Alside Excalibur vs. Sheffield?

kmfisherJuly 31, 2012

We are going to use Window World here in KC to replace some windows. Our branch here has a stellar reputation. So far, everyone I've talked to has had good or great experiences, including a friend who has used them three times.

Besides that, it means that we have two window choices manufactured by Alside, the ComfortWorld 4000 (Alside Excalibur) and the ComfortWorld 6000 (Alside Sheffield). There's a lot of good and bad comments on this and other forums about both of these. In recent years, it seems that nobody likes the windows because they are provided by WW. However those same people like the windows if you look a year or two before WW got big. So, ignoring WW and assuming a "perfect" install, which one would you go with? I'm struggling to decide, but the decision will be for all windows in the house. The 5 windows we are doing now are roughly 34" x 74".

The 4000 (Excalibur) is $325 installed w/ low-e/argon, half screens, etc. The 6000 (Sheffield) is $345 installed w/ the same options. The only difference is the frames. Frames seem to be made from same vinyl.

Here's what I've found out:

4000 (Excalibur)

- pros: more modern design, true sloped sill, shows much more glass, .32 to .30 U factor, .21 SHGC, .49 VT, air infiltration at .12. ER rating of 11/12. DPF of 50 at 36" x 72".

- cons: not as many chambers for insulation, seems lighter weight, less weather stripping areas, possibly thinner extrusion (no actual documentation on the vinyl thickness)

- other: was redesigned in 2004 to be stronger, alside's most popular window

6000 (Sheffield)

- pros: heavier duty, more insulating chambers, lower U factor .29, lower SHGC at .19, seems stronger. DPF of 50 at 36" x 72".

- cons: snap-in sill (how bad is this), old but reliable design loses about 3" more of window vertically due to thicker frame, lower VT at .40, worse air infiltration at .18 - .19. No ER rating. My smallest window (30" x 34") would look really clunky due to loss of glass, but I've only got a couple smaller windows.

- other: the same as a ultramaxx with an improved sill design

- other other note: according to their test data, both windows weigh about the same overall? The Sheffield's bottom sash weighs one pound more. I guess that could be all the additional vinyl?

So, I'm a little stuck. The Excalibur's cut-away looks somewhat similar to the cut-away for a Soft-lite Imperial LS, sans foam insulation. Sheffield's definitely an uglier window. However, I'm in Kansas City and on a hill. We get pretty good wind burst up around 80 mph in bad storms, and our temps range from normally the mid-teens in the winter to the mid-90s in the summer. This summer's a special case (18 100+ degree days).

So, which way would you go? If I went Excalibur, what would my worries be in 10 years or 15 years? What about with Sheffield? What worries would I have to look for in general? Thanks for the guidance.

Kyle

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HomeSealed

Kyle, I would not attribute folks changing their opinion on the product to the fact that it is pushed by WW, as much as I would to the fact that it is such a widely sold window, we have all tried it at one point or another. I admit that I would fall into that category. The window looks pretty decent, has acceptable numbers, and is very fairly priced. My own personal opinion on the product changed after installing it for a while and dealing with issues that ensued. I saw many bowed/warped sashes, air-leakage issues, and overall spotty quality.
In my own personal experience, their lineup does not compare favorably with some of the other mid-higher end choices when it comes to performance, appearance, and overall quality.
The aforementioned Imperial LS for instance is a top performer in every regard. If you had both models next to each other at the same time, you would notice major differences in the overall look and feel of the product with regard to fit and finish as well as manufacturing tolerances.
On the WW choices, if you are set on going that direction, I'd choose the 6000 for a higher likelihood of not having future problems.
One last comment that I'd like to make is regarding the installation. Installation is 50% of how even the greatest window will perform. I'm not going to comment specifically on the company in question, however the "bargain window" business model requires that costs are cut in order to offer such low prices. No matter what anyone says, a "volume discount" is not sufficient to offer those numbers. In fact, most companies with that model (all that I have ever seen) pay their installers a fraction of the "going rate", resulting in a the increased chance of a poor installation, a lower tier of installer, and a revolving door of installers.
I understand that you have heard good reviews from people that you know, but
1) how long have they had those windows?
2) what is their qualification to determine a quality product/installation
3) what do they have to compare to. Anything is going to seem better than your old windows, until 5 years later when you've replaced several failed seals and find that you have water leaking into your wall due to improper install.

My comments are simply opinion based my experience in the industry, and the timeless adage that you are going to get what you pay for, and not intended to slam a product or company in any way. I'm sure that there are many, many of the above mentioned products that are installed and operating problem free. That said, I always prefer to increase the odds of success rather than trying the riskier play, even if it costs me a few extra bucks :)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 6:14PM
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millworkman

Very nicely stated and pretty to disagree with my opinion.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 8:13PM
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kmfisher

I'm just looking for more of a discussion on the merits of the windows themselves and leave any opinion on the installers out of it. I know installers can vary wildly, even by dedicated window companies. The lady across the street had some nice windows installed and the installer charged her $200 per window to install. I'm also aware that WW works on volume, so the installers get paid less per window but if the install more windows they can theoretically get paid more.

was given a list of 200 references and called a bunch. The oldest windows were around 7 years old for a couple of people and they had been flawless. Only one person had one flaw, which was a bad seal when it was installed, and WW came out and replaced the window. So, no horror stories.

