In addition to that particular mistaken thought, I'd wager the actual
standards against which they test are the same as for the aforementioned
manufacturers are also the same and that each will have a class that
meets any particular level of test...a manufacturer's name means
something, but each of these makes a range of products. One has to
compare like _products_ not generic brands to make any rational comparison.
I live in the cold Northeast as well, and have replaced 14 windows
over the past 2 years in our 1923 Colonial Revival house.
10 are Pella wood, 4 are "Pella" Thermastar vinyl.
In addition, we also had two Andersen windows installed by the
previous owner a couple years before we bought - one was among the 14
we replaced ourselves. The inner pane broke, according to the
previous owners without any prodding by them (I don't necessarily
believe them, but it was in the bathroom with extreme temperature and
humidity swings and for all I know was defective from the start).
The Andersen window that remains is a three-paned casement window in
the kitchen (the two outer panes open, middle pane is stationary). It
is easily the coldest window in the house, both in terms of air leaks
and in terms of radiating cold from the glass. I would replace it too
if it wasn't so large - it'd probably cost $1,000 to replace, and it
works fine, it's just wasting energy. I'm not happy with it, but
can't justify replacing it.
I would not personally buy Andersen windows based on this experience,
though I guess their wood windows could be better.
I'm pretty happy with the Pella wood windows we have - they work
great, they look great, they're easy to clean inside and out. Never
any condensation here, and we get down to 0 degrees where I am
occasionally. The inner pane always stays warm to the touch. I feel
like the weatherstripping where the two sashes meet could be better -
it's just a thin piece of vinyl, and when it's really cold I do feel a
little air coming through there - but it's not bad, and it could
probably be added on to pretty easily. I just haven't bothered. Only
other criticism I have is that the locks are proprietary (even generic
locks made for "thin" sashes won't fit), and the ones they sell in the
nicer finishes are really expensive. That might factor in to your
concern about getting parts if the company goes belly up, though I
think they've been around long enough that that's probably not going
to be an issue.
The Thermastar windows aren't nearly as good, but they're not "real"
Pella (they were another company that got bought by Pella). Anyway,
vinyl windows are vinyl windows as far as I'm concerned as long as
they keep the energy in, which they do well enough. I really wouldn't
buy any vinyl window for any room you care about the looks of - I've
never seen a vinyl window that didn't look like a cheap hunk of
plastic. (We put ours in the attic, mud room and bathroom). We
looked at several others before just going with these; even the really
expensive ones looked like cheap junk to us. Some vinyl windows are
more expensive than wood!
Pella and maybe other manufacturers have recently come out with
fiberglass windows - I would consider those, because they're supposed
to be low-maintenance like vinyl but look as warm and "chunky" as
wood. I haven't seen them myself, but that's the sales pitch. They
do cost a bit more than even wood, though.
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