Window replacements are definitely worthwhile; they can help make your home more energy efficient, earn you a significant federal tax credit, block harmful UV rays from pouring into your home, and protect against natural disasters and break-ins. But there's much more to it than simply purchasing a new set of windows. In order to noticeably increase the energy efficiency of your home, you need to be aware of factors like the structural integrity of the framework around the windows, your home’s insulation, as well as window features like U-factors, glazing types, low-e coatings, gas fillings and more.
Never before has window replacement required so much time and thought, but it really does pay off in the end… literally.
Before buying anything, have a qualified contractor take a look at your house. He or she can tell you if any structural damage might hinder the efficiency of a new window. Factors that could deter from the efficiency would be insufficient insulation, rotting or cracked foundations or wall systems, damaged structural materials around the windows, etc. These types of problems should be addressed first so that your new windows can be fitted snugly into the framework of your home and keep your heating & cooling inside.
The key is to get the most for your money. You should find a window set with an appropriate U-factor for your climate zone. The U-factor is the indicator of a window’s ability to resist heat flow and insulate your home. You want to find the lowest U-factor available for your area. U-factors between 0.35 and 0.40 are generally considered optimal, but you can quickly check this chart to find the proper U-factor for your region.
Next, you’ll need to consider the window’s glazing options. Glazing is another word for tinting, and yet it’s more than just that. What youl want is a window that’s at least somewhat tinted to help with privacy and keep out excessive heat, but you’ll also want a window that is reflective and can reduce heat gain and glare. In other words, glazing is a kind of bonus reflective heat protection.
Most energy efficient windows also come with a low-emittance coating. Simply put, low-e coating reduces the amount of heat and cooling that can pass through your window panes. You’ll want to find a window that has the low-e coating that’s right for your environment. This generally means less coating for warmer climates and more coating for cooler regions.
Good, efficient windows will also have a gas filler between the panes. The gas helps to keep the glass at a steadier temperature, ensuring that outdoor air won’t affect your indoor temperatures. There are two types of glass that window manufacturers use: argon and krypton. They are both nontoxic, non-reactive and totally safe for your home, but krypton is more efficient. Naturally, it’s also more expensive.
What the window’s frame is made of can also affect efficiency. While vinyl, aluminum and fiberglass are the hottest new window types on the market right now, many of them are still not as energy efficient in terms of U-factor as the old-fashioned, tried and true wooden frames. In fact, the vinyl and composite windows rate just the same as wood, the aluminum windows rated much less efficient, and only the fiberglass received a lower (and better) U-factor. The newer materials may be more durable and easily maintained, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more efficient.
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