The best windows for your climate

Replacement windows that keep out wind and rain without leaking

Published: October 16, 2014 02:15 PM

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Taping sheets of clear heavy plastic over windows is one way to reduce drafts in winter. I do it before the weather turns cold but can’t see what my neighbors are up to until spring. Storm windows are another option, but if your budget allows, new windows can make your home less drafty and quieter and are easier to clean than old windows with storm windows and screens. Consumer Reports’ window tests found top picks that are right for your climate.

Our tests of double-hung and casement windows revealed big differences between brands in window type and frame material, regardless of price. Wood frames are usually the most expensive and the exterior is typically clad in vinyl, aluminum, or fiberglass to protect the wood and eliminate painting. You won’t have to paint fiberglass or vinyl frames either, and vinyl are often the least expensive. But vinyl colors are limited and can’t be stained. There was little difference between vinyl and wood-framed casements in our tests—all were excellent. Prices are for a basic 3x5-foot window.

How we test To find out which windows can keep out rain and wind without leaking, we tested 21 double-hung and four casement windows, two popular styles. Working with an outside lab we subjected the windows to a heavy, wind-driven rain and winds of 25 and 50 miles-per-hour at outdoor temperatures of 0° and 70°F.

Pella ProLine 450 Series

For cold climates

Need to know. Look at the overall scores in our window Ratings then zero in on windows that excelled at low-temperature wind resistance if your home is exposed to high winds and cold temperatrues.
Consider. The Andersen 400 Series double-hung window, $310. It’s top rated among wood-framed and excelled at low-temperature wind resistance so your home won’t get drafty even when the wind howls. A CR Best Buy, the wood exterior is clad in vinyl. The Pella ProLine 450 Series was nearly as impressive and at $300 is also a CR Best Buy.The wood exterior is clad in aluminum. All casements, wood framed and vinyl, excelled at keeping out cold air and water. Take your pick. The exterior of the wood frame is clad in vinyl on the Andersen 400 Series, $400. The American Craftsman by Andersen 70 Series from Home Depot is $260 and vinyl.

American Craftsman by Andersen

For rainy climates

Need to know. Prices can vary by dealer so shop around and check manufacturer websites for specials. There are no federal tax credits planned for Energy Star-qualified windows in 2014 or 2015 but some utilities and city and state programs offer rebates or incentives to buy Energy Star windows.
Consider. The Weather Shield EnduraShield, $430, double-hung window aced our rain-resistance tests so leaks are unlikely. The wood exterior is clad in fiberglass. Among vinyl double-hung, the Simonton Pro-Finish Contractor, $260, Reliabilit 3900 Series from Lowe’s, $280, and American Craftsman by Andersen 70 Series from Home Depot, a CR Best Buy at $170, were impressive or better in our wind-resistance tests. Any casement we tested excelled in every test, including the wood-framed Pella ProLine 450 Series, $460, and the vinyl ThermaStar by Pella 20 Series from Lowe’s. It’s $310.

Reliabilt 3201

For warm climates

Need to know. People who live in cold, snowy areas are often jealous of you and will find ways to say unflattering things about your locale. It’s how we make it through five months of winter.
Consider. Any of the top picks are good choices for warm climates. The Reliabilt 3201 vinyl double-hung from Lowe’s is $190 and the least expensive we tested. This CR Best Buy was impressive at keeping out rain and wind without leaking when it’s warm outside.

Replacing windows involves many decisions and our window Ratings and buying guide will help make it easier. Take a look.

-Kimberly Janeway (@CRJaneway on Twitter)

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