically, it’s a microscopic, metallic coating applied to a surface of glass that reflects and re-radiates heat energy either into or out of a home depending on climate conditions. Using Low-E is an excellent way to increase the energy efficiency of windows and doors.

Q: What is ENERGY STAR® and what does it have to do with windows and doors?

A: ENERGY STAR is a U.S. government program administered by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency with the cooperation of manufacturers that is designed to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels through the education of consumers. The program covers many different types of products. Windows and doors can only carry the ENERGY STAR label if they are tested by an independent laboratory through the NFRC program and meet specific, predetermined U-value ratings. By selecting ENERGY STAR products, you will reduce your energy costs and help make the environment cleaner.

Q: What is an ENERGY STAR qualified window or door?

A: ENERGY STAR qualified windows or doors meet a stringent energy efficiency specification set by the Department of Energy (DOE) and have been tested and certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). NFRC is an independent, third-party certification agency that assigns specific energy efficiency measures such as U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) to the complete window system, not simply the glass. The ENERGY STAR qualifications are based on a maximum U-factor and SHGC for each of four different climate zones. To meet the U-factor and SHGC levels, ENERGY STAR qualified windows, doors, and skylights may use:

  • Two or more panes of glass
  • Warm-edge spacers between panes.
  • Improved framing materials.
  • Low-E coating(s) which are microscopically thin coatings that help keep heat inside during the winter and outside during the summer.

ENERGY STAR qualified windows are not required to have any single feature listed above. Department of Energy (DOE) requires that the window meet a certain efficiency standard, but it’s up to the window manufacturer to determine how to accomplish that.

Q: What brands or models of windows and doors are ENERGY STAR qualified?

A: There are many ENERGY STAR qualified windows and doors models available; however, ENERGY STAR does not maintain a list because qualification is dependent on geographic usage of the product. A particular window or door may be qualified in Florida but not in Colorado. Additionally, manufacturers offer different glass packages for a particular brand or model that may or may not cause the product to be ENERGY STAR qualified. Please contact the manufacturer or its authorized dealer to determine if a particular model is ENERGY STAR qualified and check the U-Factor and SHGC to confirm.

Q: What framing material should I look for to ensure that the window, door, or skylight I select is energy efficient?

A: When selecting energy efficient windows and doors, all you need to do is look for the ENERGY STAR label. Since ENERGY STAR criteria is based on whole-unit performance, including the frame, you can simply select a product that is qualified for your climate zone rather than searching for the materials, components, or technologies that are most energy efficient.

Q: What is the NFRC and what should I know about it?

A: NFRC stands for the National Fenestration Rating Council. It’s a program established by the U.S. Department of Energy to help consumers compare window products and options. Window and door manufacturers participating in the program are required to label every unit to its specific thermal performance level. Customers are then confident that the products they select meet the requirements for their application. Participation in the NFRC program is voluntary. Not all manufacturers participate because it requires outside third-party inspection and extensive product testing.

Q: Does argon or krypton gas between glass panes really make a difference in energy efficiency?

A: For air to insulate well, it needs to be as still as possible, because moving air carries energy. Both argon and krypton are heavier than air, so they’re less prone to convection or thermal movement. The bottom line is that heavier-than-air gases offer a higher level of insulation. Both argon and krypton are found naturally in the air you breathe and are completely harmless.

Q: How important is weather stripping?

A: Weather stripping is important, because it provides the barrier against air and water in windows and doors. It is the only element of operating windows or doors that makes them reasonably airtight. High-quality weather stripping that’s applied and compressed properly significantly improves the insulating performance of windows and doors.

Q: What are the different types of weather stripping, and what benefits do each have?

A: Although there are many different types of weather stripping, they basically fall into one of three categories: woven piles, flaps and hollow or foam bulbs. Which is best? That depends on the window style, design and application. Windows and doors that are expertly engineered are designed with weather stripping that creates the tightest possible seal and holds through time and heavy use.

Q: Do impact-resistant windows and doors provide good ultra-violet protection?

A: Ultra-Violet (UV) beams are a portion of the solar spectrum not visible to the human eye and may cause fabric to fade over time. When comparing UV readings, it is important to know that the lower the percentage, the more UV is being blocked. For example, a 0% UV value means 100% blocking. Clear, gray and bronze impact-resistant windows and doors provide 99% protection, or in other words, 1% UV penetration.

6. Miscellaneous

Q: I am a first-time homeowner and need to purchase windows for my house. What are the characteristics that I should look for to differentiate one window contractor from another?

