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 Post subject: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:36 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:21 pm
Posts: 18
Location: Atlanta, GA
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Hey y'all,
My wife and I are ready to replace the old aluminum windows in our house. We've been here about a year now and I've finally gotten to the point where I can't take looking out the windows with their broken seals anymore. All of the windows have condensation in them, especially during the summer and just look terrible.

I've had 6 companies come out to give us quotes - Americas Best Choice $8,500 (Earthwise 143 series), Champion - 23k but then 18k then 16k if I had signed on the spot, Universal Windows Direct $11,500 (Unishield Plus - I believe this is a Polaris Thermalweld window), Vinyl Window Solutions $8,500 (Vista - I believe Panorama Series), Lowes - $7600 and includes replacing front door (Reliabilt series windows), and a North Georgia Windows - $17k (Fiberglass windows).

Earthwise use the Duralite spacer. Specs are Ufactor - .27, SHGC .21, VT .49, AL .3
Unishield Plus uses the Super spacer - Ufactor .28, SHGC .30/.27 (grids/no grides), VT .55/.49 (grids/no grids)
I don't have the specs handy on the Vista Panorama windows

I've researched this to death, but I'm at a bit of an stalemate. A little background on the situation- our house was built in 1996. We plan to stay here 5 maybe 10 years at most. Though the windows are a bit drafty, our utility bills are not bad - gas bill might get to $75 at most during the winter, $150 electric bill in the height of summer (2 window units and central air because I like it to be cold when I'm trying to sleep and my wife has chinchillas which require their room to stay cooler). I also work from home which keeps the electric bill higher. We have 2 large half round windows, 2 large picture windows, then 13 double hung windows.

I have ruled out Lowes as the Reliabilt windows have poor reviews. I have also ruled out Champion as the guy was too pushy and angered me when he was here...they have great windows but the sales tactics are ridiculous and he lost me when he wouldn't take no for answer. I have also ruled out the fiberglass windows of North Georgia Windows as I just don't feel like spending that amount of money is a good bang for my buck based on my situation. I'm trying to find a good middle of the road - mid grade window.

This leaves me with Americas Best Choice(Earthwise 143 series), Universal Windows Direct (Unishield - Polaris made?) & Vinyl Window Solutions (Vista - Panorama). Earthwise windows don't get a lot of love from the research I've done. Polaris and Vista seem to get alright reviews as a decent mid grade window. Many of the Polaris reviews I've seen are a bit older, so I'm not sure if things have changed recently. I know Americas Best & Universal Windows Direct are franchise operations and are not liked by a lot of the industry people. Vinyl Window Solutions seems to be a locally owned business. That being said, the guy from Universal Windows Direct was a super nice guy and seemed to be a genuinely good guy. He was honest about his products and when I asked him some questions he wasn't sure how to answer he was honest about it. He never once had a bad thing to say about any of the other window companies (unlike Champion who literally ran everyone into the ground because their windows are the best ever blah blah blah). Universal Windows Direct of Atlanta get good reviews everywhere I have seen and they actually came recommended. Vinyl Window Solutions also gets great reviews and they came recommended by a neighbor as well.

Sorry for the long winded post...just trying to make sure that I give enough facts so people can help based on my individual situation.

Does anyone have any input on the Unishield, Earthwise or Vista Panorama brands? I think I have literally touched every corner of the internet researching these brands and just can't make up my mind yet! From researching on here I know there are some other brands that are highly recommended, but would like to see what people have to say before I grab anymore quotes. I'm hoping to keep my bill for windows under the 12k mark as I have other projects that I'm working on around here.


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:12 am 

Joined: Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:14 pm
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Location: New Jersey Window Pro- Northern NJ and Central NJ
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I would stay away from reliabilt.
Earthwise are ok, depending on which model though. Which window series?
Never buy windows just to lower utility bills, buy them to be much more comfortable.
Many times new windows will make a customers home much more comfortable but they dont see a huge difference in their utility bills. A solid window is an important investment and something you only want to do once. Of course i have many customers that notice a huge difference in utility bills but to me, you purchase new windows to make your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:08 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:21 pm
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Location: DC Metropolitan Area-Maryland/Virginia/DC
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If you confirm it, the ThermaWeld is the best of that bunch in my opinion. If they sell it in a ThermaWeld, can they do it in an UlraWeld?


