It is widely accepted that double glazing is an excellent way in which you can help towards reducing your home heating bills.
By burning less fuel you will not only save money on the running costs of your home but you will also be lessening the CO2 footprint of your property. It could be argued that by installing double glazing you will be doing your 'bit' to help save the planet.
However, double glazing, whilst improving the comfort of your home, is not necessarily the most cost effective way of reducing fuel bills. Double glazing can be a rather expensive home improvement. Also, if you are also considering the environmental aspects of double glazing, you will need to consider the 'energy cost' of the manufacturing processes involved. Most double glazing units comprise of (U) PVC or hardwood surrounds. Both have environmental issues surrounding their use.
This said there are clear benefits to double glazing your home.
Double-glazing offers a level of safety and security that traditional windows cannot match. Traditional single pane windows are normally made of a single sheet of regular glass. Obviously, heat loss through this is twice that of double glazing.
Most double glazed units will come with laminated or toughened glass reducing the chance of shattering. Often damage to one pane is not carried through to the second pane therefore giving a much higher degree of safety. You can choose high security window frames and locking systems which will make it a great deal harder for intruders to gain entry to your home.
Up to 25% of heat can be lost through windows of modern homes.
However, modern low-emissivity glass (Low-E) will allow the sun's heat and light to pass through the glass into the building, but it will prevent the heat from leaving the room. This considerably reduces heat loss and therefore improves the comfort levels in your home. Most double glazing units will have very effective draught proofing systems as well. Not only will you keep your house warmer, you will save money on your heating bills. What you must consider however is the initial installation cost and the relative 'pay back' period of that cost. In real terms, it will take many years before you recover your initial outlay and begin to save money.
You can buy PVC, Hardwood and Softwood double glazing units.
In terms of maintenance PVC offers the lowest level of maintenance. Hardwood units will require regular treatment to maintain their durability and aesthetic appearance. Only choose Softwood double glazing units for economic reasons. Some people do not like the appearance of PVC double glazing but modern PVC double glazing units can come with hardwood effect frames. At a distance you will be hard pressed to notice the difference. Appearance over maintenance will be the main consideration for most people.
Fitting double glazing units is not particularly difficult and you can buy units that you can fit yourself.
However, you will invariably employ the services of double glazing installers to carry out the work for you. As double glazing is a high value (expensive) product, there is a great deal of competition to gain your business. There are many stories around of 'rip off merchants' and the industry has gained a somewhat dubious reputation in some parts. The maxim that you get what you pay for does not always apply. PVC double glazing profile manufactures are few and far between and therefore many companies will be offering the same product at wildly varying prices. The main difference being the quality of service rather than the quality of the product.
Some suppliers have established reputations built up over many years and consider themselves to be at the better end of the market. Other companies have not been around for too long and still have to establish reputations. The best way around this dilemma is to go on the recommendation of people who have used a particular company's service.
In the UK, large national double glazing companies lead the way. Everest Double Glazing or Anglian Double Glazing are long established companies. Safestyle UK only started in 1992 and now claims to be the biggest independent double glazing company in the UK. However there are many smaller, local double glazing companies which can offer a competitive service.
There are many pitfalls but also many good double glazing companies which offer excellent value for money.
Remember - when you are close to making a decision about choosing a double glazing company, always get personal recommendations from previous customers. If a company is reluctant to give you the contact details, then think twice!