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Anderson, Pella and Marvin Window Comparisons

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DEAR TIM: I was looking at your web page for some information on windows, specifically a comparison between Anderson casement windows and Pella. I thought I had a handle on the basics of double pane, gas-sealed, low-e, high-efficiency thermo-pane windows, but from what I've seen of Pella windows, they're not sealed at all. To me, this blows the whole "sealed = high efficiency" thing out of the water. How can Pella boast high/higher efficiency, when all they seem to do is provide two unsealed panes of glass? Am I missing something?

I know some folks swear by Pella, but to me, Anderson or Marvin seem to be a better product because their windows actually provide a sealed-space, which I thought insulated better. I like Pella's casement product from a standpoint of no chance of seal failures and fogging, plus the in-between mini-blinds, but I'm not convinced that they actually deliver the same level of efficiency. Vic Johansen, Cincinnati, OH

DEAR VIC: A good friend of mine who happens to be a CPA and a former mentor of mine taught me several years ago that numbers don't lie. When you couple this fact with independent certification numbers assigned by testing laboratories to the different windows, you have a clear-cut method of scientifically choosing top-quality windows.

The brands you speak of all are great companies and the last time I checked they all carried independent certification from the National Fennestration Rating Council (NFRC) with respect to the R-values of the windows and specifically the glazed or glass portion of the window.

Pella's window design for years has used a removable pane of glass that had a built-in gasket. This gasket, believe it or not, produced a seal that could rival those of the insulated glass you see in other windows. The latest version of Pella that I saw at the International Builders Show had insulated glass married with a third glazed panel.

I believe if you really compare apples to apples you will discover the overall energy efficiency of the windows is nearly the same. That, after all, is what you are looking for. You should also pay attention to any rating numbers with respect to the R-value of the glass when measured both at the center of the glass and at the edges. This R-value can vary significantly in different windows.

Author's Notes: After this column was published, it was discovered by a Pella window consultant named Paul Brand. He emailed the following comments to me:

" My name is Paul Brand and I am a window consultant for Pella Windows and Doors. I just read an article off of your website that addressed an inquiry regarding a comparison between Andersen and Pella windows. The writer was curious as to why Pella would not manufacture " double pane, gas-sealed, low-e, high-efficiency thermo-pane windows" . In fact, Pella does manufacture such a window.

I may be making an assumption here, but I believe the window he may have been looking at is part of our Designer Series product line. This particular window is available with a variety of glazing options including a clear single glazed exterior pane with a hinged interior clear glass panel. Obviously, this glazing option would not be a suitable choice for homes located in the northern half of the United States. Might I suggest looking at the same product line but have the unit(s) specified with our 5/8" InsulShield insulating glass with a clear hinged panel. By selecting this glazing option the homeowner can expect to see industry leading U-values and an outside sound reduction of up to 80%. In addition, the Designer Series product line is the only product available where the homeowner can select from 25 different "between-the-glass" pleated shade / blind options."

Paul Brand

Window Consultant / Contractor Sales

Pella Windows & Doors - T.C., Inc.

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9 Responses to Anderson, Pella and Marvin Window Comparisons

  1. We are ready to replace the windows in our 1939 vintage Colonial house in the $1 M prox price range. I know I want wood interiors, and I want the windows to look good inside and out. We live in Seattle--moderate temperatures, so efficiency is possibly less of an issue. Also, in my professional career, I have seen how seals between panes fail. I'm not convinced that the old "storm window" removable (read not sealed) option wouldn't be the most cost effective approach. How do I factor all this into selecting the best window replacement option?

  2. I replaced 12 Pella windows in my home in 2012. The original windows were Pella double-hung installed in 1988 during construction of my home. The original windows had wood rot. The new windows are aluminum clad Designer Series, Low-E and Argon Gas filled. We cannot raise the windows, thy leak air in several places and KC South, LLC and Pella refuse to correct the problem. Actually, the only way to resolve the problem is to replace all of these windows. KC South, LLC, Pella's authorized distributor and installer of the windows abandoned the project. Help please! Suggestions greatly appreciated.

    • I'm glad I read your review. I am in the market to replace 16 windows in my Oklahoma home. After reading your comments, they will not be Pella. It seems your original windows should have lasted much longer.

    • I'd like to raise a question on your concern here. As soon as you say that you cannot raise the windows and that they are leaking air, it raises an eyebrow as to weather or not they were installed plumb and square, and with correct shimming. No matter what window brand is used, if the windows are installed haphazardly, you will experience the same problems. If this is the issue, of course the manufacturer would be unwilling to fix the issue as installation is not a manufacturing issue. If you remove the interior casing, you should find shims (at the very least) 6 in from each corner (except the very top), and shims at the check rail (this is the center rail of a hung window where the top and bottom sash meet. Also, placing a square in the frame of the window will let you know if your unit is square. Just remember, poor installation will make even the best windows look like junk.

  3. Marvin is junk and good luck getting problems fixed. When cold I have ice build up on the inside of my very expensive 2 pairs of 9′ French sliders ..not a moisture problem in house there is no moisture on glass …the ice is on the bottom wood panels, you can see the water running down the wood …all 6 wood panels are rotting and the track fills with water…the local co I bought the windows from said this was a manuf. defect…but they are 1 year out of warrantee so Marvin will not cover…so now it will cost me another $5 grand to have the panels pulled out and replaced…they have done 1 set already and the installers from the local Marvin dealer said they have done this on a lot of these Marvin windows…a very common problem. I also have a Marvin casement window that is junk. Don’t spend extra for Marvin windows the are over rated.

  4. Hi Tim
    My son has an upscale stucco home in suburban Pa that has about 1/3 of the windows rotting at the borrom corners and sill. We spoke to a Pella consultant and got an estimate. One of the things he stated was that his installation of Pella pro line 450 would use a block to raise the window up slightly and a clad exterior set of panels to trim the outside. these would allow moisture to drain to daylight. Seems logical given the places our windows rot but both marvin folks and renewal by Anderson folks seem to find this silly. What do you think? This is a big job if he does all the windows ($90K+) so w want to get it right. Also what do you think of the fiberglass options mfg use?

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