A: The answer to this question is complex, but it is a very important question. There are key categories to consider when purchasing new windows and doors from a contractor:

  • Price versus quality and service: Price always comes to the top of any list when comparing items or services. Deciding between window contractors is no exception. However, you must be careful since you most often get what you pay for. What at first seems inexpensive can quickly become costly and lead to a very stressful situation. Typically, companies charging less take significant shortcuts in order to deliver on their promises, if they even deliver at all. Window installation requires specialized techniques and labor training, and some window companies save on labor expenses by hiring untrained installers – this can make all the difference when it comes to the protection and security that window or door offers you and your family.
  • Appearance and function: The majority of manufacturers have impact-resistant windows and doors made with aluminum framing offering somewhat the same product styles, such as single-hung, horizontal rollers and casement windows. However, not all windows are made equally. Look for the finished quality of the paint and the silicone used to seal the joints. Also, look for consistency in the way the window is assembled. It is very important that you see and operate the offered product before signing any contracts.
  • Service: Once your windows are installed, it is important to know how reliable the manufacturer’s service department will be if and when you need them. If for any reason something happens to your windows in the future, you want to know that the manufacturer and the installer will stand behind the service that was provided initially.

Q: Why should I replace my windows?

A: Window replacement is a smart home improvement idea, especially if you select well-made high-performance replacement windows. They will save you money in the long run, because your home heating and cooling bills will be lower, and your home will be much more comfortable to live in. New windows will increase your home’s value and provide numerous benefits such as enhanced levels of safety and security, greater beauty, low maintenance and ease of operation.

Q: How do I know when I need new windows?

A: There are many reasons why you might choose to replace your existing windows:

  • Your energy bills are high and continue to increase.
  • Your home feels drafty in cold weather or too warm from heat penetrating your windows and doors in warmer weather.
  • You’re concerned about how safe or secure your windows and doors are, especially during strong storms.
  • Your windows and doors are difficult or impossible to operate.
  • Your home’s existing windows and doors are faded, making your home look old and outdated.
  • The glass in your windows and doors is cracked or the operating hardware is failing.
  • You’re planning to sell your home, and you need “curb appeal” to make the sale.
  • Your old windows and doors require constant repairs: puttying, painting, replacing parts, adjusting and waterproofing.
  • Your home insurance rate is high, and you want to decrease it

Q: What is a replacement window?

A: A true replacement window is a window that’s custom built to fit within the opening of an existing window. It’s built to fit precisely and can be installed without disturbing the interior and exterior areas around the window.

Q: Does it make sense to replace windows in this economy?

A: While new home construction is very slightly down, home improvements are definitely up as more people are spending more time at home these days.

Homeowners who are not planning to build new homes soon may be deciding to do something with their present homes to make them better and nicer places to live in.

A smart home-improvement idea is to replace windows and doors. New windows add to the home’s value. Premium-quality replacement windows and doors also save homeowners money because of lower home heating and cooling bills. Window replacement also contributes to a cleaner environment and reduced dependency on foreign oil.

Q: Will new windows eliminate condensation?

A: Condensation is moisture vapor suspended in the air, and that’s something no one can guarantee to eliminate. However, high-quality windows incorporating warm-edge technology glazing systems will help to reduce condensation, because they’re much less thermally conductive than other window types. They can help keep the temperature of the window warmer minimizing the hot and cold differences that turn moisture into condensation.

Q: Can windows and doors reduce outside noise?

A: All windows and doors reduce noise to some degree. The best solution, however, is to use a laminated, insulating glass in windows and doors. It provides as much as a 100% improvement in sound deadening over other glass types.

Q: Do windows cause condensation?

A: No, condensation on windows is not the fault of the window. However, by replacing drafty windows and doors or installing a new roof or siding, you are reducing air flow in your home and making it tighter. Tighter homes actually retain more humidity.

Q: What steps can I take to reduce humidity in my home?

A: The two main things you can do are to control sources of moisture and increase ventilation. To decrease or control excess humidity and condensation:

  • Use exhaust fans in your kitchen, laundry and bathrooms.
  • Vent gas burners, clothes dryers, etc. to the outdoors.
  • Shut off furnace humidifiers and other humidifying devices in your home.
  • Be sure that the ventilating louvers in your attic, basement or crawl spaces are open and amply sized.
  • Open fireplace dampers to allow an escape route for moisture-laden air.
  • Air out your house a few minutes each day by opening windows and doors for fresh air flow.

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