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Enhance Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Vinyl Double Hung Window
By Gates Dearen

What homeowner wouldn’t want his or her house to look its best?

While the term “curb appeal” is generally related to the real estate industry, the concept is a good one to think about even if you aren’t selling (or buying) a home. If it’s been a while since you took a good, objective look at the exterior of your home, now is a great time to assess your home’s appearance, especially in terms of cleanliness, maintenance, and design. We’ll discuss all of these aspects, including paying special attention to your windows and doors. Going through these simple steps can help you determine if it’s time to replace any of your windows and doors; there comes a point when they can’t be fixed, or are otherwise outdated and/or inefficient, and need to be replaced. It can be hard sometimes to look at your house objectively, after all, you see it every day, so taking a picture and examining it in detail will help you spot problems you may miss with the naked eye.

Cleanliness
When you look at your home from the street, or from a distance (if your home isn’t visible from the street), what’s your overall impression? Do your windows sparkle? Are your window frames and doorframes clean and intact? Is your entryway free of clutter and debris? The first step to improving the appearance of your home is to wipe off the windows and doors, including the surrounding areas, and sweep the entry area and walkways. Next take a good look at the windows and doors themselves. If you have older windows and doors, keeping them clean can be a greater challenge. While the newer types of frames require only a quick rinse with a hose, and maybe a gentle wipe-down, older frames – especially wooden ones – tend to attract dirt and are more difficult to keep clean. If the frames are chipped or exceedingly dirty, you might also need to apply a new coat of paint. Never use a pressure washer on or around windows; it’s unnecessary and could break the windows.

Maintenance
Silicone caulk can be used as a basic sealant ...
Once you’ve cleaned and tidied up your home’s exterior, it’s time to do a maintenance check. (For a more detailed discussion of this topic, see our previous article, “Window Maintenance 101: 3 Ways to Keep Your Windows Looking and Functioning Their Best”.) If you have a painted entry door, make sure that the paint doesn’t show signs of weathering. Repainting is a quick task that can add a high-quality look to your door and really freshen things up. Don’t be shy about changing colors; a bright or contrasting color can make your door “pop”. Next, check the weather stripping and caulk around your entry door and all of your windows to make sure they are in good repair. If the weather stripping is damaged, you should replace it or have it replaced by a professional. If you have gaps in the caulk between the wall and the window casing, or around the doorframe, you can fill them yourself. Remember to apply caulk sparingly with a steady hand. (If you aren’t experienced at applying caulk, practice on a piece of newspaper before working around your frames. The small amount of caulk you’ll use to do this is worth not having to remove it from your frames if you get off-track.)

Remember too that maintenance isn’t just about appearance. Are your windows and doors keeping the hot air out and cold air in, and vice versa? If not, no amount of maintenance is going to help. It’s time to replace your windows and/or doors. (For more information on this topic, read our earlier article, “How Do You Check for a Leaky House?”)

Design
Vitrail roccella 8
The style of your windows and doors is limited only by your imagination. A new entry door with an etched glass or stained-glass panel lets you express yourself while also providing improved security. In addition to the many styles of doors available, add to your unique look with shiny new hardware. Locksets come in many styles and finishes, so they can help you put the perfect finishing touch on your door. Windows, too, come in many styles, including custom types for special needs – or for a special look. Do you have an odd-shaped space in your home that could use more light, or an angled wall that could benefit from a replacement window, perhaps in a new design? Consider a custom window. You’ll find yourself using that wasted space more than ever before! If it’s been awhile since you updated your windows, you may be surprised at not only the number of choices when it comes to design, but also the many recent technologies that greatly improve functionality and energy efficiency. From argon gas between panes to low-emissivity coatings that increase efficiency to better locks that offer ease of use, new windows will not just improve the look of your home. They will enhance your quality of life.

Keeping your home looking its best is easy; it just takes a little bit of time and effort. If you follow the above steps, your home will be the envy of the neighborhood. You’ll reap the rewards of an attractive home and, if you update your windows and doors, better energy efficiency and improved security.

