A visit into local window showrooms, especially any big box stores, can be overwhelming. San Diego homeowners have a large selection of window manufacturers to choose from when upgrading their windows. These window manufacturers have a variety of different products and frame materials to choose from, but ultimately they fit into several categories. Most manufacturers will produce at least one or several frame materials for windows; vinyl windows, fiberglass windows, or aluminum windows. Milgard Windows & Doors provides products for all of these frame materials. Not all window manufacturers make these frames at the same quality or focus on a beautiful design. Milgard focuses on making a well designed, incredibly durable, and long-lasting product. So before you walk into a San Diego showroom and pick out whatever window fits your window opening, read through our guide to researching San Diego window manufacturers and learn more about why we work exclusively with Milgard Windows & Doors.
Quality window manufacturers spend years developing and refining their products to meet their customer’s specific needs. Some brands even adjust their products for specific territories to meet the environmental challenges unique to each area of the United States. For instance, in San Diego, California we have some of the most rigid standards for energy efficiency and safety requirements. Milgard Windows & Doors ensure their windows meet these stringent requirements and apply those manufacturing processes to all their window lines. They also produce a higher grade product for residential homes than many other manufacturers. These results have been tested and verified by third-party industry testing. Step 1 in any research for home improvements is to ensure the products you want are high quality. Even a great installation won’t provide long-lasting results if the products break down before long. To ensure you are receiving the best product and services make sure that the claims made by the manufacturers have independent verification.
Window manufacturers who take pride in their products seek third party review and analysis to provide factual support and information to their customers. Third Party Independent Testing ensures that products meet or exceed the industry standards. They also give the manufacturers a sense of the markets that their products would be best placed.
A few organizations that handle independent testing of window manufacturer products are the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). Milgard submits it’s windows to AAMA and the NFRC for testing. Both organizations publish the results for the public. If you are looking for windows for your San Diego home, then starting with the results from AAMA or NFRC can help get your research started. It can also help you avoid wasted time researching products and manufacturers that don’t meet the highest standards. As you will see, there are many factors that these organizations test. While we tend to want to best in everything, the reality is that not all of the following criteria will be relevant to your location, so Step 2 is to make sure those products testing results meet your home and location’s individual requirements.
The American Architectural Manufacturers Association has a section of their website dedicated to the test results for certified product testing. There you can select the manufacturer in the dropdown under “Using the AAMA Online CPD”. The results that show up are difficult to decipher but each window submitted is given a performance class. Those classes are denoted by a letter classification: R for Residential, LC for light commercial, CW for a commercial window, and AW for an architectural window. Those ratings separate the window manufacturer’s products by the amount of pressure the window can handle in several categories before failing. So residential windows handle 15 psf (720 Pa), and light commercial windows are 25 psf (1200 Pa). It continues from there for the grades mostly used in high rise buildings.
So now that you know the differences in performance classes you can begin researching a window that provides the best results for your money. Many of the Milgard products meet the standards for light commercial or commercial window ratings. This category of Windows is better at handling pressure in various forms. They are stronger and more durable than a simple residential window which other manufacturers make. These light commercial and commercial windows are commonly installed in residential homes through Milgard Dealers even though they meet commercial grading. That commercial grade just means you are getting a more durable product that can withstand greater pressures before failing. That means these windows are more likely to last longer and stand up to more than the windows with a residential grade. That focus on quality and reliability for our customers is one of the main reasons US Window & Door sells Milgard products.
AAMA also provides testing on several categories that windows must pass to prove they provide the highest quality product. The categories below are all tested, and the window receives its rated as a whole on a scale of 1 -100.
However, before you see a window with a performance grade that doesn’t seem to surpass other window manufacturers, make sure you are comparing similar products. A residential window can have a higher degree (ex. R 40) but still not be as durable as a light commercial window with a lower number (LC 25) due to the overall testing requirements.
AMMA and other organizations provide the testing methods for the acoustical resistance of windows. How much sound the window blocks out is measured and rated through the Sound Transmission Class (STC). The higher the rating, the more noise is reduced. However, keep in mind that even if the windows are built to keep sound out, the walls have their sound suppression limits as well. There are a few other acronyms to be aware of in addition to STC.
OITC stands for outside inside transmission class. This rating is used to show how the product will handle typical exterior noise. Since outside noise often contains heavy bass frequencies, this evaluation provides information through a different calculation to include frequency transmission information with a lower frequency range. Again, a higher number shows better sound insulation.
STC ratings have been around longer and accepted as a standard for the industry. If you ask your salesperson about the noise reduction of their window manufacturer, they will likely provide the STC. OITC ratings are relatively new and have yet to permeate the industry knowledge the same way that STC has. So which rating should you consider? The system you research depends on the type of noise you tend to encounter from your surroundings. If your neighbors play their television loud, but it doesn’t tend to be movies with massive low-end sound, then STC ratings should be a fine indicator for your research. However, if your neighbor is slappin’ da bass through a huge amp stack, you may want to read through the OITC information to find the product with the highest OITC ratings.
Finally, EWR stands for exterior wall rating. EWR is a measure of how much sound the surrounding wall will block out. Having the highest score for blocking out sounds with your windows doesn’t mean much if the surrounding wall can’t block out the same amount or type of noise. So finding products that match your home’s ability to block out sound is an important part of the research.
Each manufacturer should be able to provide you with their product’s sound transmission information. Here’s an example of the sound transmission class information that Milgard provides to their consumers for their products.