Anyway, about the windows? When I looked, the vinyl on both seemed to be the same weight and thickness. However, the Sheffield has more chambers, although the poor sill design. Sheffield seems fine, but uglier. Ratings seem pretty good for both. Where would faults be in the 4000 that I would notice? There won't be any sagging from either, they both are steel reinforced. I did look up the air infiltration numbers on Alside/AMI websites. As of 2010, the Excalibur had better numbers (0.12 - 0.15) vs. Sheffield (0.16 - 0.2). Is the real difference that the Excalibur is a better design, but the Sheffield is heavier duty? If the Excalibur was heavier duty would it be the better window?

Thanks for all the help.

Kyle

P.S. I've gotten kind of addicted to examining window cross-sections.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 9:40PM
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mmarse1

no Alside product comes close to a soft lite imperial. the only similarities are the fact that they are both winows. thats where it ends. the excalibur is a flimsy design and leaks air..the imperial is much better desined and a much better performer.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 11:12PM
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windowsonwashington

+1 to all the other feedback in here.

If I had to choose one, I would go with the Sheffield. That all being said, that is the window that was in my Father-n-Law's home (put in by me) and I had to service all of them on 3 occasions.

I would encourage you to spread your quoting wings a bit and take a look around.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 11:21PM
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kmfisher

Thanks for the advice guys. I'm replacing rotting single-pane wood windows with individual panes of glass between the grids. They don't open, and don't close. The storm windows fall-in, and don't protect anything. I can feel a breeze in the middle of the room and have to keep the blinds closed all day everyday or it heats up to over 90 in the house with the air going full blast. So, for me, even a $100 single-hung single-pane bolted together POS window would seem better. I've got a very limited budget and are doing these piecemeal.

Trying to look up window types on the internet has been really tough due to so many negative comments and one-upping from different contractors. Too many comments of "that window sucks! mines better." and not enough reasons why they are bad or what to expect due to the flaws.

Here's what I've learned and still have questions about:
- Snap-in sills are bad. Long-term I don't know what issues this could cause me. Maybe some extra dirt and debris, and a little bit more air leakage, but that's it?

- Some windows leak air "like a sieve" (pretty popular term), but what does that mean? Soft-Lite has a great chart that shows that an AI of .3 = 24 soda cans worth of air (per min), .2 = 18.5 soda cans worth of air, .15 = 12 soda cans worth of air, and they are .02 = 1.6 soda cans worth of air. So, there's not much difference between a .15 and a .1, but there's a lot between a .1 and a .3. However, does a .3, .2, or .1 mean a person would feel a breeze in the room? What kind of energy savings does this translate into?

- Some products are "flimsy", but what does that mean? In 10-20 years will I be looking at a window that is falling apart at the edges? What if its reinforced with steel at the meeting rails? Excalibur is 0.071" thick and Sheffield is 0.079" thick. 0.08" difference. Is that a big deal? Simonton 5300 is 0.072" thick, Prism Platinum is the same, Gorell is 0.065". Is it sub-par vinyl? If the window is AAMA certified on the materials, isn't the vinyl decent then? What temperatures affect the vinyl?

- With the various chambers helping insulation and stability, at what point are there diminishing returns? If a window has 2 vs. 4 vs. 8, is the 8 overkill? Would vinyl exposed to the sun sag inward between the chamber walls? If the sash is much narrower (width/depth), does it need less chambers for stability if the vinyl is thick enough?

- Some windows, like the Imperial LS, are considered "over-engineered". Is it necessary or is it a waste of money?

- Foam-filling: Seems to be a waste of money for energy efficiency because there's no ROI, and is only good for structural support and noise. Is that correct?

- Will an $800 per window Okna be that much better than a $345 Sheffield? Am I going to be happy spending over double my limited budget? Would I make that money back?

- Poor installers are found in every industry, but what should a person really watch for when install is being done? It's easy to tell if they are using the right type of foam and if they damage anything, but hard to tell if they are over-tightening the screws.

Thanks for all the help in clarifying things. When looking at windows online, I feel like everyone ends up with more questions than answers and being unsure about most windows.

Interesting side note, Alside has replaced the Sheffield on the west-coast with the Sheffield II. Looks like it has a better air-infiltration rate (0.1) and the snap-in sill is gone so the "lost" window is gone. The cross-section looks very similar to Gorell or Soft-Lite. Too bad WW doesn't offer that one here.

Kyle

P.S. What do you all think about Gila energy saving window tints? I've got 5 picture windows that the previous owners replaced with junk (double-pane, but no low-e, no argon, no coating, just glass). They don't leak air, but the sun shines so bright it heats up like an oven. They won't be replaced for many many years. Does the tinting look pretty good and work good? Thanks again!

Here is a link that might be useful: Alside Sheffield II

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 10:54AM
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windowsonwashington

Sheffield II looks like a nice re-design.

I will have to take a look at it but it may be a West Coast offering.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 8:56AM
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mmarse1

kyle
if i had a nickel for every customer that said " anything is better than what i currently have", i would be very wealthy.. why spend any of your hard earned money for a window that may compare well to your current( very old) windows but doesnt compare well to something like the Soft Lite Imperial LS or Okna/ HiMark windows for a bit more. i would much rather you do your project once and be done with it.
the numbers on Alside windows dont lie.. they both have very high Air Leakage rates which is one of the most important performance numbers.
you want an air leakage number under .08 for a double hung.a sheffield ( i believe) is a .2 .. that is sky high in my opinion.
remember, your neighbor only have their old windows to compare to, try comparing their old windows to a higher quality vinyl and i can Gurantee they would no longer be happy with their windows considering what the upcharge for a better window would have been.
cheaper is a,ways more expensive in the long run.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:39AM
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