Calgary Window Buyer’s Guide

Replacing the windows in your home offers many benefits. New windows can improve your home’s curb appeal and increase the resale value. Modern, energy efficient windows lower heating and cooling costs and make internal temperatures more stable and comfortable. New windows also block out more noise and virtually eliminate ongoing maintenance. Investing in new windows is a great investment in your home and your quality of life.

Here is a handy buyer’s guide to help you navigate all the options you have when purchasing new windows.

Window Installation is Paramount

Choosing a quality window installer should be your primary consideration when replacing your windows. Poor installation can negate the energy efficiency and insulating qualities of new windows. Gaps around the window frame can let in drafts and even lead to water damage of the walls of your home. The performance of the window can also be hampered with incorrect installation.

Window installation is a craft that requires professional training and extensive experience to truly become proficient. Beware of companies offering discount installation services. You want your windows to last. Many window contractors cut costs by hiring outsourced and inexperienced installers. While everyone wants to get the best price possible, those initial cost savings can be quickly erased if your windows need to be replaced again in the near future to fix shoddy installation.

At Old West Windows and Doors Calgary, we never hire outside contractors. All our window installers are trained employees. It takes years to become a quality installer so we don’t take any chances hiring outside contractors. We are so confident in our installers that we offer an industry leading 12-year installation warranty. Last year, we had over 1200 installations with zero call backs. We didn’t have to fix any window installations because we did them all correctly the first time.

In Canada, one of the best ways to evaluate contractors is through If you check Old West Windows and Doors Calgary, you’ll see that we have a near perfect rating on over 100 reviews. Take your time to read through our reviews to make sure that our customers are happy with the work we do. New windows are a substantial investment so don’t rush into deciding on a window company without doing your homework.

Window Manufacturer

Reputable windows installers typically will get windows through one supplier. The windows contractor you choose will generally decide the brand of windows you’ll get. If you choose a reputable installer, you’ll very likely get top quality windows.

Talk to the window company you choose to hire about why they use that particular brand of windows and ask them about any past problems. While all windows may look similar at first glance, there can be large variations in quality, durability and functionality.

Getting Window Replacement Quotes

Take time to search for reputable window installation companies on sites like, and the Better Business Bureau. Narrow down your window company search to three or four top companies and contact them all for a quote. Use every interaction you have with the company as your final evaluation process. Here are some factors to evaluate the company:

  • Do they respond to your inquiry promptly?
  • Are they professional? 
  • Do they have a quality website? 
  • Does the salesperson listen and respond to all of your questions?
  • Do their vehicles look professional?
  • Do you trust them?

Here are some questions you should ask:

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • What is their windows installation warranty?
  • Will they provide references from past customers? 
  • Do they hire outside subcontractors for the installations or are the installers all employees? 
  • When willthe windows be installed? What happens if there is a delay?
  • How long the installation will take?

Your window quote should be very detailed including:

  • number of windows with sizes and types
  • the brand of windows (manufacturer)
  • extra features or requirements
  • total labor and material costs
  • the exact cost 
  • amount of deposit required

Make 100% sure that everything is clear and upfront in the quote. You don’t want any surprises after the work has begin.

All About Windows

There are almost endless options on choosing windows for your home. Your window installation company will help explain all the different types and features of windows available, but here is a quick overview to get you started. 

Window Efficiency Ratings

Your new windows will have standard industry ratings of efficiency. Some of the common ratings you’ll see are:

R-Value – Range 2.00 to 7.69 – Higher is Better

R-value is a measure of resistance to heat loss. The R-value typically ranges from 2.00 to 7.69. Higher numbers mean that the window offers better protection from outside heat in summer months and cold in winter.

U-factor – Range 0.13 to 0.50 – Lower is Better

U-factor, sometimes called U-value, is the rate of transfer of heat or heat loss. The U-factor typically ranges from 0.13 to 0.50. A lower number is better, meaning that less heat is lost. 

