At the outset of this project, I was very confident that I would put Serious Windows in the house. I had read a lot about them, and it looked like they were a viable option (actually the only option) that would allow me to purchase windows from a domestic manufacturer. [For those of you who don’t already know, Serious sold the window business back to Alpen High Performance Products in the fall of 2012.]
Serious/Alpen Windows are different than the typical European Passive House windows in a number of ways. First, the frames are made of fiberglass rather than the U-PVC or wood that seems to be typical in the imported windows. Second, rather than using three panes of glass, Serious/Alpen uses two panes separated by a suspended film. Third, their casement-style window opens outward (it is my understanding that the European windows generally open inward). And finally, they lack the “tilt” part of the “tilt-turn” feature that is common in Europe. This feature allows you to open the [casement] window as you would expect a casement window to operate. But it also allows you to tilt the top of the window open in those instances where you might want to vent air unobtrusively.
For our project, I focused on the 725 series window, which is the mid-point in the Serious/Alpen line. According to the Serious/Alpen data sheet, the 725 series casement window with high solar heat gain offers a .18 U-Factor (5.6 R-Value), .37 Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), and .48 visible light transmission (VT) [725-datasheet-20130129]
Armed with that information, I reached out to Alpen in December 2012 for a quote, which came back at $19,785.97, or about $77 per square foot (freight not included).
Throughout 2012, I had read several articles/blogs about other Passive Houses that had used Intus windows. And at about the time I received the Alpen quote, I read an article about a relatively new (to the U.S.) window company called Zola that piqued my interest. So I decided that it would be worthwhile to get a quote from both. I have to admit that I didn’t have high expectations that they could compete with Serious/Alpen when it came to price (simply because Alpen is a domestic manufacturer). But I did like the tilt-turn feature of the European windows, as well as what appeared to be the slightly better performance of the Intus windows.
I never heard back from Zola. It’s one of those things that has happened repeatedly over the years (with projects on my current home). I reach out to a contractor to obtain a quote or a price on a specific job/product, and either I never receive a call-back, or I receive a call-back with a promise of follow-up, and the contractor then disappears; never to be heard from again. But I digress…
Fortunately, I did get a quote from Intus. The Intus window that seemed to make the most sense for me was their Eforte “Passive House” line. Unlike the Alpen window, the Intus Eforte uses a U-PVC frame and triple glazing. The frame has an R-Value of 5.99. The glazing has a U-Value of .088. The SHGT is .494, and the VT is .709. In short, the performance trumped that of the Serious/Alpen windows. But the most surprising thing about the quote was that the delivered cost of the Intus windows as just under $50 per square foot; a significant savings over Alpen.
After a couple of visits to the Intus office in Washington D.C. to speak with their representatives and examine the window, and after giving it some thought, I placed an order in mid April 2013. It was a difficult choice. But I just couldn’t justify the additional cost for the Serious/Alpen windows.
To be honest, I do have a couple of slight concerns. As I previously mentioned, the windows open inward. This could cause a problem, particularly over the kitchen sink where the faucet is sticking up. But fortunately, in my situation, the window over the sink is a double, and if the faucet is placed properly that shouldn’t be a problem. I also suspect that the tilt feature will be used most of the time, and that obviously would not create the same issue.
There’s also a potential issue in that shades/blinds may be difficult to use when the windows are open (either tilt or turn). But I don’t really anticipate that we will be using the windows in that manner (i.e. open with shades drawn). And if it turns out that I’m wrong, I’m confident that we’ll find an alternative. Things do have a way of working out.
As of this moment, the windows are scheduled to hit the Baltimore port in late July. That’s pretty much on schedule (Intus estimated a nine to 14 week lead time) and should work out well, timing-wise, with our project.
[I should note that, when I received my first quote from Intus (in December 2012), there was no shipping charge. But by the time I placed the order (in April 2013), they had instituted a $4,000 shipping fee on all orders of less than $25,000. Fortunately, they agreed to reduce that charge to $500 for my order because I had obtained my first quote prior to the change in policy and because I agreed to allow them to combine my shipment with another shipment.]