In this article we’ve given three steps to making your home look its best. We discussed the importance of keeping your house, especially your windows and doors, clean and in good repair, and talked about ways you can add distinctive style to your house, improving its curb appeal.

If you would like to receive an official factory authorized 30% discount coupon for your next window replacement purchase, print out this article with the coupon on it  and bring it with you when visiting HomeRite.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Gates Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. We know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home.  Our approach is a little different.  We strive to match the homeowner with the right windows for their home and budget. Home improvements can be a hassle.  We’re here to make life easier with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; strong warranties and expert, award-winning installers that provide excellent service while respecting your home as if it were their own. 

Put the Latest Glass Technologies to Work for You!

By Gates Dearen

NFRC LabelOver the past decade, window and door glass has improved immensely. This is especially important in Florida, where intense sunlight can pour though older types of glass, resulting in lost energy efficiency as well as faded carpets, window treatments, and furniture. As you shop for new windows, you may wonder what the information on the stickers means, and why it’s important. From Low-e to SHGC to U-factor and R-value to VT, we’ll explain it all so you can be a more knowledgeable consumer.

Low-e
The “e” is short for emissivity, specifically thermal emissivity.  Low-emissivity windows and doors cause heat to be reflected off, rather than allowing it to collect and “seep through,” or “be emitted” into the home. Perhaps an easier way to think of this is to consider a surface that has a high emissivity factor, like asphalt. If you’ve ever stepped on to a parking lot in Florida in August, you’ve felt the effects of high emissivity. The asphalt absorbs and emits heat at a ratio .90 to .10. In other words, 90% of the heat directed at the asphalt is absorbed and emitted, and only 10% is reflected. You certainly wouldn’t want the glass in your home’s windows and doors to have that level of emissivity. But plain, uncoated glass has an even higher level of emissivity than asphalt: .93. This is why Low-e is such an important factor in choosing your new windows and doors.

Visible Light
SHGC
Solar heat-gain coefficient (SHGC) is a measurement of the amount of solar radiation that can pass through a window or door glass. There isn’t an overall standard for what’s best. Houses in geographic areas that experience more cold weather would be best outfitted with windows and doors with a higher SHGC, .30 to .60, to maximize the radiant heat from the sun. The reverse is also true. Homeowners in hot climates should look for windows and doors with lower SHGC values, under .27, to keep air conditioning costs down.

U-factor and R-value
The U-factor and R-value are similar, but U-factor measures the insulating properties of windows while R-value measures the insulating properties of other building materials like those used in constructing walls, floors, etc. The U-factor is one of the measurements used by The National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC) to determine the energy efficiency of windows and door glass. In determining the U-factor, the energy efficiency of the entire window is taken into account, including glazing, frame, and spacers. Sometimes U-factor is measured only at the center of the glass, taking into account only the glazing and the specific properties of the glass itself, exclusive of the frame and spacers. This measurement is called “center-of-glass U-factor”. For best energy efficiency, the center-of-glass U-factor should be lower than the overall U-factor, but in either case, for optimum efficiency, the U-factor should be under .30. Many double-paned windows achieve a U-factor of .27 or below, which is best in warmer climates.


VT
Visible transmittance (VT) refers to the ability of windows and door glass to allow outdoor light to pass through. In the past, desirable sunlight gains were accompanied by undesirable (in the South, at least) heat gains. In other words, older types of glass were incapable of lettin
g in light without letting in radiant heat. With the latest glazing technologies, as well as the increased use of double-pane windows, glass can have a high VT while keeping a low SHGC. This is a big deal for homeowners in sunny, hot climates. It translates into energy savings, less fading of carpets and furniture, and greater quality of life. If you leave your house in the summer to go to work, you can turn down the air conditioner while you’re out, knowing that it won’t take long to cool it when you return. This isn’t the case if you have “leaky” windows and doors.

