Buying new windows is not a trivial thing. They're expensive, and there is a big difference in quality between different manufacturers. Fortunately, they all basically have the same features and options, and the price difference between the basic windows and the windows with all the options isn't very significant (about 6-7% more expensive for "fully-loaded" windows.) I called half a dozen or more contractors and tried to set up appointments for them to come give me an estimate. Some of them took days or even more than a week to return my call. The first contractor we had out to give an estimate was Sears.
Sears sent out a pleasant, mostly non-pushy sales person. He patiently answered all of our questions, explained what features were important in buying windows (explanations that I later verified online as being accurate,) and of course told us why we should pick Sears over anyone else. He also told us what problems we would encounter with other companies, including specific problems with certain big-name window contractors. He measured the windows and doors that we were going to replace, and gave us a quote that was significantly higher than I was expecting to pay.
The next company to send someone out was Long Window (also known as Long Fence.) The Long Window guy was an asshole. He saw Jason, Biker, and Keman in the house, and decided he wasn't going to give me a quote unless all of them were at the table to hear his sales pitch. He claimed that Long Window's policy is they do not give quotes unless everyone who is part of the decision making process is there. I explained to him that the mortgage was in my name and my name alone, that I am the only one responsible for paying the mortage, and that my opinion is the only one that matters (that is not strictly speaking true, but it was true as far as he was concerned.) He refused, and left. Needless to say, they didn't get my business.
I called family and friends who had recently had windows replaced, and asked them who they used. They all used local businesses, and their opinions were the same: "The windows are great, but I wasn't happy with the contractor."
We ended up using Sears, even though I know we paid about 50% more than we would have paid a local contractor. I'm not interested in saving a little money and having to deal with the sorts of headaches other people have dealt with using local, no-name contractors.
Last week, I got a call from the project coordinator telling me that the windows were going to be delivered to the contractor on Friday, and we could schedule installation as early as Saturday. That date sounded good to me, so he told me the contractors would arrive between 8:30 and 10:30am on Saturday. I didn't wake up early, so naturally, at 8:45am my doorbell rang while I was still in bed. Ten hours later, all the windows and both sliding glass doors in my house had been replaced with brand new, dual pane, argon filled, low-e coated, energy star rated, double hung, double lifetime warranty, glass breakage warranty, vinyl windows and doors.
Yesterday, it reached 95 degrees outside. We didn't even notice until we went outside.
With the old windows, you feel the heat (or cold, in the winter) coming through the window. It was significantly warmer standing in front of the window, than it was standing a few feet back. With the new windows, you can touch them and they feel cool.
The sliding glass doors actually slide. And lock. So do the screen doors.
The windows lift with one finger, and close all the way. The old windows sometimes wouldn't open or close without a sledgehammer.
With all the windows closed, you can't even hear a helicoptor flying overhead. And of course, you can't hear screaming neighborhood children either.