Choosing the Right Window

Windows are key to any building or home, offering a view of our outdoor environment which is necessary for our wellbeing.
The window is a rather vast topic, but your choice will be directed by the type of project you’re working on. Read this guide to help you narrow down your search.

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  • How to choose the right window

    The project, whether a house or commercial building, will point you toward the right path of choosing the ideal window so we will first discuss these two situations with their respective regulations. We will then discuss the “why” behind the different glazing options and define the various opening systems.The frame is equally important so we will highlight the most common materials used. There are also a number of technical characteristics to consider, along with other traits.

  • How to choose a window for a residential or commercial building

    Fixed Window by Aliplast

    Fixed Window by Aliplast

    When choosing a window for residential and commercial buildings, the main concern is achieving a regulations compliance certificate. This will probably involve glazing and height requirements; for example, generally an opening window is required to be less than 24 inches (610 mm) above the finished floor. You will need to get a certificate to prove that you have complied with the regulations. Here are some points to consider:

    • What are the regulations?
    • Windows must meet the required energy efficiency in terms of thermal transmission. This is measured by the rate of heat transfer through a product: its U-value.
    • Windows must meet the glazing protection against impact requirement.
    • What is the window opening height requirement?
    • Replacement windows must comply with thermal performance standards.
    • Structural requirements for mullions must pass an obligatory test or calculations.

    Commercial buildings: The owner of the property or land is usually responsible for complying with the relevant planning rules and building regulations.

  • How to choose between the glazing options for a window

    Triple-glazed window by CIPRIANI SERRAMENTI

    Triple-glazed window by CIPRIANI SERRAMENTI

    Glazing requirements will alter depending on your project and location. When you know the regulations, you will choose between four types: single glazed, double glazed, triple glazed and quadruple glazed. We mentioned the U value requirement earlier. A low U value means the window achieves an efficient temperature retention; the lower, the better. In a cold climate, a good U value for a window is between 0.17 and 0.39. U Values are measured in W/m2K.

  • What should I know about single-glazed windows?

    Single glazing uses a single pane of glass. While economical, it is not the most efficient. The U value runs anywhere from 1.9 to 5.8

    • PRO: Can be installed in older window sills and frames
    • CON: No insulation or noise protection and is easily broken
  • What should I know about double-glazed windows?

    Double-glazed Window by Aperture Trading

    Double-glazed Window by Aperture Trading

    Double-glazing has an inner and outer pane of glass separated by a small gap. The gap between the inner and outer panes provides insulation. It helps the building retain heat, lowering the energy bill. New double glazing has a U-value of around 1.6.

    • PRO: Proper insulation, energy efficient, no condensation, noise reduction
    • PRO: Higher margin of safety than single glazed
  • What should I know about triple-glazed windows?

    Fixed triple-glazed Window by LUMI

    Fixed triple-glazed Window by LUMI

    Triple-glazing has 3 panes of glass in order to increase efficiency and reduce noise. New triple glazing reaches a U value of about 0.8, meaning it has a higher heat retention and is more economical than double glazed.

    • PRO: Difficult to break, especially if the middle pane is made of toughened glass
    • CON: Expensive, replacement units are equally expensive
    • CON: Weight can add strain to the frames, hinges and door sashes
    • CON: If the middle pane is made of float glass it can crack due to the temperature differences between the inner and outer panes
  • What should I know about quadruple-glazed windows?

    Fixed quadruple-glazed Window by CIPRIANI SERRAMENTI

    Fixed quadruple-glazed Window by CIPRIANI SERRAMENTI

    Quadruple-glazing comprises four glass panes, often equipped with a low-emissivity coating and insulating gas in the cavities between the panes, all to reduce heat transfer through the glazed surfaces. This is a relatively new type of window used mainly in significantly colder climates. Scottish company Enviro Windows produced a quadruple-glazed window with a U-value of 0.35.

    • PRO: Suitable for very cold climates
    • PRO: Suitable for energy efficient buildings without variable sun shading
    • PRO: Contributes to a zero-heating building—with a glazing U value of no higher than 0.3 W/(m2K)
    • CON: Potential thermal stress cracking to intermediate panes; this can be prevented by using heat-strengthened glass
  • What glass options are available for windows?

    Innovations in glass making have altered the window world. Companies like Innovative Glass fabricate glass that can be see-through one moment, then completely opaque on demand with what they call eGlass®. It can tint on demand and control natural light without additional treatments. The ability to alter between tinted and transparent allows the glass to regulate the temperature within a room. This is a solar control solution, providing a higher level of energy efficiency.

    Vacuum glazing allows manufacturers to achieve a low U value, equalling the thermal performance of double glazing while being as thin as a single-glazed pane. One pane of clear float glass is combined with another of low-emissivity glass; they are separated by a micro spacer grid of small pillars each measuring 0.5mm in diameter, set 20mm apart. After welding the edges together, creating a hermetic seal, the air is removed from the center from an extraction point on the window.

    Glass options:

    Low-emissivity glass (low-E glass): Lets light and heat in but helps prevent heat from escaping
    Reflective glass, tinted glass, spectrally selective glass: Reduces the entrance of heat and light when needed
    Laminated glass: Absorbs ultraviolet light and heat, reduces noise
    Toughened glass: Stronger than standard glass, withstands impacts, shatters into small pieces if broken to avoid causing injury

  • What are the different opening systems?

    Casement Window by ALIPLAST

    Casement Window by ALIPLAST

    There are a number of opening systems for windows, but the seven most common are casement, sliding, tilting, sash, tilt-and-turn, fixed and pivoting. Other available options include lift-and-slide, louvre, top-hung and folding.

    Casement: This is set on a vertical hinge and opens like a door.
    Sliding: This window opens by sliding horizontally.
    Tilting: Usually, the sash tilts inwards at the top
    Sash: This has one or two sashes that open by being slid vertically.
    Tilt-and-turn: This can open fully like a casement window (like a door) or it can tilt inward to where the top of the window is angled into the room.
    Fixed: This cannot be opened. It allows light to enter, nothing more.
    Pivoting: This pivots either horizontally or vertically.

  • How to choose the right material for a window frame

    Wood sliding Window by CAST

    Wood sliding Window by CAST

    The three most common materials for window frames and mullions are metal, wood and PVC. Some windows have a vertical element to divide the glazing into units, often for decorative purposes and always for additional structural support; this is called a mullion. A muntin or sash bar separates and holds panes of glass in a window; they’re usually wood or metal strips. In the UK, they’re referred to as muntin bars or glazing bars.

    • Metal
      PRO: Popular in warmer climates
      CON: Conducts heat out the frame, reducing energy efficiency
    • Wood
      PRO: Adequate insulation and aesthetic benefits
      CON: Less resilient to the elements, potential to rot, sunlight and heat can cause cracks
      CON: Best quality wood can be expensive
    • PVC
      PRO: Resilient to weather and household use, little maintenance required
      CON: Can be expensive


  • What are some technical characteristics to consider for a window?

    The technical characteristics you will want to consider are the following: thermal break, acoustic, security, burglar-proof, electric, water-repellent, wind-proof, integrated blinds, recyclable, armored, bullet-proof, high-performance and high-resistance. Many of these will depend on the type of glazing you choose, including the type of glass used for the glazing and additional technologies incorporated into the process, as well as the frame.


  • What are other characteristics to consider for a window?

    Although we have already mentioned this point, we’d like to insist upon the importance of energy saving. You might consider a window that has received the FSC ecolabel.

    Other characteristics include custom, energy star, curved, bullseye, bow, interior, stained glass, polygonal etc.

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