A few other things to check for
Look for this logo when considering your new r...
In addition to the information above, it’s important to look for the Energy Star symbol, given by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to products that meet high standards for energy efficiency. Here are the criteria for a product to qualify for the Energy Star certification, from www.energystar.gov:

·         Product categories must contribute significant energy savings nationwide.
·         Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in          addition to increased energy efficiency.
·         If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings within a reasonable period of time.
·         Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.
·         Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
·         Labeling can effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.

Another agency that reviews and rates products is The National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC), a nonprofit organization that tests windows and doors, among other building materials, and assigns a rating. The NFRC doesn’t make recommendations of what to buy. Their purpose is to provide information and let consumers know that a product performs as the manufacturer claims.

While the information above will help you to understand terminology, your best bet is always to choose a reputable windows and doors professional. He or she can guide you in your choice of the products that will work best for your home. Look for customer reviews and testimonials as well as before and after pictures. If you do your research on the product(s) and the vendor, you’ll likely reap the greatest rewards from your new windows and doors.


If you would like to receive an official factory authorized 30% discount coupon for your next window replacement purchase, print out this article with the coupon on it  and bring it with you when visiting HomeRite.

THE AUTHOR:  Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home. Their approach is a somewhat different than others. They strive to match the homeowner with the right windows and doors for their home and budget. They know that home improvements projects can be a hassle. They strive to make the process pleasant with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; and expert, award-winning installers that employ the best practices and respect your home as if it were their own. 

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Window Maintenance 101: Three Ways to Keep Your Windows Looking and Functioning Their Best

By Gates Dearen

Fall is a great time to do a thorough check of your home’s windows and frames to assess their appearance and functionality. Even if your windows have been replaced in the last few years, it’s a good idea to do a cleaning and a quick survey of the frames and caulking. If you have drafty windows, now is a good time to address that. Despite the fact that the weather in our area isn’t extremely cold in winter, a windy day with temperatures in the fifties can feel a lot colder if your windows aren’t properly sealed and are letting air in. Additionally, poorly sealed windows can cause your energy costs to skyrocket. Here are a few simple ways to make sure your windows are airtight, as well as some tips for good window maintenance.

Clean
This is one of those occasions when you will be glad you recently replaced your windows – or when you might decide it’s a good time to do so! Vinyl window frames require only a wipe-down once or twice a year. Use a mild detergent solution and a clean cloth, or hose them off. For higher windows, the latter is a better option. Not only is it easier and safer to just spray them with the hose, but higher-level windows – on your home’s second floor, for example – probably won’t be as dirty as the lower ones. Lower windows, being closer to the ground, tend to get splashed on when we have hard rains. Never use a pressure washer on or around windows; it’s unnecessary and could break the windows. If you have older windows, especially those with wooden frames, you can use the same cleaning method as for vinyl frames, but if the frames are chipped or exceedingly dirty, you might also need to apply a new coat of paint. When cleaning your windows and frames, don’t neglect the sill and the tracks. Dirt and dust tend to accumulate in those places and can cause problems over time.
For the windows themselves, you can give them a good inside and outside cleaning with a commercial spray cleaner and paper towels. Interestingly, the less expensive paper towels work best for this, as they have fewer fibers and leave less lint, or you can make your own from common household ingredients. For lightly soiled windows, put a tablespoon of white vinegar into a one-quart spray bottle. Fill the bottle with water. Older generations swore that this mixture, sprayed on and wiped off with newspapers, was the best formula for clean windows. Of course, you can wipe with paper towels instead. For heavily soiled windows, you need a stronger brew: mix a half-cup sudsy ammonia, two cups rubbing alcohol, and one teaspoon of dish detergent with a gallon of water. Wipe with newspapers or paper towels. Your windows will shine like never before!

