Egress windows are windows that allow people to exit through the windows should an emergency arise. They are required in many parts of your house, including bedrooms and other spaces. Basement egress windows are normally required as well, especially if you plan to ever add a bedroom to your basement. Even without the requirement, having basement egress windows is a good idea to ensure a safe home as well as a more pleasant one.
Having basement egress windows allows you to have more light and air, as well as more of a view. But clearly, safety is the key component. The windows should be large enough to allow you to escape or to allow rescue people to enter your home through them. Many people use their basements for protection against catastrophic events such as hurricanes or tornados. Having the basement egress windows installed properly could mean the difference of life and death in those situations.
As the requirements are fairly new, not many homes have ready space to add basement egress windows. One solution is to cut a space in to your wall and replacing it with a window. This will solve your safety requirement as well as add some light and personality to your basement. If you plan on finishing your basement and creating a den or bedroom, the window would be an excellent addition. You could hire a contractor to complete such a job, but it is fairly easy to do yourself, not to mention much cheaper.
The first thing you should do is investigate the code requirements as they vary by area. The last thing you want to do is add a window that is too small. The standard opening is around 5.7 square feet, but it's a good idea to aim for 6 square feet as some codes only count glass area. Casement windows are a good idea to add to your basement. They are windows that are hinged on the sides, making them fast and easy to open in case of an emergency. You also need to consider how high the window is off the basement floor. Generally it should be no higher than 44 inches off the floor. A window well is also required on the outside as well. The size of this well depends on the depth of your basement and the area in which you live.
Egress windows would be a great addition to your basement. Aside from solving safety concerns, the windows add some light to your basement as well. This eliminates the dark and dank factor in your basement. It's a fairly easy job and will add great value to your home.