What should you know when shopping for new vinyl windows? If you are like most homeowners in Regina or Saskatchewan, you will be looking for the best quality windows to be installed properly, at a competitive price.
But often, the success of your window replacement depends on variable factors that you may not be able to control or affect. Installation is one of them, for example: the company can assure you and show you examples, but what happens on the day of at your residence depends on the installers, the weather, and the condition of your home.
Similarly, the price of your replacement windows is not something you can control or even assess properly. Many companies lower their prices just to compete with other window manufacturers, increase them if they can see the client is willing to spend, or even offer fake discounts to seem more appealing to the customer.
If there is one thing you CAN absolutely control before you spend your money, it is the quality of the windows you buy. Even then it is not an easy task as many companies will conceal the manufacturing origin of their windows or lie about their window performance and energy efficiency.
Thankfully, in Canada, there are entities that not only certify, but also test windows, and assess their energy efficiency as it relates to different regions in the country. The criteria these organizations use for evaluating window performance are also useful for deciding whether your new windows will be good enough for the cold Saskatchewan climate, how efficient those windows are, and how they compare to windows from other manufacturers. When it comes to window quality and comparing windows, while a salesperson may tell you one thing, the performance numbers don’t lie and often paint a completely different picture of the windows a company is trying to sell.
Regardless of the window type or style, there are two main factors to consider when comparing and picking quality windows:
- The windows you get should be tested by, and adhere to CSA standards.
- For maximum comfort and efficiency, the windows you get should be rated by ENERGY STAR to meet your local climate zone criteria.
Because both the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and ENERGY STAR rely on similar criteria for evaluating windows, usually if a window is good enough to qualify for one standard, it also qualifies for the other. Very rarely will you see a window manufacturer that sells ENERGY STAR qualified windows, that don’t meet the CSA standard.
We will break it down further below, but this information is publically available for you to see:
Check out ENERGY STAR rated window companies here
Find out which windows in Canada meet CSA standards
*Keep in mind, not all companies manufacture their own windows. If a company’s product is absent from either of these websites, chances are it is not certified, but it may also not go by the company’s name, or carry the original manufacturer’s name.
CSA standards and Canadian window ratings
As a Canadian window consumer, the windows you purchase should comply to the CSA – A440 standard. The Canadian Standards association has laid out specific guidelines for window performance in these categories:
- positive design pressure, where applicable;
- negative design pressure, where applicable;
- water penetration test pressure; and
- air infiltration and exfiltration level.
Sometimes you will see windows with ABC ratings. For example, a window that is rated A3, B6, C4 is more efficient and better performing than a window that is rated A3, B6, C2.
One way to recognize whether windows are CSA certified is that they have a CSA logo on the glazing and come with a CSA label that outlines the window’s performance metrics in the four categories mentioned above. But if you look at the picture below, you’ll see that the ratings provided on the label, aren’t the same as the ones used by CSA.
While the CSA-A440 is the minimum standard all windows installed in Canada should comply to, different windows have their own unique Energy Ratings (ER) based on several measurements of performance. Energy Ratings are a more simplified and harmonized way to understand and compare window performance.
Understanding ENERGY RATINGS when comparing windows
A window’s ER rating is calculated on three factors: solar heat gains, heat loss through frames, spacers and glass, and air leakage heat loss. ER ratings rank between 0-50, the higher the rating, the more efficient the window.
The ER number is a balance between heat loss ratings (U-Factor) and solar heat gains through the window (SHGC).
U-Factor is a measure of how much heat a window system loses. Note the use of the word system here. Traditionally window performance was often judged by the R-value of the materials used, but modern windows often use different materials with different R-values, so it is not accurate to measure these values in relation the window as a whole. The lower the U-Value, the less heat is lost through the whole window. Some of the best thermal windows on the market achieve a U-Value of 1 or slightly lower.
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is a fraction of how much UV heat is allowed to pass through the glass into your home. SHGC can range from 0 to 1, but the higher the coefficient, the more heat your windows gain from the sun. SHGC also has a direct effect on the energy rating of a window. It only makes sense: a window that allows more heat in, is technically more efficient because it, in turn, requires less energy to keep the home warm.
However, the efficiency of modern vinyl windows is relatively high to a point where windows with higher SHGC ratings can actually overheat rooms even in the winter time. This is especially true for unshaded windows facing south or west, and in homes with high window to wall ratio.
Although it is meant only for comparison purposes, the ER number is still a good indicator of the effect windows will have on your annual heating costs. The lower the number, the more heat is lost and the harder the heating system has to work in colder weather.
ENERGY STAR also uses the ER number to rate whether a window can be considered efficient in different climate regions in Canada.
In order to be considered efficient in Regina, windows must have a minimum ER number of 29 and a maximum U-Factor of 1.40
Importance of correct window installation
One thing we briefly mentioned in this post is window installation. While “how” your windows will be installed may not be taken into consideration when comparing the quality of the actual product, you should know that correct installation accounts for half of the success of your window replacement. Even the best replacement windows can cause your home to lose heat if they are not installed properly. Consider window companies in Regina that have good reviews about their installation services.