Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Replacement windows

Yesterday we finally had three replacement windows installed – two in my office, one in our living room. Polo and Guillermo from ProWindows did a great job, taking the time to get everything right.

We ordered the Anderson Woodwright windows from Home Depot several months ago, thinking that we had someone to install them. Then the windows sat on our front porch for the entire spring. When we realized we had to make other arrangements, ProWindows graciously agreed to take our small labor-only job and fit us in rather rapidly. Arte came to look at the situation on the same day, checked the measurements, and made sure he understood what we saw as the complicating factors (since nothing on an old house is simple). They found a space in their schedule a few weeks later, arrived exactly when they said they would, and did exactly what they were supposed to. Now the old storms and sashes are gone, the weight pockets are insulated, the exterior wood frame is wrapped in aluminum, and we have three new windows! All that’s left is for us to polyurethane the insides, add a couple of aftermarket handles, and appreciate the noise reduction and the reduced air and water infiltration. Well, and look askance at the 20 other windows on the first and second floors that would clearly like to be replaced. We’re already making our priority list for the next round, and ProWindows will definitely get the job.

The upgraded screen that we got on one window definitely makes a difference in appearance, with the finer mesh being much less visible. The maple interiors are much more even in color than pine, and match the new office floor. We’ll have to stain the maple on the living room window, but the maple will take a stain more easily than pine. I’m surprised that Anderson doesn’t offer a factory finish on the wood interiors – none of the window manufacturers do, but the first one that does will have a definite marketplace advantage over the others. Nobody would spend thousands of dollars on unfinished kitchen cabinets, but somehow that’s the status quo for wood replacement windows.

It’s still not easy to fit in a window air conditioner and seal the gaps, which is a failure of engineering. The only improvement I’ve seen in window air conditioners (aside from baby steps towards energy efficiency) has been the slide-in chassis, where you install the relatively lightweight chassis into the window and then slide the core of the unit into the chassis. I’d love to see flexible and insulated side panels that can properly seal to the window frame, rubber on the top and bottom of the chassis to reduce vibration and seal the gaps to the sash and sill, and ports on the side panels that can be opened to chase away nest-building birds. And would it really be that hard to design a quieter air conditioner? Manufacturers advertise their units as quiet, knowing that people care about that. But they don’t list the noise level in sones or decibels, since they also know that their units are not actually quiet at all. And with the exterior noise reduction from our new windows, interior noises become more noticeable.

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