Picture windows are large stationary (inoperable) windows, usually with only one visible pane of glass. Because of their design, they are a favorite among homeowners who want unobstructed and expansive views of the outdoors.
But while aesthetics seems to be picture windows’ biggest draw for many homeowners, that’s not all they have to offer.
Why are they awesome?
- Daylighting. Because of their structural simplicity, picture windows can be made larger than most other types of windows. Consequently, they let in more natural light and minimize the need for artificial indoor lighting during daytime.
- Insulation and weatherproofing. Traditional picture windows are inoperable and tightly sealed around all edges. They provide fewer gaps through which air and water leaks can enter or escape. Insulated fixed windows with low-e coatings, warm-edge spacers and other energy-saving features are also almost unbeatable in terms of energy efficiency.
- Maintenance.Picture windows are fairly easy to clean. The process is fairly straightforward, as there are no moving components or hard-to-reach nooks.
- Cost. Fixed windows do not have mechanical parts that need to be replaced when they fail. This is why they generally cost less than similarly-sized sliding or casement windows.
What’s the catch?
- Ventilation.Perhaps the biggest point against this type of window is the lack of ventilation. If you live in a hot region and depend heavily on ventilation to cool your home, installing a picture window will be a bad idea unless the room has other operable windows.
- Heat gain. While picture windows are generally energy-efficient, the fact that they let in a lot of light may also mean unwanted solar heat gain. Some experts also argue that the difference between the energy performance of operable and inoperable windows is minimal. The bottom line is, if you want to avoid heat gain issues while still reaping the benefits of tightly-sealed fixed windows, pay attention to U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) values when you “window shop”.
- Breakage issues. Picture windows’ large glass area can mean a greater breakage risk in certain environments. However, many units are fitted with shatterproof glass or films, which effectively minimize this risk.
- Maintenance. Cleaning is both a pro and a con for this type of window. Their lack of moving parts makes them fairly easy to clean, but only from indoors. Cleaning a picture window from outside is another matter and can be especially tricky if it is installed on an upper floor.
- Cost is another pro-slash-con because while picture windows do not have parts that are prone to breaking down, they still fail over time. And when this happens, you’ll have to replace the entire unit. Unlike, say, double-hung windows, you won’t have the option to replace just the sashes.
Whether or not you decide to have picture windows installed, you’ll want to choose the right contractor. Your choice of windows will benefit your home in one way or another, but unless they are properly installed, you’d be hard put to maximize those benefits. Hire a window contractor with extensive industry experience, partnerships with trusted manufacturers, and a good local reputation.
As a window replacement consultant for Renewal by Andersen® of Omaha and Lincoln, Jim Brummel is passionate about sharing what he knows about windows with residential and commercial property