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Gone are the days when people took windows for granted, the time when we were content for as long as our windows opened and closed. We were happy as long as they let in light and warmth and provided ventilation. Our biggest concern back then was finding stylish window treatments.
Today, energy-conscious homeowners want to minimize the cost of heating and cooling their homes, and they know that better energy efficiency by having the right windows is key.
An energy-efficient home not only saves you energy and money; it is also more comfortable and durable.
Windows can negatively affect a home’s energy efficiency. Installing energy-efficient windows can substantially reduce the costs associated with heating and cooling.
If full replacement is not possible due to budget constraints, energy efficiency improvements to existing windows can also help. You can do this by adding storm windows to further protect your home its occupants from cold, wet weather, by replacing caulking and weather-stripping to strengthen the windows against air infiltration and escape, and by using window treatments or coverings.
However, if your existing windows are very old or inefficient, it might be a better idea to replace them than to try to band-aid solutions to improve their energy efficiency. This will prove to be more cost-efficient in the long run because new, energy-efficient windows eventually pay for themselves through lower heating and cooling costs, and sometimes even lower lighting costs.
So how do you go about choosing the best energy-efficient windows for your home?
Selecting the best energy efficient windows for your home is not an easy task. While you may know exactly what style of window you want, selecting the most efficient window is a little more complicated. It requires doing some homework. You have to take into account all the different window technologies available on the market today. You have to know which window upgrades will give you the best value for your money.
There are several important factors to consider before you can choose the best replacement windows for your home: frame, glass, design, and installation.
What is the right frame for your windows?
Window frames can be made of wood, vinyl, aluminum, or composite. Each has positive and negative aspects. It is up to you to decide what is best for your style and your budget.
- Wood – A well-built wood window will stand the test of time. Wooden frames offer the best insulation, although they require more maintenance than vinyl, aluminum, or composite frames. But because wood can rot, it may not be the best choice for extremely rainy or humid climates.
- Vinyl – A well-made, properly installed vinyl window can be a practical choice: low in cost while still offering excellent energy efficiency measures through an insulated glass and tight construction that reduces air leakage. However, not everybody likes the look of vinyl on their homes.
- Aluminum – Aluminum windows are practical in rainy, humid climates. However, it is not the best choice of material in terms of heat transfer and loss.
- Composite – Composite windows offer the best of both worlds: the low-maintenance features of vinyl with the beauty and durability of a wood frame. A proprietary product manufactured by the Andersen Corporation called Fibrex is one such material.
What is low-E glass?
Low-E stands for low emittance. The glass is coated with a virtually clear material that acts to cut the transmission of ultraviolet rays from the outside to your home’s interior. It prevents the damage that ultraviolet rays can cause interior furnishings. Low-E glass further improves the thermal efficiency of the window. If you live in an area that has long, hot summers, low-E windows can make a huge difference in energy consumption and significantly reduce your cooling bills.
Some window designs are inherently more efficient than others.
When replacing your windows, it is important to note that there are several operating styles to choose from. These varying styles open and seal very differently than one another, thus affecting the home’s overall energy efficiency. The most common types are:
Double-hung windows can be found in many homes across the country.
- Double-hung windows – The bottom slides up to open the unit. They can be efficient choices, but they may not be the best choice for extreme climates because of the potential for air intrusion between the sliders.
- Casement windows – These windows have a crank that swings the window outward to open. They seal themselves off tighter when wind blows in toward the house. This window type is popular in areas with windy climates.
- Picture windows – Also known as fixed windows, these windows come in many different shapes and sizes, but they typically do not open. To be energy efficient, the choice of glass and gas-filled interiors are especially important in this type of window.
When it comes to energy-efficient windows, proper installation is just as important as the materials used.
Sealed from the elements.
Window installation is not simple. The procedure varies depending on the window design, the exterior cladding, and the type of weather-restrictive barrier if any, and on whether your house is made of wood or masonry.
So never, never overlook the importance of proper installation. It does not matter how expensive your window units are, if they not installed correctly, they will not perform effectively. Flashing and caulking may be the cheapest parts of window installation, but if they are not done with attention to detail, the resulting water leaks will cause problems that could have been easily prevented.
To be assured of proper installation, choose a window company with a very good reputation for craftsmanship and a high level of expertise when it comes to window replacement. Choose a company that not only understands how windows play a role in energy-efficiency but one that also has a team of experts who will sit down with you to decide on the best choices for your home.
Andy Stellpflug, owner of Renewal by Andersen of Wyoming, was born and raised in Wyoming on what is now a four-generation ranch with more than a century of history. He has a love of the outdoors and is an avid hunter and fisherman, and grew up riding horses and working cattle. Andy has worked in the window business since 2004 and has continued to grow his business skills to acquire a reputation for being honest, fair and hardworking. He is dedicated to his customers and his staff, seeing each job through to completion with a focus on customer satisfaction and exemplary service.