Silicone caulk can be used as a basic sealant ...
Silicone caulk can be used as a basic sealant against water and air penetration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Assess
There are a few ways to make sure your windows are airtight. Some are more obvious, holding your hand near the window to see if there is a change in air temperature, for example. Movement of windows is also a good indicator that air is going in and out. If your windows rattle when the wind blows, they’re probably leaking. Check out our previous article, “How Do You Check for a Leaky House” and http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/detecting-air-leaks for other tips on finding air leaks and for other energy-saving strategies. If you find a leak, sometimes it’s an easy fix. Check the weather stripping and caulk to make sure they are in good repair. If the weather stripping is damaged, you should replace it or have it replaced by a professional. If you have gaps in the caulk between the wall and the window casing, you can fill them yourself. Remember to apply caulk sparingly with a steady hand. If your weather stripping fits snugly and the caulk seems to be in good shape (no gaps or cracks) then the problem is with your windows themselves. This is an indication that it’s time to replace your windows.

Maintain
As with anything else, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to window maintenance. Regular upkeep prevents small issues from becoming big, expensive ones. It’s a good idea to perform the cleaning and assessment we mentioned above twice a year, on whatever schedule works best for you. Fall and spring are generally good times to plan these maintenance tasks, as we are between the two weather extremes. New windows will require less maintenance to keep looking great, and will also negate the need to constantly check for drafts. New vinyl windows in particular are virtually maintenance free, necessitating only a quick wipe or rinse of the frames. Whichever types of windows you have, it’s important to keep all moving parts properly lubricated. You can do this by spraying on a small amount of oil spray or silicone spray, waiting a few moments, and then working the moving part a bit to make sure the lubricant gets into the parts to keep them moving well. Don’t forget to check that all locks are moving freely; if they aren’t, apply the same lubrication process to them as well.

If you have older windows with wood frames, these twice-a-year maintenance times might be more difficult. If your window frames are peeling or chipping, include scraping and painting as part of your semi-annual window check. If any of the wood has rotted, it will need to be filled or replaced before the problem gets worse. These tasks can be cumbersome, but they’re necessary to keep your windows airtight and you home looking good. 

Clean and well-maintained windows are an asset to your home’s appearance and comfort. Keep in mind that the better the windows, the lower the need for maintenance – and vice versa. High-quality windows allow you spend less time on maintenance, and more time enjoying your home.

In this article we’ve discussed the three most important ways to keep your windows looking and working their best. We gave tips for cleaning your windows, checking them for leaks and damage, and maintaining
them.

If you would like to receive an official factory authorized 30% discount coupon for your next window replacement purchase, print out this article with the coupon on it  and bring it with you when visiting HomeRite.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home. Their approach is a somewhat different than others. They strive to match the homeowner with the right windows and doors for their home and budget. They know that home improvements projects can be a hassle. They strive to make the process pleasant with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; and expert, award-wining installers that employ the best practices and who respect your home as if it were their own. 

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Patio Doors: What You Need to Know

By Gates Dearen

Photo Credit: freera.org
Your patio door is more than just a door; it’s your entry to backyard living and entertaining, and connects your indoor space with your outdoor space. Does your patio door enhance or inhibit your enjoyment of your home? A good patio door lets you view your yard (or, alternately, offers privacy, if you prefer), keeps outdoor air out and indoor air in, makes your home more secure, is attractive from outside and inside, and allows ease of use and maintenance. If your door falls short in any of these areas, it may be time for a replacement. We’ll go through each of these topics in more detail below.

The View
English: Dublin - Merrion Square landscaping
When it comes to how much you can, or can’t see into or out of your patio door, you have several options. We’ll start with the one that offers the most privacy. Obscure glass lets light in while providing less visibility than clear glass, and might be a good choice if you are choosing a door for a bathroom or bedroom, areas where you may prefer less than a full view out or, especially, in. Clear glass is nice for other rooms in the house where you would generally prefer to have a good view of your yard. For either option, it’s important to assess your need for tempered safety glass, which is less likely to break, and if it does, it shatters into granular chunks which will minimize the risk of injury. You have choices not only with the type of glass, but also with the frame of your door. Several color options allow you to incorporate your patio door’s look into the design scheme of your home.