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient or (SHGC) – Range 0.32 to .0.75 – Lower is Better

Solar heat gain coefficient is a measure of how much heat from the sun is blocked. The number is typically between 0.32 and .0.75. Lower numbers mean the window blocks more heat from the sun. 

Visible transmittance (VT) – Range 57 to 81 – Higher Numbers Mean More Light is Allowed In

Visible transmittance measures how much light a window allows in. The VT is typically between 57 and 81 with higher numbers allowing more light in.

Air Leakage – Range 0.1 to 0.3 – Lower is Better

Air Leakage is a measure of how much outside air comes through the window frame. Air leakage rates are usually between 0.1 and 0.3. Lower numbers mean the window is better at keeping air out. It’s not a common rating so you probably won’t see this number on your window rating.

Condensation Resistance – Range 1 to 100 – Higher is Better

Condensation Resistance measures how well your windows resist condensation. Condensation resistance is between 1 and 100, with higher numbers having more resistance to condensation. Again, this is not commonly rated on windows so you may not see a condensation resistance rating.

Window Frame Materials

There are three main types of window frames used in Calgary’s climate:

  1. Wood
  2. Metal clad / wood or vinyl
  3. All-vinyl frames
  4. Fiberglass

There are also aluminum windows, but they are not so common in Canada so they are not included in this list. Aluminum windows are not suited for Calgary’s winters.

1. Wood-Frame Windows

If you have older windows in your home, it’s very likely that they are wood-frame windows. Wood is not used very much for window frames any longer largely due to the maintenance requirements. Wood is susceptible to weather and requires regular painting to protect.

Solid wood frames are also more extensive, If a real wood interior window frame is desired for design or aesthetic reasons, the exterior is usually metal clad (covering in aluminum) or vinyl clad. The clad offers better protection and eliminates the need for painting.

For the interior wood, there is often a selection of wood types offered like pine or fir which can be painted or stained to match your home decor.

2. Metal Clad Windows

Cladding simply means that the wood or composite core is covered by a material like vinyl, aluminum, or fiberglass. This cladding protects the wood from the outside weather so that it doesn’t need to be repainted. The metal in metal clad windows is typically aluminum. Wood can be used on the interior for aesthetic reasons. 

Although they metal clad windows are more expensive than vinyl, they are also more durable on the outside and allow for a traditional wood frame on the interior. 

3. Vinyl-Frame Windows

Vinyl windows are the most common now because they are the least expensive and are largely maintenance free. That means they won’t need to be painted on the exterior. Most vinyl window frames come in white with many hardware options, but they can often be painted if desired.

4. Fiberglass-frame windows

Fiberglass windows are the latest innovation in window design. With up to 9 times the strength of PVC, high insulation factors and low energy requirements for construction, fiberglass is a great choice for environmentally conscious home owners.

Window Features

Double or Triple Glazed Windows

‘Glazed’ simply refers to the number of panes of glass in the window. Double-glazed windows have two panes of glass with a sealed space between the panes filled with air or gas. Gas has become the standard because of its better insulation qualities.

Triple-glazing, means there are three panes of glass. The extra pane of glass improves energy efficiency and helps to reduce noise. Triple-glazed windows are great for keeping the out the cold of Calgary’s winters. 

Low-E Glass

Low E or Low Emissivity coatings are transparent treatments that reflect ultraviolet and infrared heat to improve the insulating properties of windows. There are different coatings on each side of the window to achieve different heat and cold reductions. In Calgary, we want to keep the cold out and heat in. In hotter locations, the opposite is true. 

Gas Insulated Windows

Virtually all modern windows have an insulating gas pumped into the chambers between window panes to increase energy efficiency and minimize heat transfer. Argon is the most commonly used gas because of it’s insulating qualities, safety and low cost. Krypton gas is often found in more expensive, triple glazed windows. Krypton is a better insulator than argon, but it is also more expensive. 

Window Types

When changing your windows it’s important to remember that you don’t need to keep the original window type. Installing new windows is a great opportunity to really improve the look of your home. Bigger, more functional windows can transform a dark room into a bright, open and more spacious family area. A great example is replacing an older kitchen window with a large patio door.