A view peering at some trees and a waterfront outside a home through some hurricane windows in the living room

Hurricanes wreak havoc along the US Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico every year, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

The hurricane season runs between June and November. During this time, the National Hurricane Center carefully monitors the weather and publishes its Tropical Weather Outlook that identifies any hurricane risks ahead of time.

These warnings are essential because they allow people to prepare, boarding up windows to protect their homes and evacuating entire areas in the case of severe storms.

Preparation ahead of time is essential, and as the earth heats up due to climate change, this will become even more critical as the intensity of storms, including tropical storms and hurricanes, is set to increase in the future.

One of the best ways to prepare for a hurricane is to install hurricane windows, which are designed to withstand hurricane-strength winds, rain, and impact from flying objects caught up in the high winds.

You might currently rely on boarding up your standard windows ahead of the arrival of a hurricane, but what if you’re out of town when the warning is issued?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your home is already protected from the ravages of the storm without you having to lift a finger to prepare? That’s one of the reasons why investing in hurricane windows is an excellent option for protecting your home.

However, you might be worried about the cost, how long you can expect them to last and how effective they are. We’ll answer these questions and more in the rest of this article, so read on to find out more.

How Long Do Hurricane Windows Last?

Hurricane windows maintain the integrity of the building’s envelope during a hurricane to keep wind and rain from entering. They are an excellent investment because they can last 20 years or longer, protect your home from damage, and are more energy-efficient than many standard windows.

There are several options for protecting windows from hurricanes, including the basic plywood boarding option, ballistic nylon, and a wide range of shutters that come in different designs and ratings.

The choice can seem bewildering, and knowing which is right for you requires a bit of research, which is what we’re here to help with.

If you are attracted to the idea of a passive system that means you don’t have to do anything to protect your windows before a hurricane arrives, hurricane windows will seem like a pretty good option.

A homeowner on a ladder installing hurricane window panes above an interior door in his home

If you are building a new home in an area affected by hurricanes, you might be interested in our article about how to attach hurricane straps to a foundation, which you can read here.

Why Invest in Hurricane Protection Measures?

Hurricanes cause billions of dollars of damage yearly, with the average total bill coming in at $20.5 billion per hurricane. They also result in many deaths, responsible for 6,697 fatalities from 1980 to 2021.

The destruction is largely caused by the high winds generated by hurricanes, which can reach speeds of over 150 mph. Intense rainfall can also cause flooding, which presents its own hazards to life and property.

The power of a hurricane comes from the sea. Its beginnings are as an area of low-pressure air that travels through the tropics and forms a storm resulting in increased precipitation and thunderstorms.

Warm surface sea temperatures cause moist air to rise into the storm, intensifying the area of low pressure beneath. This process draws in more air, which also rises and cools, giving rise to clouds as the moisture in the air condenses, releasing heat as it does so, adding more heat that intensifies the storm.

A hurricane (whipping winds and rain) approaches homes and trees along the Florida coast

As global warming heats the oceans, we can expect more intense and frequent hurricanes in the future. There is evidence that we are already seeing this because of the warming that humans are responsible for.

So, the damage caused by hurricanes is extensive, costly, and likely to get worse in the future. To avoid becoming part of the damage statistics, you must ensure your home is adequately protected.

Hurricane impact windows can be a very effective form of protection against these powerful storms.

How Hurricane Windows Protect Your Home

When a hurricane lands, it loses its power source, which comes from the warm sea.

Despite losing its driving force, a hurricane can travel a considerable distance inland, causing damage and destruction as it goes. Objects are picked up by the high-strength winds and thrown through the air at high speed.

If such an object hits your home, it will likely cause damage. For example, if it hits a window not specially constructed to withstand impacts of that nature, the window will be smashed, and wind and rain will get inside the home, causing much more severe damage.

Once the building envelope has been breached, wind can rush in through the broken window, causing a dramatic increase in air pressure inside.

This sudden increase in pressure can lift the roof clean off the house and push the walls outwards, potentially obliterating the house.

Hurricane windows protect your home by withstanding direct hits from flying objects and maintaining the building envelope. This durability prevents the inrush of wind and rain and can potentially make the difference between your home being destroyed or remaining intact.

How Strong Are Hurricane Impact Windows?

Hurricane windows are constructed similar to automobile windshields, so they aren’t pierced by projectiles that hit them.

They comprise two layers of glass with a plastic membrane in between them. This laminated glass is much more robust, and although the outer layer might shatter on impact, there will be no hole in the window, and the building envelope will remain intact.

Hurricane windows are put through comprehensive tests to ensure they are up to the task and capable of enduring the punishment that a hurricane could dish out.

They are tested in a laboratory with a specially-designed cannon that fires a nine-pound timber 2″ x 4″ into the window at a speed of 34 mph.

A hurricane window undergoing an impact resistance test in a facility
Courtesy of Pella

After that part of the test, the window must withstand wind testing for 9,000 cycles to ensure it holds fast. Any hurricane window that passes this test is considered good enough for installation at 30 ft or less above ground level.

A different test is used for windows more than 30 ft above the ground. This alternative test reflects the different conditions experienced at this higher level during a hurricane.

Instead of a 2″ x 4″, the windows are subjected to impacts from 10 ball bearings traveling at 50 mph. As with the previous test, the window next must withstand simulated wind loads for 9,000 cycles.

These tests are designed to assure that windows can withstand conditions likely to be experienced during a Category Five hurricane.

Although there are no guarantees when dealing with Mother Nature, a hurricane impact window that passes these tests is your best bet for protecting your home from the ravages of the next hurricane.

Guaranteed Longevity of Hurricane Windows

Hurricane impact windows are built to withstand the worst that nature can throw at them, so you should expect them to last a long time.

You would be correct in this expectation, and manufacturers are generally prepared to put their money where their mouths are and offer long-term warranties for their units.

Origin is a brand that meets the compliance requirements for Florida’s state building codes and offers a 10-year warranty on all their hurricane impact windows. Some manufacturers, like Weather Shield and Andersen, go even further, providing limited warranties for 20 years.

Other Benefits of Hurricane Windows

In addition to being the best option for hurricane protection, hurricane impact windows offer excellent performance in other areas, too.

Intruder Protection

The laminated glass used in hurricane windows is great for security and can withstand repeated blows with a blunt object, which helps to keep intruders out of your home.

A burglar outside a home tries to break through a hurricane window

Furthermore, glass cutters are ineffective on laminated windows because you cannot cut the pane from one side only.

Lower Insurance Costs

Approved hurricane impact windows fitted to your home can reduce your insurance premiums, saving you many thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the windows.

Energy Efficiency

Consider selecting hurricane windows with a low U-Factor, high Visible Transmittance, low Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, and low air leakage.

These specs will ensure they are as energy efficient as possible, reducing air conditioning running costs and wear and tear on your AC system.

Summary: Are Hurricane Windows a Good Investment?

Hurricane impact windows offer superb protection against destructive tropical storms.

They are more expensive than other measures, such as boarding up or using shutters, but they are passive measures, meaning there is nothing you need to do to prepare for a storm’s arrival.

Once installed, hurricane windows offer protection 365 days a year without messing around with boarding or operating shutters at the top of a ladder.

This proactive, “always prepared” approach is a particularly nice feature if you are not very mobile, don’t have a head for heights, or are often traveling away from home.

Impact windows boost your home’s security, can help lower your insurance costs, and are very energy efficient, making them an excellent investment. 

Add to this their long lifespan and 20-year warranties available, and you would be foolish not to consider them as an option.

For more information about how to prepare your home for hurricanes, you might want to look at our article about roof and rafter hurricane ties.

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