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Knowing What Makes Windows Energy Efficient Can Save You Money

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When it comes to improving energy efficiency in your home, it’s easy to forget the impact your windows have on your energy use. Drafty windows are easy to diagnose, but you don’t have to have a noticeable problem with your windows to benefit from replacement windows. The correct windows can help you save energy when it comes to heating and cooling your home.

Thanks to modern technologies, the glass in your windows can boost energy efficiency. And that doesn’t just mean tinting your windows. Multiple-pane alternatives, various varieties of glazing, gas fills and even the method used to install the glass can help you save money on your energy bills all year long, regardless of the weather.

Get to Know the ENERGY STAR® Basics
When considering windows for energy efficiency, it's important to first research their energy-performance ratings in relation to the Birmingham climate and your home's design. What does “energy efficiency” even mean and how can you contrast the energy savings of one window against another once they’re placed in your home?

ENERGY STAR is the government group that provides consumers with a trustworthy source for energy efficiency information about products. When shopping for an energy-efficient window, look at the ENERGY STAR label. It will show a number of the factors that go into measuring performance. Here’s a list what these categories mean:

  • U-Factor: The rate of heat loss to the outside. A low U-factor is better.
  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): Most commonly indicated as a fraction, this is the amount of solar radiation that a window lets in. SHGC is measured on a scale from 0 to 1. Window SHGC usually ranges from 0.25 to 0.80. Again, a low number is better.
  • Air Leakage (AL): The rate at which air passes through the joints in the window. The lower the AL value, the less air leakage.
  • Visible Transmittance (VT): The amount of light the window lets through measured on a scale of 0 to 1, with values generally ranging from 0.20 to 0.80. The higher the VT, the more light you see.
  • Condensation Resistance Factor (CRF): How tightly the window resists water buildup on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the CRF, the better the window will withstand condensation.

Make sure to find scores based on whole-unit numbers as opposed to center-of-glass numbers (COG). Whole-unit numbers are more reliable indicators of the window’s overall performance, while COG may not be as consistently reliable in areas of the window farther away from the center.

More Panes, Less Pain
Energy efficiency is increased in windows with more panes of glass in them. Double-pane windows are a notable choice for homeowners looking to find energy efficiency with replacement windows.

While they can cost more, triple-pane windows can offer an even higher energy efficiency that is worth the money. Adding a middle pane means more protection against the elements and allows the inner pane of the window to stay closer to room temperature. A third pane also impacts any convection currents and drafts that could make a room colder.

Beyond improving energy efficiency, triple-pane windows also bring greater protection against noise and break-in damage than double-paned replacement windows. So, if you have loud neighbors or live on a crowded street, you might benefit from triple-pane windows.

More Than Just Tinting
The glazing on your window can make a big difference in reducing both the SHGC and VT that influences ENERGY STAR ratings. For years, people have applied tinted glazing to defend against sunlight and reduce glare. Two other techniques can help on both sides of the glass and increase energy efficiency in your home.

On windows with two or more panes of glass, insulated glazing is created when the glass panes are spaced apart and hermetically sealed, leaving an insulating air space. Insulated window glazing predominantly lowers the U-factor, but it also improves the SHGC.

Low-e coating can also have an influence on energy efficiency. A microscopically thin, almost invisible metal or metallic oxide layer added directly on the surface of one or more of the panes of glass, low-e coating helps lower the window’s U-factor and can lower energy loss by as much as 30 to 50 percent.

Insulating with Gas
Increasingly common these days, gas-filled windows are made of at least two panes of glass with either argon or krypton gas filling the space between them. This gas creates another invisible barrier against the heat and cold that would effect a window’s U-factor or leakage rate.

Argon and krypton are safe, naturally-occurring gasses found in the air we breathe. Factory-sealing the gas between the window’s glazing layers reduces the possibility of leakage or condensation buildup on the interior and exterior of your windows.

Edge Spacers Seal Out Leaks
The final factor that helps improve your window’s energy efficiency is the edge spacer. Edge spacers serve a variety of functions. They:

  • Bear the stress the window faces with expansion and contraction during times of heat and cold.
  • Serve as a moisture barrier to resist water or vapor condensation.
  • Provide a gas-tight barrier that prevents the loss of any gas in low-e windows.

Windows are available in single-seal or double-seal systems. Aluminum seals are most common thanks to the material’s strong energy-conducting traits.

Single-seal systems include an organic sealant applied behind the spacers that holds the unit together and resists moisture leakage. A double-seal system adds a secondary backing sealant, often silicon, to further defend against leaks. Double-seal systems are most often found in low-e windows to make certain to stop any of the sealed gasses from escaping.

There’s a lot of science that goes into making an energy-efficient replacement window. But, by reviewing the basics of what goes into the ENERGY STAR rating and understanding the differences in window glass options, you can buy windows that will make your home temperate and save you money at the same time.

Find out more about energy efficiency in your windows by chatting with our experts at Pella of Birmingham. Call 205-778-2050 or stop by our showroom. You can also schedule an appointment online for a free, in-home consultation.