Choosing The Most Energy-Efficient Windows For Your Home

Windows are responsible for approximately 25-30% of heating and cooling residential energy consumption across America, making the energy efficiency of them significant. Whether you’re installing windows in a new build or it’s time to replace existing windows, choosing energy-efficient ones is essential for the rest of your home to also be as sustainable as possible. Alternatively, if you have windows that are currently in good condition, there are several things you can do to improve their efficiency that are easy and inexpensive. Overall, energy-efficient windows will help to reduce your utilities bills, which also helps the planet at the same time.

The importance of energy-efficient windows

A window is considered energy efficient based on how much heat it keeps in or out of a building. Obviously, a window doesn’t use energy itself, but it can play an important role in you deciding how much heat or air conditioning you want to turn on based on how effective the windows are. This is why it’s important to have windows that are as energy efficient as possible as it directly helps to keep heating and cooling costs down. Look for windows that come with an Energy Star rating as these will have been tested by EPA-recognized laboratories to ensure that they meet or exceed performance standards. 

Updating your existing windows for energy efficiency

Replacing your home’s windows can be an expensive job and it may be wasteful if the windows are in good condition. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to improve their energy efficiency. Check windows for any spots where they may be letting air leak into your home. Caulking and weatherstripping them can help and this isn’t too difficult of a job to do yourself. Window treatments and coverings on the glass can also help with how much heat and air they let in and is something that can be fairly easy and inexpensive to do yourself. If you live somewhere hot, adding exterior shading can help to reduce how much heat is let into your home via the windows, such as by using awnings and exterior blinds. 

Choosing the right windows

Windows and doors will come with a U-factor and a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) score and this indicates how insulating they are and how much heat they let into a building. Choosing the right window for your home largely comes down to your location, as what’s best for one home won’t necessarily be best for a home in another part of the country. A window with a lower U-factor score will be better in homes where the indoor and outdoor temperatures are significantly different, as seen in the northern hemisphere where climates are cold and homes will be kept warm. A high SHGC score means that the window will let in a lot of light and heat, so a home in hot climates will be better off with a low SHGC score. Having windows that are double or triple glazed and filled with certain gases also helps to improve their energy efficiency. 

Installation of windows for energy efficiency 

If you choose the most energy-efficient windows, they’re only going to perform as well as they claim if they are properly installed. Having your windows installed by a professional is the best way to ensure this and it also guarantees that your warranty doesn’t become void. Installing windows comes with a lot of variables, such as the window type, what your home is constructed from (e.g. masonry, wood, etc.), what the exterior cladding is made of, and the type of weather-restrictive barrier used, if any. Whoever is installing your windows, make sure they follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for optimal performance and they can always refer to The Building America Solution Center for advice on window and frame replacements.

Installing a storm window

Storm windows are another way of improving the energy efficiency of your existing windows without having to spend too much money. They’re approximately one-sixth to one-eighth of the cost compared to replacing single pane windows for double glazing. Green America says that you’ll see your money back in energy bills in just 4.5 years, compared to 40.5 years for a regular replacement window. If air leaks aren’t significant but you know they’re there, a storm window can be the fix. There are different types of storm windows that come in various materials and levels of insulation, which also affects how easy they are to install and how much they cost. Again, what’s best for your home will depend on your location. 

Other easy ways to improve efficiency

When it comes excluding draughts from your home, there are lots of things you can do. For doors, flaps and brushes on letterboxes, a metal disc over the keyhole, and draught excluders can prevent air from getting in. These are such small areas that they may seem insignificant, but they will be letting cold air in and reducing the temperature in your home.

For your windows, apply draught excluder strips to the edges where the windows close and fill in the gaps between the window frames and walls with silicone mastic. Hanging heavy thermal curtains or adding a thermal lining to existing curtains will also help to stop cold air from getting in, especially if the temperature dropping at night is a concern for your home. Similarly, in hot climates you can hang sheer muslin and blinds to prevent how much light, and therefore heat, gets through, helping to control the temperature without needing to use energy on heating or cooling.

Energy-efficient windows can significantly help to reduce your energy consumption for heating and cooling. When needing to replace windows or install them in a new building, always go for the most energy efficient ones based on your location. If money is tight, there are lots of things you can do to improve the energy efficiency of existing windows that can be just as effective in the short-term.

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