July 9, 2018
Hurricane season is scary, even if your home is prepared to withstand the storm. And while boarding up windows and laying down sandbags can be effective ways to prevent damage from wind and rising waters, upgrading your windows to withstand 200-mph gusts will give you even more peace of mind.
Storm impact windows are designed to protect homes against large, wind-borne debris, and are a cost-effective, long-term solution for homeowners who live in areas where hurricane season is just another part of summer.
Here are 5 advantages of storm impact windows you should keep in mind as you prepare for the next storm.
Because storm impact windows can withstand flying debris, they offer the best protection against the hurricane-force winds that threaten properties every year.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), windows and doors are the primary sources of most household damage during a storm—which is why it’s so important to protect them.
According to the FEMA manual for coastal construction, “In coastal environments … windows and glazed portions of doors are vulnerable to impact from windborne debris. Once broken, windows and glazed portions of doors can allow wind, windborne debris, and rain into the interior of the building.”
In addition to letting in flood waters or rain, shattered windows and doors increase pressure within the building, causing long-term structural damage. Storm impact windows increase the chance that your home will withstand pressure from high winds, debris, and heavy rains, keeping your belongings safe—and the structure itself sound.
According to Johna Elisco, vice president of All-American Doors and Windows, exterior aluminum casings can also help if you live in a storm-prone area. “While not the top-performing material in terms of heat transfer and loss, aluminum windows are practical in rainy, humid climates, and they meet stringent coastal building codes in hurricane-prone areas thanks to their strength,” Elisco explained to HGTV.
These types of upgrades are especially important for older homes, which are more likely to sustain damage. Newer homes are built with hurricane dangers in mind, and are more likely to meet coastal building codes. In Florida, for example, building codes are updated every five years. If you have an older home, consider upgrading your windows to prevent structural damage to your property—and help ease anxiety as we approach this year’s hurricane season.
With insurance premiums in coastal states on the rise, homeowners who live in hurricane-prone areas are on the hunt for discounts and budget-friendly repairs.
Many home insurance policies offer discounts to homeowners who take the time to upgrade each entry point on their home. That’s why upgrading your existing windows might give you a discount on your homeowner’s insurance policy, says Dean Fulton, an insurance agent based in Fort Lauderdale.
"Adding shutters or impact glass is a huge discount," Fulton explained to the Sun-Sentinel, "but every opening must be protected.”
“That includes skylights, glass block, doors and garage door,” he added. “If you had 40 openings and protected 39, the discount is still zero. You must protect all 40."
Over time, the discount from your insurance company could help mitigate the cost of a rising insurance policy, too.
Even well-prepared homeowners face anxiety about potential damage to their home and belongings during a hurricane. And with many homeowners still struggling to pay for damage repairs from last year’s storms, it’s easy to understand why.
A large property upgrade—like installing storm impact windows—can feel out of reach, especially for homeowners on a budget. According to Casey Logan, a Fort Myers-based reporter, local communities are still reeling from Hurricane Irma—but many homeowners are still prioritizing upgrades as they rebuild.
“One of the primary initial goals is to get new roofs on homes and new storm impact windows installed in residences that mostly did not have them due to their age,” Logan writes at the Fort Myers News-Press.
Properties built before 2002, like many of those impacted in the Fort Myers area, are less likely to have the storm impact windows recommended by new coastal construction guidelines.
PACE funding could help make these home upgrades feasible, and improve homeowners’ peace of mind during the next round of storms.
Last year, Florida residents claimed more than $8 billion in property damage after Hurricane Irma swept through the Gulf Coast.
But that number is much lower than it could have been, says Sarasota reporter Gayle Guynup.
“Experts agree, it could have been much, much worse,” writes Guynup at the Herald Tribune. “If the storm surge had come through as first predicted, we would be writing a very different story.”
Homeowners in the path of Irma took on plenty of storm preparations, from closing storm shutters to laying down sandbags. But according to Miami native and chief meteorologist John Morales, homeowners can do more to lessen the cost of future repairs, too.
“I’m not talking about running to the hardware store to buy plywood,” Morales explained to Ygrene. “I’m talking about having storm impact windows and perhaps some other form of permanent protection or envelope that keeps the house safe.”
As Morale suggests, even if you have upgraded your windows, remember to take extra precautions before evacuating. Florida-based contractor Chris Gratton agrees. “Even if you have impact-resistant windows, you should still brace them and leave shutters closed,” Gratton told Consumer Reports.
Learn more about the advantages of storm protection upgrades here.
Because storm impact windows are made with laminated glass—with an extra layer of polyvinyl butyral designed to catch debris—they provide excellent soundproofing, in addition to storm protection.
According to the Window Guys of Florida, the average window has an STC, or Standard Transmission Coefficient (the value used to gauge sound transmission), of 29 or less—while storm impact windows have an STC between 32 and 35. That’s a big difference if you’re trying to block out street noise.
Impact-resistant windows will not only improve your home’s safety should a hurricane hit, but they’ll also help your home feel snug, private, and calm 365 days a year.
When you’re worried about budget constraints, major home repairs or upgrades can get pushed off until the last possible moment. But homeowners have multiple financing options for upgrading to storm impact windows—so an upgrade may not be as out of reach as you think.
Window replacement dealers often offer customers financing options—but this can be an expensive move. PACE (property assessed clean energy) financing programs may provide homeowners with more flexibility.
PACE funding is available for qualified homeowners who wish to make property upgrades that improve energy efficiency, generate renewable energy, or lessen wind damage.
PACE eligibility is based on property equity. Once qualified for the program, the homeowner then makes payments over time with their annual property taxes. Because upgrading to storm impact windows will also mitigate damage from high winds, rain, and debris, homeowners save in costly repairs over time, too.
Read more about the kinds of natural disaster preparedness home improvements that qualify for PACE financing here.