Another good source of information for your window manufacturer research is the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). They provide testing on the energy efficiency of the products. Milgard also submits their products for testing and rating through the NFRC to ensure their customers that they have a quality product.
The NFRC provides their test results in their certified products directory. There you can search by window type or manufacturer and see the results. The categories that the NFRC mainly tests for are U-factor (insulation), SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient), and VT (Visible Transmittance of light). Some ratings may also include air leakage and condensation resistance.
U-Factor measures the amount of insulation that the window provides. Lower U-Factor is the desired results for a well-insulated window. Using the NFRC directory search we can find Milgard products and compare the U-factor between their product lines as well as other window manufacturer product lines. U-Factor is vital in today’s world because of the need for greater energy efficiency. State laws differ in their requirements for energy efficiency, but the trend is to be as energy efficient as possible. That means before you have windows installed your salesperson needs to ensure that the products meet San Diego U-Factor requirements.
Retrofit windows may not require the same U-Factor as new construction depending on the situation; however, new construction window installations are generally required to meet current U-Factor requirements. This requirement means that sometimes products can’t meet the U-Factor for a particular size or function. U-Factor in this regard also depends on other insulating factors in the house so sometimes even if a particular window configuration doesn’t meet the requirements there are other changes to the home’s insulation that can be made to allow for it.
SHGC measures the amount of solar heat transmitted through the windows. Heat transmission is an important factor for energy efficiency and in keeping your house cool. The lower the number, the better. Lower numbers mean less solar heat gets transmitted through the windows. Windows that allow less solar heat through tend to maintain interior temperatures better. Blocking out this solar heat is one of the important insulating factors for the windows as it allows you to control the internal temperature with less variation influenced by outside factors.
Visible Transmittance of light through the windows is perhaps the most personal rating to window purchasers. In making the windows more energy efficient, there is a chance that the light is blocked out with the other aspects that manufacturers attempt to improve upon. For some people, the slight reduction in light is not that important. Others want more light than an extremely efficient window provides. So balancing the energy efficiency of the window replacements with the personal design and light requirements is an important part of the buying process. If you need a lot of light but still want energy efficiency, consider making the window openings wider or installing modern skylights to bring in additional light while maintaining the efficiency requirements.
Now that you know more about the products and their ratings you can compare and contrast the results of each manufacturer’s product to see what meets your needs. We have found that Milgard tends to meet all of our customer requirements while providing an extremely well-designed product that lasts longer and has greater support than many other products.
Window manufacturers often service many areas around the nation. That means they will have production spread out over a large area. Because window and door openings aren’t standardized, many window manufacturers will need to create the product when and as you order it. That means additional wait time for products not produced in your territories. It also adds extra wait time should anything go wrong with the product and installation. So Step 3 of your research should include investigating where the manufacturer produces their windows.
In addition to the location of factories, window manufacturers don’t always make every aspect of their products. Some producers will purchase the raw materials from other companies. That means the manufacturer making the final product doesn’t control the quality of the product and materials. While this doesn’t always lead to issues, if the raw material manufacturer decides to change their process with a negative impact on the materials used to build the Windows, it will take time for the window manufacturer to partner with a new materials producer or improve upon the results for the product. As a consumer, you know that the company won’t stop the manufacturing line for something like this (without a recall) and ultimately you could end up with a subpar product due to lack of quality assurance.
Milgard Windows & Doors has factories throughout their sales territories in the United States and even produce raw materials for their window lines such as their vinyl windows. They have factories producing their products up and down the west coast which is perfect for San Diego residents. It allows our customers greater options in products and support directly from the manufacturer. Milgard sets up their factories in this manner to ensure quality control and quick response to service requests. Other competitors have fewer plants that are further away from San Diego, leaving San Diego residents with greater delays in product support and service when things go wrong.
After all product research has been completed the final step (step 4) is to check product warranties offered by the manufacturers and how they handle product and customer issues when something goes wrong. While purchasing warranties for products and services can sometimes be a financial mistake, ultimately costing the customer more money without providing more value on products, home improvement warranties are valuable. Home improvements are rarely cheap. The average window and door remodeling cost is above $5,000 according to research done by Houzz. When you spend that kind of money on a product that is meant to last, you want to guarantee the product, purchase, and installation.
Not all manufacturers offer warranties especially full life time warranties on their products. Although many warranties for home improvement products come at no additional cost, they differ in several important factors that could ultimately end up costing the consumer more money than they bargained for. Make sure to check and compare the manufacturer warranty for the window products you are considering. Doing so while researching the products ensures you get the best product, support, and service available in San Diego.
Milgard offers a full lifetime warranty on their residential products serviced by their employees. Some companies send contractors and other businesses to manage and repair their products under warranty. That can be a nightmare for the quality control of their services and products after installation. In addition, Milgard warranties their products for up to 10 years from production for the second home owner. So if you plan on selling your home, the remaining window warranty can add an additional value and selling points for your home.
We hope this guide has helped you learn more about the complicated process surrounding window manufacturing for San Diego homes. US Window & Door has over 30 years of sales and installation experience directly in San Diego and south Orange County. Started in 1987, US Window & Door is one of the oldest running window installation companies in San Diego. Their sales team can help you decipher the myriad of window manufacturer products and help you pick the best product for your home improvement. Beyond the testing information do you need to see and feel the products for yourself? If so, stop by our showroom and receive the same great product knowledge and support. Or set up a free in-home estimate* to get the window measurements taken by professionals for the most accurate quote.