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 11:05 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:14 pm
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Location: Milwaukee, Madison areas
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+1. I'd try to opt for the Ultraweld as the best of the group by far. The Thermalweld gets a little muddier down there with the Vista and Champion which are pretty average performers. On Earthwise, as masterext stated, it depends on the exact window. Earthwise is a group of small window manufacturers that get together to offer peace of mind as a larger collaborative unit. Unfortunately, given that they are all individual manufacturers, the product quality and performance can vary... One thing that I would recommend to help you sort through is to get actual air infiltration ratings for each product. The <.3 rating is a generic number that can mean anywhere from .3 to .01, and the difference between those two is literally night and day. Most knowledgeable "window guys" like to see that number as close to the .01 as possible.


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:01 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:21 pm
Posts: 18
Location: Atlanta, GA
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masterext - I agree on the Reliabilt. In our previous home we used an Anderson product (it was a couple years ago now so I don't recall which series) and we installed them ourselves. In that case we went from a wood window to a vinyl window and shortly there after did our siding, the difference was amazing. Our intent this time is 1st and foremost to make it so I don't want to put a brick through the window every time I try to look out. The fogged glass drives me nuts! Also, obviously for curb appeal and resale. Bringing down utility bills isn't really a concern as they are very manageable already.


Windows on Washington- I can definitely ask to see if I can get the Ultraweld vs the Thermaweld. Thermawelds (Unishield Plus as they call them) are listed as low-e stacked and they are argon filled. I see from some of your previous posts (You are a huge asset in helping people to make informed decisions, thank you for spreading your information) that you prefer the UW over the TW based on the fact that it seems to be a stronger frame and has lower air leakage. Am I correct? Out of curiousity, if an UW was not an option does that change your opinion on the 3 options available here?

I have reached out to Polaris to ask them to verify Unishield Plus vs Unishield Premium or Supreme and how they relate to the Thermaweld vs Ultraweld series.

I'm hesitant on the Earthwise windows due to Americas Best Choice having some mixed reviews here locally. Universal Windows Direct while they may have issues in other areas, seem to be well liked here in our market. The local salesman is very nice, not at all pushy and seems to be very straight forward. Vinyl Windows Solutions has great reviews too, and being that they are a smaller more local company I'd kind of prefer to go with them, however if the Vista Panorama is an inferior product to the TW or UW, then I don't want to go that route. I don't want to cheap out on windows, as I don't want to deal with issues down the road. I also don't want to blow my entire renovation budget in one area.

Thanks for the help!


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:09 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:21 pm
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Location: Atlanta, GA
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HomeSealed wrote:
+1. I'd try to opt for the Ultraweld as the best of the group by far. The Thermalweld gets a little muddier down there with the Vista and Champion which are pretty average performers. On Earthwise, as masterext stated, it depends on the exact window. Earthwise is a group of small window manufacturers that get together to offer peace of mind as a larger collaborative unit. Unfortunately, given that they are all individual manufacturers, the product quality and performance can vary... One thing that I would recommend to help you sort through is to get actual air infiltration ratings for each product. The <.3 rating is a generic number that can mean anywhere from .3 to .01, and the difference between those two is literally night and day. Most knowledgeable "window guys" like to see that number as close to the .01 as possible.


Thanks for the reply! We must have submitted at about the same time lol. I had read that Earthwise quality was highly dependent on where the product was put together. The series quoted (Earthwise 143 series) seems to have a mixed bag of reviews for that exact reason. I will look to get the specific air infiltration numbers for these windows. Thanks for the tip on that.

I had to laugh when you say that Champion is a "average performer". The Champion guy that was here was so full of himself and his windows that he was literally putting down every window out there- Pella, Marvin, Anderson and most certainly the Polaris, Earthwise and Vista windows.

