Energy efficiency all over the home is one of our primary concerns. The main two reasons are that we always want to be as practical as possible money-wise, but we also want to be as eco-friendly as possible. Since energy has become both expensive and polluting to the environment, we are forever looking for solutions to fix that. One of those solutions is energy efficient windows.
Reducing energy costs can be very simple when one thinks about windows and there are two ways you can do that: improving on your existing windows, if you have a tight budget, or replacing your old windows with special energy-saving ones.
Improving Your Existing Windows
Windows are primary ways through which heat escapes houses during winter time. Even though the walls, ceilings, and basement might be insulated, you can still deal with temperature drops or consume a lot more energy than necessary. The responsibility goes to the windows and especially old, wooden ones.
Old windows normally have frames made of wood, which is a natural and organic material. This means that it will soak up water from rain and snow, it will expand from moisture and shrink back or crack in hot temperatures. When it does shrink back, though, it will never fall exactly into the same place as it was before, leaving all sorts of gaps and gauges in the frame, through which, in winter time, the cold air will easily enter the house, and the warm air will escape it. Studies show that windows and doors are responsible for 30 percent of all heat loss in a household, which of course makes for a high energy bill.
Therefore, the solution is to insulate the windows as best as possible and make sure those gaps are covered. Here are some basic ways to do that, some of them for free.
- Attach storm windows or, to be more specific, low-emission or “lowe” storm windows. Be aware that your old windows need to be in good condition for you to be able to add storm windows on top. The result is that they will better control air flow in and out of existing windows, which means better insulation and less warm air escape.
- Install energy-efficient window frames. To make the best purchasing choice, look for the WERS (Window Energy Rating Scheme) label. It will tell you how well the windows keep the air in. Know that 5 stars is the best rating.
- Install window furnishings, such as treatments, curtains, and blinds. They will not insulate the window per se, but will stop most of the airflow and help keep the temperature inside constant. Choose the heaviest fabrics and layer them as much as you can, when it comes to curtains and coverings. Regarding blinds, the best ones are honeycomb and cellular ones, because they trap the air in their pockets and act as a second insulator.
- Install double glazing. It will help keep the heat in and the cold and noise out. It will also serve you well in summertime, when it will work the other way around and keep the cool air in and the hot air out, meaning you will use your air conditioner unit a lot less.
Installing Energy Efficient Windows
Even if you take all the advice above and put it into practice, you will still find that, in the long run, replacement of the windows altogether with some new ones is the better solution for your savings. Here is the best way to select, design, and use energy efficient replacement windows, to make sure you do have an effective energy consumption.
The first thing you have to take into consideration for energy efficient windows is design. Criteria for rating minimum energy performance according to climate do exist, but they don’t take into account all aspects of the matter, such as windows orientation. This has very much to do with passive solar home design, which uses solar energy as a primary source for all the heating and cooling a house needs. The strategies depend on where the building is located and the climate of the area.
However that may be, the guidelines for you to know and use are always the same – you need to select, orient, and size the glass in such a way that it gains as much solar heat as possible in the winter and is able to block it in summertime.
The way your windows face, be it north, south, east or west will have a big impact on the type of energy-efficient windows you will choose later on. If you live in a climate dominated by heat, all your windows should be facing south, so that they can take in as much solar heat as possible during the winter. In summertime, you can use shades, film coatings, screens or glaze your windows so that you can minimize the heat and light intake.
To function properly and for you to enjoy all the benefits, all windows that face south should have a heat gain coefficient bigger than 0.6.
Windows that face the other three ways should really be minimized while still allowing for proper lighting to be achieved. It’s very difficult to control the heat and light that come through east and west orientated windows, so it’s better to keep them on the south side.
The second step is selection. Indeed, they are all rated as energy-efficient, as they were built that way, but the level of efficiency depends on its components. The frames conduct heat while the glazing and glass technologies have gotten extremely advanced over the last years, which means that different brands will often recommend certain types of glass, depending on your house, its design and the climate you live in. Remember that both aluminum and vinyl frames need maintenance.
One other very important criterion when choosing the windows is the way they work. You should know that some of them allow more air leakage than others, for example, which will decrease the temperature inside and increase your energy expense. Here are the window types:
- Awning – They come hinged at the top and they open outward. They have proved to leak less air than sliding windows because their sash closes by pressing it against the frame;
- Casement – They come hinged at the sides and, because their sash closes the same as with the awning ones, by pressing it against the frame, they too allow for less air leakage;
- Fixed – these come in the shape of fixed panels that won’t open. They are the best when it comes to insulating and stopping unwanted air flow, because, if you install them correctly, they will be airtight at all times. However, they are not recommended for areas that require ventilation;
- Hopper – They come hinged at the bottom, and they open inward. The sash works the same as for the awning and casement ones, which means lower leakage rates;
- Single- and double-hung – For the single-hung window, only the bottom sash slides upward, while for the double-hung one, both sashes slide vertically. As mentioned above, these particular types of sliding windows, usually let in more air than the others, because of the way they are built;
- Single- and double-sliding – In the single sliding window, only one sash slides, while for the double-sliding one, both sashes slide horizontally.
It’s very important that you do some research before you start planning or even installing the windows as they have a lot of technical traits you need to take into consideration. Make sure your air conditioning is up to speed as well because it will have an impact on the windows.
The third step on your way to a house with energy efficient windows is the installation. Although a DIY project might seem attractive or you might want to cut on some expenses, it’s not a good idea. Instead of you being the one who installs them, have a professional come in. The installation will very much depend on the type of window you have chosen, on the type of house you have if it’s wooden or masonry, on the type of exterior cladding, like stucco, brick, etc., and on the type of weather you live in.
They should always be installed specifically as the instructions manual says and be properly air sealed during the installation process so that they can work. To air seal the energy efficient windows you can try to caulk the frame.
Most energy efficient windows cost an average of $8000 to $15000, so they are not cheap, but they are a wonderful investment into your energy saving house. Keep in mind that federal government agencies, utilities, and others offer a variety of tax credits, rebates, grants and other incentives to support energy efficiency, in countries such as the US, Canada, the UK and even Australia, so you don’t have to buy them full price.
Best energy efficient windows can be purchased in places such as The Home Depot, The Window Depot USA, or Edmonton Windows, where you can also purchase all the accessories needed, as well as an energy efficient AC unit, for ranging prices. For all the details, it’s best if you check directly with one of these suppliers.