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The Pella salesman claims that his replacement windows are better than the Pella replacement windows that are sold at the big box stores. Is that true?

I've done my best to ask the windows people at the big box probing questions. Maybe I haven't found enough questions to ask.

So far, I've only found two differences:

  1. Pella Pella: he says the frames have foam insulation added at the factory. The big box window sales person says they can do that too, for $15 extra per window.

  2. Pella Pella: he says that when they do the installation, they bring a small machine to put foam insulation into the wall around the edges. The big box window installer says he uses the fiberglass kind and stuffs it in around the edges because the foam is too messy, and he says the results are the same.

Do either of those matter? Also, what other differences are there? What other questions should I ask? I'm not looking to make my 1940's house a model of energy efficiency. I just want to be more comfortable. Money is a concern for me at this time.

The Pella Pella estimate is about double the big box Pella estimate.

  • Are you replacing the windows just to boost the insulation value? Or do you want new windows for other reasons as well? If the former, your money will go much further by increasing roof insulation, and/or thoroughly air sealing the house. – LShaver Dec 5 '19 at 15:21
  • @LShaver - The existing windows are a disaster. They are single pane glass and they are drafty. There is a lot of aluminum which is also giving me a lot of heat loss. There is no doubt I need to put something better in. The question is, is there anything to be gained by paying double for the Pella Pella? // There is a second story which we don't use much. That is already providing insulation from above. I will think about wall insulation, rim joists, attic, etc., later. First I've got to solve my window problem. – aparente001 Dec 5 '19 at 15:26
  • Double?!? no way that's worth it. Those two changes would give you a 20% boost in R-value at the absolute most (probably closer to 5%), on the weakest link in your envelope. – LShaver Dec 5 '19 at 16:46
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    In general I can say that some manufacturers do make different quality of products and market those various models via different sales channels. For instance, Target might have a special cheap model of Samsung TV that Best Buy would never sell, etc. It's plausible, but could also just be sales puffery. – JPhi1618 Dec 5 '19 at 16:58
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    Find a local community email list, Facebook group, or similar for your city or neighborhood, and ask for recommendations of local window installers. That's the best way to find someone who will do a good job and use good hardware. – Moshe Katz Dec 6 '19 at 4:51
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First, to bust a rumor, if it's the same model/SKU, it's the same part. If you see a "549E" model at Home Depot, and a dealer also sells a 549E, then it's the real McCoy. However, they may well make a "547H" model that's been shaved for Home Depot (it may even be made by a different manufacturer.)

The big-box stores are very tough on vendors, on both price and return policy. A such, many vendors build "Built for big-box" shaved models of their products, with cost-cutting shortcuts that they would never put into a dealer product.

Support and parts are nonexistent. We get that stuff donated, and it's the same story - you call the dealer, they hear the model number and say "That's a Home Depot special, there are no OEM parts for that." It's a throwaway. The zero parts commonality suggests to me a different manufacturer altogether.

So is Pella making a shaved version of their window by the thousands for Home Depot? Oh, very likely. Hundreds of manufacturers do it. Part of the deal is they show up on pallets, and obviously are not custom-fit. Some replacement window manufacturers are able to build to your dimensions.

That said, it really pays to search for products more broadly than big-box stores and well-advertised "replacement window" manufacturers. Both of them are complete ripoffs, and they are exploiting the fact that you just don't know what else to do, and this seems easiest. They profit by seeming easiest.

Also, keep in mind the whole "replacement window" game is itself kind of a racket. It's the nature of replacement windows to need to be replaced sooner than you'd like.

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  • What causes you to say the replacement window “game”, as you call it, is a “racket”? I’ve experienced excellent service and quality replacement windows, especially with Pella. Calling replacement windows and big box stores “ripoffs” seems outlandish. – Lee Sam Dec 6 '19 at 6:08
  • @LeeSam This is broadly covered in the home improvement media. Even Forbes has an article on it. I'm sorry if I inadvertently insulted your buying decision! – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '19 at 6:50
  • I don't plan to stay in this house for a long time. But I need it warmer. I have no kitchen window at all, just storms and some plexiglass I put up and caulked to keep it in place. Where am I to look for this third option you allude to? The Pella at the big box is custom made at the factory to my dimensions. It takes three weeks. It's fine for you to make a systemic analysis, but how am I to make my house warmer? – aparente001 Dec 6 '19 at 7:14
  • @aparente001 I’d use replacement windows in your situation too. Forbes article focuses on expensive windows that don’t match the existing windows. Your situation is different. If you only have a storm window in place and you’re not going to be there too much longer, I’d use a replacement window from a local box store. You don’t need the most expensive and I doubt if it really needs to match the other windows. A new replacement window will make the house warmer. – Lee Sam Dec 6 '19 at 7:32
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica You should have read the Forbes article instead of just the headline. The Forbes article is by two people who do “refurbishing of old windows “. Of course they’re going to admonish replacement windows. The first half of the article is about replacement windows not “looking” the same as the original windows. Duh.... Then they discuss cost vrs. Payback. Hmmm...so it’s expensive...wow, shocker. I’d still like to know why replacement windows and big box stores are “ripoffs”, as you say. – Lee Sam Dec 6 '19 at 8:02

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