Efficiency, Sound Insulation & Curb Appeal With New Windows

December 18, 2014 / by Gregg Cantor / In Home Remodeling , Green Construction

Aluminum, vinyl, wood, clad, and composite. Double glazed, tempered, Low-E, argon, and reflective. New construction and replacement. When it comes to windows, there are endless options for materials, sizes, shapes, colors, and more. One thing to think about is the natural climate of where you live. Are you fending off the cold weather? Or do you need to reflect exorbitant amounts of direct sunlight? The answer to this question plays a big role in what type of window to purchase.

At the low end of the pricing scale, aluminum or metal frame windows were once the only alternative wood sashes. With the emergence of vinyl frames, Title 24 energy requirements, and Green Building practices, aluminum windows are now pretty much obsolete. In most climates, even if building code would allow for them to be used in your home, aluminum frame windows are inefficient due to heat gain and cooling loss.

image of four windows against a blue wall

Don’t Pay for More Window Than You Need

Be cautious and don’t get sold a bill of goods on glass packages for windows. In San Diego County, our temperatures are mild year-round, so typical Low-E and/or double glazed windows should be fine in most conditions. Only in non-shaded areas that get direct sun should you consider tinted or reflective glass, and triple pane is overkill.

There are companies that will try to sell you on argon gas upgrades, which is touted as improving your home’s insulation and making it more efficient. Argon is odorless and invisible, so there is no real way to prove you’re actually getting it. Also, some say it dissipates after a few years, and there is no way to replace the argon gas once it’s gone. I’m not a believer in argon and consider it sales hype.

Don’t forget that tempered glass is required on all doors, in tub/shower areas, below 18 inches on walls, and within 12 inches of a door swing.

Understanding Energy Efficient Windows

In the last few years there has been a big push for people to become more environmentally conscious and energy efficient. People are making the change in several different ways, whether it is by biking to work, buying a hybrid car, or making your home more energy efficient overall. One of the best ways to make your house more environmentally friendly is by purchasing energy efficient windows and replacing your pre-existing windows. They work to maintain and stabilize the inside climate of your home, without letting the outside climate interfere. Energy efficient windows, doors, and skylights can reduce energy bills by up to 15%. If that isn’t enough incentive, you can receive up to a $1,500 tax credit on qualified windows.

As you start thinking about installing energy efficient windows in your home, you first need to consider the older windows you are replacing. It is always a good idea to consult an outside contractor and ask him/her if you should replace the full window or insert a retrofit window into an existing window frame. This all depends on how old the pre-existing windows are, and how well they were installed and maintained.

If the entire window is being replaced, then the older frame is simply replaced by the new, energy efficient window. You can always take this opportunity to fix any weather-related, or rainwater issues that may have occurred. Be sure to properly seal the new window frame into place so it doesn’t let any inside air escape.

On the other hand, if you are retrofitting a new window in a pre-existing window frame, the sash, side jambs, and trim are removed, while the overall frame is left intact. The new energy-efficient window is placed into this opening and settled in. This option works best if you do not have to worry about any previous water damage, weather damage, or sealing issues.

Once you have decided whether or not to replace the entire frame, it is time to start thinking about exactly what kind of windows are best for your home. Not all energy-efficient windows are the same! Most are similar in style and function, but the climate of the region also plays a role in how efficient a window can be. For instance, if you live in a place with extreme outside climates, you may be losing up to 25% of your overall energy (heating and/or cooling) because it is seeping outside.

If you’re in an area that receives a decent amount of direct sunlight, you can use this to your advantage during the hot summer months. Some energy efficient windows are designed to allow less sunlight to come into your home, thereby causing your house to stay a bit cooler in the hot summer months. You will want to find a tinted window that reflects the heat. But don’t worry; the tint can be very subtle and barely noticeable.

Double pane windows are another resource to consider. Some of these high-performance windows are “spectrally selective,” meaning they only allow certain rays to enter your home. In addition, low emissive coatings on windows help to insulate homes that need to keep in as much heat as possible. By far the biggest advantage of double-paned windows is that they stop the transference of heat/cold from your home to the outside climate. This means that energy will not be loss to the outside environment. Double-paned windows are some of the most popular energy efficient windows.

Regardless of the type of energy-efficient window you choose, make sure it has been tested by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). These are the folks who test and certify windows based on the window’s energy performance rating. Also, check to make sure that your energy-efficient window is an ENERGY STAR certified window. This means you will qualify for the IRS’s energy-efficiency tax rebate. Windows carrying the ENERGY STAR logo can work up to 20% more efficiently than other windows.

image of wide windows with succulents on window sill

Benefits to Installing New Windows

There are many benefits to installing new windows in your home. They include energy efficiency, sound insulation and curb appeal. If you have aluminum frame or wood sash windows in your home, retrofit windows are an affordable, quick and painless way to improve your living and lower your energy bills.

Some key benefits to installing new windows in your home include:

1. Efficiency
You will be more comfortable in with double glazed vinyl windows because there are more energy efficient. A better frame and glass package ensures heat stays in the winter time and your home stays cool in the summer time by shielding out the sun.

2. Sound Insulation
With new windows, there are 2 pieces of glass. Having more glass as well as an air space insulates your home from outside sounds. With standard low e glass, even airplane noise can be minimized.

3. Curb Appeal
Vinyl frame replacement windows will give your home a fresh new look. There are several frame colors to choose from and the option of adding inserts to give your new windows the look of individual panes of glass. New vinyl replacement windows are maintenance free and carry a lifetime warranty. Some manufacturers even offer free glass breakage replacement. There are great manufacturers like Milgard, Jeld-Wen, and Simonton.

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