When my wife and I renovated our 1913 house to the tune of 25+ replacement windows, we wanted two things. First, a solid "real window" look, not vinyl windows. Second, we wanted a reputable manufacturer, not El Cheapo Windows & Gutters. We settled on Pella windows and here is our story, the good and the bad. Hope this helps you decide.
Franchises can be either good or bad. Starbuck's, which I like, is not a franchise. McDonald's, which I do not like, is a franchise. So, nothing wrong with franchising by itself, but in the area where we lived it seemed problematic. One franchise dominated the entire, huge area where we lived. Wherever we turned, it was only this one franchise. It was a monopoly, and if we wanted Pella Windows we had to go with this one company. When we dealt with this particular Pella Windows franchise, we felt very cut off from the national brand Pella Windows. It was as if this Pella franchise was simply in the business of buying windows off the rack and installing them.
Here's an example. We felt that by choosing Pella windows, we would get a higher level of customer service. With installation, we felt we did (keep on reading). But at the sale level, it was the old replacement window hardsell. Prior to buying the windows, the salesman would return our calls within an hour. After the sale, he was nowhere to be found.
We bought both ProLine and Architectural Series wood windows. Mostly these were double-hung Pellas with a few casements thrown in for good measure. Not only that, we bought both replacement windows (which the Pella franchise installed) and new construction, which I installed.
We did sense a slight savings in energy during the first three years we owned the windows (we then sold the house). The double-paned glass certainly did keep out the biting cold of Washington, DC winters. Since we were slow in replacing some old windows, we were able to put a hand on a Pella window and subsequently touch one of the old single-paned windows. Yes, the difference was significant. Was this inherent to Pella windows or would we have felt this difference with any replacement window? Hard to tell.
The wood window frame materials were solid, but we did have issue with some of the sunken nail holes. The nail holes were inconsistent--some deep, some shallow, some ragged. I never felt this was a big problem because we ended up filling all in the wood putty and clearcoating the wood.
In one case, we even got a severely cracked window frame about ten inches long. We hadn't noticed this for about a year after the installation because it was on the inner, working part of the frame on a quite out-of-the-way window. Manufacturing defect? Installation problem? Again, we didn't take issue with it because the windows were still under warranty and it was possible to have this one replaced. Out of 25 windows, it's expected that this might happen.
Now this was the real joke. On our Architectural Series windows, which should have fairly nice, we got these real lousy window pulls. They were clam-shell shaped and made of plastic. Not just any plastic but this strange silvery-gray plastic. They were hideous. We even called the window salesman, assuming we had gotten the wrong ones. When he eventually called us back weeks ago, he told us that those were the correct window pulls.
In short, the quality of Pella's hardware? F***ing worthless. An insult.
The replacement window installation process was the nice surprise. Often when you pay a big-name company to do something for you, the actual people who arrive to do the job are just...contractors. We've had that with moving. Call up Big-Name Movers, Inc. for their reputation and name-brand recognition, but the movers who show up are just a bunch of guys off the street who barely even have heard of Big-Name Movers, Inc.
The Pella installers were actual employees of this Pella franchise. This may not seem like a big deal, but these guys are in your house. It's a very invasive process. And the windows that they are installing are for life. You want it done right. At the very least, you can some accountability. The Pella installers were clean, courteous, and efficient. They made certain to put drop-cloths under the windows, clean up after themselves, and generally do all those things you would expect.