Understanding Energy Efficient Windows

October 28, 2010 / by Gregg Cantor / In Green Construction

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.

There are various types and styles of energy efficient windows to consider. 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.

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 a quarter of your overall energy (heating and/or cooling) because it is seeping outside.

If you are 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-paned 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 EnergyStar ® certified window. This means you will qualify for the IRS’s energy-efficiency tax rebate. Windows carrying the EnergyStar logo can work up to 20% more efficiently than other windows.

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