Brand comparisons are difficult. But it gets thornier when dealing with two large window companies such as Pella and Andersen that have reasonably good reputations.
You can do far worse than purchasing from Pella or Andersen. While local, non-branded window companies can often cut great deals and provide excellent service, most reports of bad installation experiences come not from Pella, Andersen, Marvin, or Jeld-Wen customers but from those who purchased from fly-by-night companies.
So, simply by choosing either of the two companies, you get a decent product that is well-installed and is backed by a company that is accountable for its product. But between the two, how do they compare?
One chief difference between Pella and Andersen is the choice of materials for their replacement windows.
Pella's replacement arm, Replacement By Pella, offers all-vinyl replacement windows. It also offers replacements with fiberglass and wood frames.
Andersen tends to steer clear of all-vinyl windows. Instead, it uses a proprietary wood composite material called Fibrex.
Fibrex is composed of 40% recycled Ponderosa pine wood fibers and 60% polyvinylchloride (PVC, or vinyl).
This is not to say you cannot purchase vinyl windows from the Andersen group. New-construction windows through the American Craftsman By Andersen unit are available in vinyl.
Cost, Windows + Installation Packages, and the Franchise Model
When you contract with Pella or Andersen to supply and install windows, you are actually dealing with a qualified independent local company that has the power to adjust total-package price in order to make the deal happen.
If you have ever bought a new vehicle, you will know how two dealers can offer different prices on the same vehicle. A similar model applies to the window industry.
Each homeowner has different experiences, with shifting factors due to location, type and number of windows, and their own ability to haggle.
Cost estimates below are taken from a wide sampling. Windows listed are all replacements, though a short section about new-construction windows is at the end. All referenced windows are double-hung, sliders, or fixed (specialty windows were excluded).
Pella replacement window prices hover in the $770-$1,000 range per window, installed.
A typical report for the lower end of Pella prices is $10,000 for 13 Impervia double-hung windows, or $769 per window. On the high end, a homeowner paid about $10,000 for 9 windows (7 double-hung and 2 sliders), or about $1,100 per window, installed.
Pella's costs for services calls to show up ranged from $95 to $160.
Renewal By Andersen prices rarely begin at less than $1,000 per window, installed. In the survey, most prices hugged the lower end of the $1,000 to $1,400 zone.
In 2009, Andersen began to disclose price estimates online through a tool called IE, but this service has since been discontinued.
Pella's windows tend to be at least 20% cheaper than Andersen windows. The top end of Pella's prices are roughly where Andersen's prices begin.
Scorecard of Problems and Complaints
Complaints against Pella and Andersen are difficult to evaluate, since many consumers are unable to articulate the difference between an inferior product and poor installation.
In fact, it is not always easy to determine this, as product and installation can appear to merge.
Rather than taking the complaint at face-value, it is more accurate to determine whether the complaint was installation- or -product-related.
Typical of this is where a customer complains about water infiltration around the window frame. This is clearly installation-related, as the water was not coming through the window itself.
However, if the customer said that window glass fell out, that would be classified as product-related.
Around 50% of consumer complaints center around claims of an inferior product.
The majority of the other claims relate to poor service from the local Pella dealer.
- Product: 50%
- Local Dealer: 45%
- Installation Problems: 3%
- Sales: 2%
In 2006, Pella was hit with a class action lawsuit alleging that its ProLine Series casement windows "had a design defect that allowed water to enter behind the window’s exterior aluminum cladding and cause damage to the window’s wooden frame and to the house itself."
The case made news if only for the inept handling of the suit by the plaintiff lawyers. In 2014, Judge Richard Posner found many improprieties in the case, including the fact that the class plaintiffs' attorney set up his father-in-law as the lead plaintiff.
Total number of Andersen complaints are far less than Pella complaints--about 90% less.
Most complaints center around claims of rude or deceptive salespeople; few complaints are related to an inferior product.
Those complaints are spread out among these categories:
- Product: 15%
- Local Dealer: 30%
- Installation Problems: 15%
- Sales: 40%
In 2009, a homeowner attempted to bring a lawsuit against Andersen alleging that the capillary or breather tubes fitted into the windows' glass (used to prevent windows installed at high altitudes from breaking) also resulted in a loss of insulating argon gas, which reduced the windows' efficiency.
Andersen countered that it expressly discloses the possibility of gas loss in its product guides. The plaintiff changed the theory behind his complaint a few times. The court eventually dismissed the case, citing those "shifting theories of liability," among other problems.
Andersen receives vastly fewer complaints than Pella across all complaint categories. Even some Pella installation technicians note that they occasionally take delivery of defective products.
Homeowners cannot purchase self-install replacement windows from either company. However, they can purchase new-construction Pella or Andersen windows off the shelf at Home Depot or Lowes.
Pella is found at Lowe's. American Craftsman By Andersen is the company subsidiary that distributes do-it-yourself windows to its sole retailer, The Home Depot. Based in New Jersey, American Craftsman was an independent company before being acquired by Andersen in 2006.