The Air Out There
English: upvc patio doors
A door with a beautiful view.
As with any door, it’s important that your patio door is well-engineered to be energy efficient. If it’s not, you’re throwing away money on cooling and heating costs. There are a few ways to check for “leakiness”. The easiest is the candle test. This test works best on a windy day. Turn off your air conditioner and any fans so they won’t interfere with your results. With your door tightly closed, hold a lit candle near the doorframe. If the flame moves or flickers, chances are you have a leak. How much the flame moves or flickers will tell you how serious the leak is. If you can feel the air coming through or around the door, or if you feel a change in temperature near the door, then you don’t need to do any kind of test; your door is leaking!

Security
Home safety may initially bring to mind thoughts of keeping human intruders out. On this front, new sliding patio doors offer several lock options, such as two-point locks (standard on most doors), four-point locks, and on some models, shoot bolts and exterior key locks. It’s fairly well known that older sliding doors are easy to “pop” or “jump”, but the new models’ improved locks and roller systems make them much more secure. It isn’t just human intruders that should concern homeowners when it comes to patio door security. Especially here in Florida, we’re susceptible to “weather intruders”, particularly rain. If you can hear wind whooshing through (or if your home failed the “candle test” above), your home is susceptible to wind and water damage. For more detailed discussions of this topic, check out our previous articles, “How Do You Check for a Leaky House?” and “Can Storm Windows and Doors Protect Your Home from Natural Disasters?” This is definitely a situation where you want to know you’re protected ahead of time; finding out during a storm that your patio door leaks is bad news!

Looking Good
In addition to the glass and frame options for patio doors, discussed above, there are a few other ways you can add style and distinction to your patio door(s). Various types of grilles (flat or contoured) and grids (closer set or wider set) within the glass allow you to customize your look. Because they are inside the glass, they are maintenance free. These options give you a lot of variety in choosing what works best with your home’s interior and exterior design.

Easy Living
Does your patio door fight back when you try to open it? Old sliders and rollers can’t compete with the newer systems of today’s sliding patio doors. Think about how nice it would be if you had an easy-to-use handle, and your door glided open with virtually no effort. Newer patio doors have large “D style” handles on both the inside and the outside, much better than the old-style straight-bar types. By the way, if you try to replace your straight-bar door handle, don’t be surprised to find that it’s obsolete! This can be a big problem if your old handle breaks, as it compromises the security of your door. Without the right handle, the door will not close or lock properly.

In addition to ease of use, energy efficiency has improved tremendously over the years. Chances are good that if your current patio door hasn’t been replaced for a while, it’s not as energy efficient as a new door. When choosing a new patio door, it’s important to ask about energy-saving options. Low-e glass is one such option. Low-E glass is made with a thin, invisible metallic coating that blocks heat flow, a proven energy saver. Low-E glass reduces air conditioning costs by reducing solar transmissions in the summer. In the winter, it reduces heat loss to the outside and allows solar energy to pass inside. Another option is tinted glass, which also helps to cut down on the amount of heat that comes through with the sunlight.

Glass Sliding Door
A room with a view.

If you enjoy outdoor living or entertaining, or even if you just like to look outside and appreciate the view, a good patio door can make all the difference in your ability to do just that. In fact, if you replace your patio door, you may find yourself admiring the view of the door itself, along with the beauty of nature.

In this article, we have discussed some important qualities of patio doors and have explained each one.
Among the features we highlighted were privacy vs. full view glass, keeping the weather out, security, attractive appearance, and ease of use and maintenance.

If you would like to receive an official factory authorized 30% discount coupon for your next window replacement purchase, print out this article with the coupon on it  and bring it with you when visiting HomeRite.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home. Their approach is a somewhat different than others. They strive to match the homeowner with the right windows and doors for their home and budget. They know that home improvements projects can be a hassle. They strive to make the process pleasant with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; and expert, award-wining installers that employ the best practices and who respect your home as if it were their own. 

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