Friday, July 24, 2015 / by Bill Berning*
It may be difficult to think of the windows in your home as valuable assets. Of course, standing in front of one of these outlets on a blazing summer day or frigid winter night can help you shift your point of view in quite a hurry. In order to give you the best defense against the elements – and potentially save you a few bucks along the way – let’s listen in as some of the most trusted online sources break down the benefits of energy efficient windows and how these offerings apply to your situation.
Letting in drafts and heat can be a nuisance, but is it enough of a reason to change out your windows entirely? Learning more about energy efficient windows and how these assets can affect your home life and budget can help answer this question once and for all.
When it comes to upgrading your home and improving the quality of life for you and your family, windows generally don’t rank very high in the overarching conversation, if they make an appearance at all. Unfortunately, this mentality overlooks one key detail – these fixtures serve as vital pieces of your home’s heating and cooling systems. If you’re still working with inefficient windows, chances are your home is far from optimized in terms of energy savings and expenditure.
Building a Quick Overview
Before delving into the particulars of why energy efficient windows can improve your home, it’s important to ensure that you have a basic understanding of the difference between these offerings and standard window units. To shed some light on these comparison, Karin Beuerlein of the National Association of Realtors’ House Logic blog breaks down energy efficient windows from a variety of angles.
For starters, the exterior of the window plays a major role in the efficiency rating of the installation. For some windows, several layers of glazing – from single to double and triple – can affect the degree of insulation this asset has against the exterior environment. In terms of the ability to repulse heat, a low emissivity (Low-E) metallic coating can further enhance the window’s ability to reflect and absorb outside weather and other external factors.
Once you get into the interior of the window, gas fills and spacers take center stage. A gas fill, as the name implies, is simply a layer of gas – usually argon or krypton – that’s sandwiched between glazing sheets as a means to improve insulation and reduce heat transfer. Different materials and designs comprise the spacer designation, but all variations still aim to handle the same goals found within the gas fill approach.
Of course, no overview of energy efficient windows would be complete without a look into the framing materials. From vinyl to fiberglass and aluminum, you have plenty of options on this front. Each have their strengths and weaknesses – which you’ll learn about shortly – thus requiring a deeper evaluation based upon your current home situation. The big takeaway here is that your region often dictates your framing options.
Gauging the Value of Energy Efficient Windows
So now that you’re an expert on how energy efficient windows work and what goes into these products, it’s time to look into why you should even bother with these upgrades in the first place. As Charles R. Hooper of Angie’s List explains, the most compelling reason offered up on this front comes in the form of saving money on your monthly energy bills and other energy-related expenses.
Essentially, by making the switch to this type of window, you’re trading an upfront installation cost for the ability to save a significantly larger amount of money over time. These savings can vary based on your specific climate and region, but the experts over at the Department of Energy note that in some cases, homeowners who take the plunge end up saving up to 31 percent on their energy bills per year. Needless to say, that’s far from an insignificant amount over the course of a useful window lifespan.
Benefits That Go Beyond Savings
Aside from the substantial savings generated by energy efficient windows, there’s also other key reasons to consider this alternative to standard offerings. In particular, the experts at the Department of Energy go on to explain that energy efficient windows improve the quality of life for you, your family, and any possessions that don’t hold up well to external concerns.
These selections reduce the impact of outside elements, such as overbearing summer heat and drafty gusts of wind during the winter months, thereby creating a more stable and controlled environment for anyone who calls this house a home. As far as the items in your house go, these windows act as a sort of “home sunscreen,” ensuring that sun damage and exposure to other exterior issues becomes a thing of the past.
Which Window Is Right for You?
If you’re ready to start talking about energy efficient options that fit your home, HGTV’s Alyson McNutt English suggests breaking down the discussion based on your regional needs, budget, and available components. While it would be nice to simply have one answer to this dilemma, varying environments and climates obfuscate the discussion a bit.
In terms of framing, English explains that options like aluminum work best in humid, rainy, and coastal climates, while wood and vinyl are better suited to handle the rigors of more arid locales. As you begin to weigh interior fill and spacing options, you’ll notice that the same propensity for regional concerns enter the picture. Specifically, gas fills simply don’t hold up well in higher altitudes, often leading to leaks and other transfer issues.
Once you’ve sorted out your climate considerations – or connected with an expert who can help you on this front – English finishes with one final piece of advice: Keep an eye out for your window ratings. The U-value of a window denotes this fixture’s ability to resist heat loss, while the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) measures how much heat radiation enters the home through this window.
As you can see, there’s plenty to consider once you enter the market for these windows. Depending on your personal needs and preferences, as well as the recommendations offered up by your trusted window professionals, how much stock you put into these ratings and components can vary drastically. However, at least now you can move forward with confidence as you put this information – and the rest of what you’ve learned about energy efficient windows and their benefits – to good use.