Save Money with Energy Efficient Windows
When there’s a big chill outside, you certainly don’t want to feel it inside. Outdated windows can waste energy in your home and drive up your energy bills. They also add drafts and make your home a little colder than you’d like. One big way to save money and stay warm is to buy energy efficient windows or to update your old ones. We’ve come up with some useful tips for you, no matter which path you decide to follow.
Tips for Buying Energy Efficient Windows
Your windows are more than just your view of the world around you, they add style to your home, bring in fresh air and can even help you warm things up with thermal energy. But old windows can be drafty and a drag when you see your energy bills. If you’re ready for new, energy efficient windows, we’ve got some tips to help you buy the right ones.
U-Factor. The u-factor of a window gauges the window’s insulation value or the rate at which non-solar heat flows through it. A u-factor looks at just the glass or the glazing while a National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) u-factor includes the frame and spacer material around the glass. The lower the u-factor, the more energy efficient the window is.
Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGH). This is the fraction of solar radiation admitted through a window and released as heat in the home. A window with a high SHGC rating is better at using the sun to warm your home while a low SHGC is better at blocking the sun’s warmth. The window’s placement could determine which type of window goes where, so you can appreciate the most energy efficient results.
Air leakage. This is pretty straight forward — it’s the amount of air movement around the window. The lower the air leakage rating, the tighter the window.
Sunlight transmittance. The way a window’s glazing transmits sunlight is rated in two ways, the visible transmittance (VT) and the light-to-solar gain (LSG). The VT is what you actually see with the human eye. A higher VT rating means you’ll see more light through the window. The LSG is a ratio between SHCG and VT. The ratio lets you know how much light you’re see and how much heat is blocked. The higher the number here, the more light you see without adding more heat.
Argon filled glazing. To improve the thermal performance of windows, you’ll sometimes find that the space between the glass panes is filled with argon. Argon is an inert gas that has a higher resistance to heat flow, making it more energy efficient.
Low-emissivity window glazing. Typically, you’ll hear this referred to as low-e or a low-e coating. Adding a low-e coating to a window helps control the amount of heat coming in the window. While these windows typically cost 10-15% more, they can reduce energy loss by as much as 30-50% — making them a smart investment!
ENERGY STAR. Look for products that are ENERGY STAR labeled. These doors, windows and skylights are certified to fit certain federal standards. It’s estimated that replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR certified ones can lower household energy bills by an average of 12% nationwide and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a great way to go green at home and save some money in the process.
If you’d like more information on purchasing energy-efficient windows, the Department of Energy (DOE) has a very informative website on energy-efficient windows that gives you in-depth information on how ratings are calculated and what different technologies are available.
DIY Tips for Energy Efficient Windows
If you’re not ready to make the investment in windows for your home yet, or you’re renting and don’t have that option, we’ve got some DIY solutions for you.
Hang curtains. One of the quickest, easiest and possibly most affordable ways to make your windows more energy efficient is by hanging new drapes. Drapes act as insulation, protecting the interior of your home from heat and from drafts. The DOE suggests using medium-colored drapes with white, plastic backing on windows that receive direct sunlight.
Install storm windows. Storm windows can do a lot to protect your home from cold weather and winds. You can go even further by looking for low-e storm windows. Most standard double-hung windows will work with storm windows.
Low-e film. You can improve the energy efficiency of your windows by applying a low-e film to the existing glass. This is a very affordable alternative to buying new low-e glass windows.
Add caulk. Seal air leaks around your windows with caulk. This works best for stationary cracks, gaps or joints that are less than a quarter inch wide. It’s best to apply caulk when the temperature is above 45 degrees. This means you may have to be proactive and take care of it before the really cold weather hits.
Use weather stripping. In place of caulk, weather stripping should be used on components that move, keeping their function intact. Pair weather stripping with caulk to block out air leaks and keep the chill away.
Install awnings. If too much sun is your problem a quick DIY that can help is an awning. You can pick between permanent and retractable awnings to get the look and the coverage you want.
Regular cleaning. Whether you decide to buy new energy-efficient windows or stick with the old ones, a little regular maintenance can go a long way. Wipe down frames regularly to remove dust and dirt. Avoid using too much water on wood window frames and add a little dish soap to vinyl and aluminum frames. Make it a habit to do thorough inspections of your windows every season so you can stay ahead of early cracks, leaks and loose weather stripping.
Following these tips will bring energy efficiency to your windows and keep them in tip top shape.