Windows play a vital role in weather protection and energy efficiency for every home. Get tips for selecting and installing resilient, high-performance windows.

Choosing the right windows for a custom homebuilding project enormously affects the immediate and long-term cost and quality of a home. By opting for windows that withstand the specific wind, rain, and temperature challenges of a home's location, homebuilders can help clients conserve energy, manage costs, and protect against weather and climate conditions.

Energy-efficient windows can offer homeowners huge ROI. Up to 30% of energy used for heating and cooling homes is wasted due to inefficient heat flow through window assemblies. Upfront costs on more efficient windows are usually recouped through utility savings within a few years.

While price can be a factor when moving from underperforming window frames to higher-grade options, there is some good news for homebuilders and homeowners: Innovations like advanced framing materials, improved weather sealing, enhanced noise reduction, and smart glass are becoming more accessible.


Frame Materials

Clients may prefer windows based on a number of factors, including maintenance, climate, budget, and design. Let’s break down the main characteristics of these frame materials: wood, vinyl, aluminum, composite, and fiberglass.

Wood Vinyl Aluminum Composite Fiberglass
Efficiency Fairly energy efficient depending on the type of wood, glazing, and construction. A good insulator that prevents heat loss. Frames have a low U-factor. Frames allow more heat transfer, which can raise energy costs. Thermal breaks can improve efficiency. Composite materials insulate well and prevent heat loss. Frames have a low U-factor. Insulates 2-3x better than wood or vinyl. Excellent thermal performance.
Weather Resistance Unlike other materials, wood frames can swell, crack, or warp if not resurfaced and refinished regularly. Performs well against routine moisture and rainfall but can have issues in extreme cold or heat. Excels in coastal areas with higher wind, humidity, and salt spray but less thermally resistant than composites or fiberglass. Very durable and holds up to all climates without swelling or warping but doesn’t perform as well as fiberglass. Offers best-in-class weather protection across the board with greater durability.
Durability Requires more maintenance than other materials but can last for over 60 years. Requires little maintenance and has a lifespan of 20-30 years. Very strong and long-lasting, with a lifespan of 20-50 years. Frames last 25-30 years with little maintenance required. Very strong and stable long-term, with a lifespan of 30+ years.
Design Wood frames offer the most design flexibility in terms of shapes, styles, and customization. Frames can be customized in many colors and finishes to match home design styles. Vinyl allows for various window shapes and special glass options. Frames have a sleek, modern, industrial look. Available in custom colors. Some composites offer a wood-like look but require less maintenance. Available in custom colors and finishes. Fiberglass framing can imitate wood without drawbacks like rotting or warping. Paintable.
Cost Wood tends to be the most expensive upfront but can pay off long term, if properly maintained. An affordable option for most budgets. Mid-range pricing. A premium option, costing 10-25% more upfront. Composites cost 20-30% more than vinyl but are a mid-range option. Fiberglass has a higher upfront cost but can save on energy bills. Higher-end option.

Special Features

Choosing high-quality, insulating windows with the right combination of features can result in optimal efficiency. Beyond frame materials, manufacturers are constantly adding special features and add-ons to enhance energy-efficient windows even further. For example:

  • Glazing: Double- and triple-pane glass provides better insulation. Special coatings can reduce UV damage.
  • Inert gas fills: Argon or krypton gas between panes provides better insulation.
  • Impact resistance: Laminated or impact glass withstands wind, hail, and falling debris. Useful for hurricane-prone areas.
  • Reinforced frames: Steel reinforcements add strength and structural integrity, helping windows resist strong winds or impacts.
  • Smart glass: Electrochromic glass can tint automatically for glare control and privacy.

Key Considerations for Window Installation

Installing energy-efficient windows correctly is just as important as choosing the right materials. Improper window installation can undermine even the highest-rated product's efficiency and resilience.

“Assume that windows can and will leak,” advises Matt Risinger, high-performance construction expert and host of “The Build Show,” as he talks through best practices for installing windows. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

Comply with Regional Regulations

Consulting local municipalities about window installation requirements can save time and money and ensures windows perform as designed over their lifespan. Improper installation can also nullify warranties. For example, Miami-Dade County in Florida requires windows to meet strict wind pressure ratings under its hurricane building codes. Texas ENERGY STAR® homes must meet certain U-factors and solar heat gain coefficients based on climate zone. See the ENERGY STAR® program’s requirements by region for a countrywide snapshot.

Come Prepared to Recommend Windows for Weather Protection

Your expertise ensures each client gets durable, customized windows that offer lasting performance and suit their home’s unique needs.

It takes a bit of research, but it’s critical to understand the daily and extreme weather patterns that windows must endure year-round. Select window brands specifically engineered to withstand the climate challenges in your region that are backed up with meaningful warranties.

To learn more about the energy-efficient windows for weather protection that Builders FirstSource can provide, read about them here. And to find the right windows for your next project, see how Builders FirstSource window specialists can guide you through the window selection process.

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