In August, warding off the winter chill may be the last thing on homeowners’ minds. But for those who believe in George Osborne’s mantra of fixing the roof while the sun is shining or, in this case, sorting out your windows, summer is the best time to install double glazing. Companies offer deals to drum up business in the slow months and are more inclined to meet your timetable. And you won’t freeze while your windows are out for hours at a time, as you would in winter, so your bills won’t spike as a result.
“You should all have double glazing,” says Anna Jorge, a London-based Spanish architect, who is baffled by Britain’s surfeit of £1m houses with ancient, draughty window panes.“It’s crazy, this culture of paying a lot for heating.”
But the culture is starting to change. All new housing must meet energy-efficiency standards, which require double glazing. Replacement windows in older homes have had to meet these standards since 2002.
Yet double glazing requires a hefty investment: prices start at about £250 for a small casement window and £500 for a sash. It saves the average detached house only £160 a year or less on bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust, so will take ages to pay off. Think of it as a way to keep warm, block out noise and cut your carbon footprint. What else do you need to know?
■ Choose a firm registered with the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme (fensa.co.uk). You’ll get trained fitters and a certificate stating that the windows meet post-2002 standards. DIYers and anyone using a non-Fensa contractor will need approval from the local authority. Either way, keep the certificates: when you sell, the buyer’s solicitor will ask to see them.
■ Prices are difficult to pin down by phone or online, so get several companies to visit your home and give a quote, and seek recommendations from friends. The big national firms have the most skilled sales teams. But be wary of the hard sell and “half-price” deals — double-glazing salesmen are notoriously pushy — and note that good companies offer a week in which to cancel once you sign an initial agreement.
■ Smaller local companies that are reliant on word of mouth for business may offer better service and aftercare.
■ Materials have progressed “as rapidly as the computer chip” in recent years, says Alan Osborn, who co-founded Sheen Windows in southwest London. Jorge concurs, saying wooden frames should only be considered for listed buildings. Aluminium makes excellent, hard-wearing frames, is suitable for big windows or high-spec designs and looks sleek. But uPVC offers the best value. It is half the price of aluminium and wood, and is not as shoddy as it may sound. Unlike wood, uPVC doesn’t warp or rust, is resistant to water and fire, and now comes in finishes that suit old homes.
■ Make sure you buy low emissivity (low-E) glass: the inner pane is coated with a metal oxide that lets in heat and light, but cuts the amount of heat that escapes. The gap between the glazing can be vacuum-sealed and filled with an inert gas that adds further insulation — argon, xenon or, for fans of Superman, krypton.
■ Check the rating: the British Fenestration Rating Council (bfrc.org) has a system that runs from A (the most efficient) to G, with C the legal minimum for windows and E for doors.
■ New double glazing is more airtight than old frames, but may cause condensation or hamper ventilation. Look for windows with built-in trickle vents.
■ A conservatory cannot be glazed to normal household levels, so connecting doors into the house should be insulated — and now is the time to do it.
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