I own rental houses in the Washington, D.C. area. Since the windows need to be reglazed and repainted, the trim needs to be scraped and repainted, and the storm windows and screens need some work, I am inclined to solve all the problems instantly by having vinyl windows installed. My main considerations are low cost and low maintenance. Details of appearance and quality of thermal insulation are not priorities. From the tenants' point of view, any new windows will be a significant improvement.
I haven't gotten estimates yet but have looked at windows at Lowe's and Home Depot, where the least expensive options are the Pella Thermastar single hung windows at Lowe's and the American Craftsman 1200 series double hung windows at Home Depot. Pella's warranty on non-owner occupied houses appears to be the worst in the industry (1 year materials, 2 years glass, no labor), but the windows are cheap.
In terms of maintenance, is there a difference between block and tackle balance (Pella Thermastar) and spring balance (American Craftsman and Survivor Reliabilt)? I've read on this board that the spring balance needs to be adjusted. How often does that need to be done? Does block & tackle balance need to be adjusted? Unfortunately, constant force balance is only offered on the upscale American Craftsman 8500 & 9500 among home center vinyl windows.
What is the reasonable life expectancy of low end windows?
Are there any other maintenance issues, assuming competent installation?
Are there other vendors that will offer prices at or below the home center installed prices with comparable or better quality, installation & support?
Finally, how do vinyl windows perform with room air conditioners installed in them? Will there be a problem attaching the top of the a/c to the lower sash? Will vibrations from the a/c affect the windows?
Thanks for your assistance.