Buy Weather-Proofed Windows or Proof Them Yourself?

The sun – you can’t live with too much of it, you can’t live without it.

We wanted screens so we could open our windows and doors at night to let the cooler air in. A year later after we first thought of the idea, we did something about it. In Arizona it doesn’t get that cool at night in the summer. This is obviously an understatement.

At night, in Phoenix for at least two months of the summer the temperature doesn’t drop below 85 degrees. In Seattle that’s the almost panic-inducing high during the day. In London that’s a heatwave that tests the mad dogs.

Arizona is home to some of the hottest summer weather in the county – it’s like staring down the sun – and keeping homes protected from the heat and sunlight can be a bit challenging. But we were just looking to stay cool as it got cooler. So this summer we went to Ace Hardware and measured out a couple of cheap screens and frames. They do the job. The cats – and now dog – stay in at night and we get a welcome fresh air breeze.

But doing that got us – ok maybe just me – thinking of grander things we can do. Weather-proofing means keeping the house a comfortable temperature – whether beating back Jack Frost or keeping your foot on the throat of the pits of hell’s heat.

It starts with the window frames.

Every choice you’ll take on has its pluses and minuses. It’s not so difficult, just a lot of variables.

If you look for weather-proofed windows which match well with the Arizona climate, vinyl is one of the best fits. It offers great energy efficiency in terms of both hot as well as cold weather. Proper installation prevents air from leaking and it is practical for the not so picky home owner. It’s low maintenance and since Arizona is not given to extremely wet weather during the year there is no need for homeowners to worry about water and moisture issues. The downside is, vinyl does not age well in over-bearing heat.

Selecting the Glass
Glass construction is one of the most important considerations in determining quality weather-proofed windows. First, never entertain the thought of purchasing single-pane windows. It’ll save you money but really it will not. Even if you plan to move out of your home soon, single-pane glass is a negative for people thinking of buying.

The windows you’ll want to buy are vacuum-sealed, argon filled and double-paned. Even though we wanted to save a lot of money I often go for the medium option – nothing stupidly expensive, but never – or hardly ever – the cheapest option either. With cheap windows you really do not save money i the long run.

Don’t Forget the View
Now having said double-paned is the way to go, this will not work if you have a spectacular view of the Superstitions or any other scenic reminder of this great world. In this case you can install, I found out, picture windows that have gas-filled interiors or over-sized casement widows.

But in many homes, what works to increase the charm of a Phoenix home is shutters. Close them up during the day and your house stays – largely cool. This depends on the materials the house is made of, of course, and how much thought has been put into energy efficiency during construction.

Other Options
There are other options besides replacing windows, though these can look bad pretty quickly. Solar films and solar screens remove a lot of light – and almost all UV light – from the equation and is EXTREMELY economical. But from what I’ve seen, try it on small bathroom windows, skylights or other, largely out-of-the-way panes that no one looks through much and can’t be seen from outside either. They do provide a sense of privacy.

We only rent right now so we wouldn’t be paying for any of this. But if we want changes, doing a lot of the research ahead of time will increase the chance we get something we like.