Thanks again for your help!


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:14 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:14 pm
Posts: 2353
Location: Milwaukee, Madison areas
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rummonkey wrote:
HomeSealed wrote:
+1. I'd try to opt for the Ultraweld as the best of the group by far. The Thermalweld gets a little muddier down there with the Vista and Champion which are pretty average performers. On Earthwise, as masterext stated, it depends on the exact window. Earthwise is a group of small window manufacturers that get together to offer peace of mind as a larger collaborative unit. Unfortunately, given that they are all individual manufacturers, the product quality and performance can vary... One thing that I would recommend to help you sort through is to get actual air infiltration ratings for each product. The <.3 rating is a generic number that can mean anywhere from .3 to .01, and the difference between those two is literally night and day. Most knowledgeable "window guys" like to see that number as close to the .01 as possible.


Thanks for the reply! We must have submitted at about the same time lol. I had read that Earthwise quality was highly dependent on where the product was put together. The series quoted (Earthwise 143 series) seems to have a mixed bag of reviews for that exact reason. I will look to get the specific air infiltration numbers for these windows. Thanks for the tip on that.

I had to laugh when you say that Champion is a "average performer". The Champion guy that was here was so full of himself and his windows that he was literally putting down every window out there- Pella, Marvin, Anderson and most certainly the Polaris, Earthwise and Vista windows.

Thanks again for your help!

The best thing that you can do is get the thermal and structural performance ratings for each product, that will facilitate a pretty fair comparison. Air leakage is important for obvious reasons, and if there is one factor that can separate mid grade from upper end products, that is it... Just for fun, ask the Champion guy for the air leakage rating. The ratings should set the Polaris Ultraweld (or equivalent) apart from the pack. Universal does not have the greatest reputation from what I have seen and heard from customers, however they are all locally managed so it would certainly be fair to assess you local office on its individual merit.


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 11:03 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:21 pm
Posts: 18
Location: Atlanta, GA
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Hey everyone just a quick update...Universal Windows Direct uses Polaris as their northern states manufacturer, however in the south they are using Alside in NC. Unishield Classic is similar to Alside Fussion, Unishield Plus is similar to the Alside Mezzo and Unishield Premium or Supreme is similar to the Alside Ultramax. So I will be back to researching, I'm a bit nervous as I haven't heard great things about the Alside brand.


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:02 am 

Joined: Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:14 pm
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Location: New Jersey Window Pro- Northern NJ and Central NJ
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Thats interesting. You wont find much support for alside.
The earthwise 143 is a window made by slocomb which is decent .


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:39 am 

Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:27 am
Posts: 988
Location: Houston, TX
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I would never recommend any Alside product. Too bad they can’t get Polaris for you, its’ the best of the lot you’ve had quoted.


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:39 am 

Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:37 am
Posts: 6
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Back to square one. No love for Alside here


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:45 am 
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I am not sure that would be the dominant thought of the board as a descriptor, but most would agree there are some better options out there if you do your research.


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:51 am 
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Location: Milwaukee, Madison areas
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Given the added information, I'd lean toward the Earthwise product. May even be advisable to get another quote on a top performer.


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:38 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:21 pm
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Location: Atlanta, GA
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I've decided to definitely get another quote. I'm waiting on a call back from a Soft-Lite dealer and am scouring the boards for a 2nd option on a good "upper mid grade" product if that makes sense.

I appreciate everyone taking time to post on these boards. I know y'all get a lot of the same questions repeatedly, but it really is a huge help. Y'all that have experience and are familiar with the products make it easier for those of us with less experience and knowledge of what we are looking at to make informed decisions.

Thanks again for the input gang!


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 Post subject: Re: Vista Panorama, Earthwise or Polaris Unishield?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:28 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:21 pm
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Location: DC Metropolitan Area-Maryland/Virginia/DC
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Keep us posted. You are making progress though. Good work so far and I am sure the work you put in will pay off with a nice project and great product.


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