November/December  2003

Secret Shopper

Our House
Low-E Glass Makes a Dramatic Difference in Temperature

by Samantha Carpenter

If you have read the Secret Shopper articles I’ve written, then you know that I usually shop for windows. (See the April 2002 and the July/August 2002 issues of SHELTER.)

There’s a good reason. Our family’s 12 ½-year-old home in the suburbs of Memphis, Tenn., has wood windows that were rotting and energy-inefficient.

In my travels to different window manufacturers and distributors, I occasionally have asked what they think about my wood-rot problem, and they tell me that this is not uncommon in the South. 

It took nearly a year to convince my husband, Jeff, that we needed new windows. Jeff has a co-worker who works as a subcontractor, so he gave us the name of a contractor with whom we could work. 

Nearly two months ago, we met with Tim Walters of Distinctive Home Designs, and we discussed the type of windows we wanted. We also discussed that we would only be able to replace a few windows at a time because 
of cost. 

We knew that we wanted to go with a white vinyl exterior/woodgrain interior window with low-E glass. Tim said that he had a couple of different window samples he wanted to drop by.

We looked over the samples, but none met our needs exactly. We really wanted a wood veneer on the inside to match our custom moulding. So we asked Tim to come out again and bring some wood veneer samples.

We looked at wood veneer samples from a couple of window manufacturers, and we decided on the sample from Simonton Windows. To be more specific, we ordered the Reflections by Simonton 5500 double-hung window.

It took about two weeks for the windows to come in, and on a Wednesday, Mark Miller, Distinctive’s window installer, arrived about 11 a.m. to begin installing the windows. He dropped off his tools, but then had to go pick up the windows from ABC Supply Co. in Memphis. 

By 1 p.m., Mark was ripping out the first five windows we were replacing, and it was already about 90° Fahrenheit outside, which meant it would soon be that temperature within the house. He was extremely personable, and we talked about several issues plaguing the building products industry, including water-damaged properties.

Mark was by himself, and I could tell that installing windows literally could be a backbreaking job. 

During the process of removing the old windows and installing the new windows, Mark explained what he was doing. For instance, he showed us the water-damaged window in the family room and explained to us that we should get gutters put up on the back of the house and that although the gutters wouldn’t keep water off the windows completely, they would help. 

He worked until 8 p.m.—the time at which the sun goes down in August. He had five new windows installed—the double-hung window over the kitchen sink, the two double-hung and picture windows in the breakfast area in the kitchen and the double-hung window in the family room—and sealed. He had to come back the next day to frame the windows.

That night he told us to leave the windows shut, so that he could water-test them the next day to make sure they were all sealed properly.

The next day Mark returned at 9 a.m. with two associates to frame the windows. As he promised, he water-tested the windows, and they passed. Our windows were completely finished by noon.

Mark and his associates did not ruin anything in or on our house, during the installation and framing process. All debris was picked up before they left our house. They even returned the entertainment center, which had been removed to install the window in the family room, to its original place.

An enormous difference—that’s what we saw in our new windows, not only because of the aesthetics, but also because our home wasn’t a million degrees as you stood in front of the kitchen windows. Typically at 2 o’clock in the afternoon everyday, our home was already 80° Fahrenheit, despite an air conditioner set to 75° Fahrenheit or lower. Wow! That low-E glass really works. Plus, we hope that the windows will help keep the cool air out in the winter and will make a difference in our monthly gas/electric bill.

We plan on replacing the rest of our windows this winter. At least it will no longer be 90° Fahrenheit outside, and instead it will be 30° to 40° Fahrenheit outside. I wonder in which temperature Mark prefers to replace windows?


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