Do Your Replacement Windows Meet Performance Standards?

Cynthia Wilson
Written by Cynthia Wilson
Updated July 7, 2016
window with wind, water resistence performance label in warehouse.
Windows tested for wind, water and air infiltration will now include performance labels. (Photo courtesy of Pella Corp.)

Be sure your replacement windows comply with wind, water and air filtration resistance requirements for your region.

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Just when homeowners are beginning to understand Energy Star ratings that measure efficiency levels of windows and appliances, they can now find new performance labels on windows.  

It’s a good thing, experts say. The labels inform homeowners that the windows met certain wind, water and air resistence standards, says Jeffrey Inks, senior vice president of consumer advocacy for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association.

New building codes for window performance

Some manufacturers began making windows to meet fenestration standards more than a decade ago after many cities and towns throughout America adopted stricter building codes, says Joe Hayden, certification engineer for Pella Corp. in Pella, Iowa. He says Pella adopted the practice in 1998. By now, most window and glass door manufacturers also do.

Although thousands of building officials across America have yet to mandate that new construction windows meet wind and water infiltration standards, contractors must install a qualifying product in communities where it's required. Homeowners who replace their windows may still choose to buy windows tested only for thermal energy efficiency, Inks says.

Nonetheless, he recommends homeowners who buy replacement windows choose the more durable product. “The average consumer doesn’t realize how complex window, doors and skylights are.  They have to perform complex [tasks]. Other considerations include safety,” Inks says.

Look for Hallmark, AAMA labels

Windows tested to resist high pressure wind and water often include a WDMA Hallmark or an American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) label affixed to the display window or packaging. The lowest grade is designed to withstand wind pressure of 15 pounds per square foot (15 psf) and water pressure of a little less than 3 pounds per square foot. The higher the number, the better the performance.

To ensure you’re buying windows designed to perform best in your area, Hayden says to contact your local building office to learn the minimum requirements for new construction windows.

“If you live on a coastal region with heavy precipitation, strong winds and increased humidity, you should consider a higher grade. But, if you live in region, like the southwest, with less rainfall and humidity a lower grade will be adequate,” Hayden says.

He notes that more than 99.9 percent of Pella products will be certified. “The ones that don’t are custom ordered,” he say.

Kevin Gaul, Pella's engineering manager for advanced technology, says when Pella ships windows and doors to retail stores, it ensures the products are appropriate for the climate and that they meet the building codes in their region of the country.

Buying windows at home

If a Hallmark or AAMA label isn’t affixed to the window or package, ask your salesmen for the information.

The same advice applies if the information is not offered when buying windows from a salesman who visits your home, says Chris Pasa, sales associate of Mr. Window in Indianapolis. Consumers can also find the information on the manufacturer’s website.

“These ratings have always been available to the homeowners if they want to find it,” Pasa says.

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