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Tips: Windows

July 17, 2014 - 9:43am

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Tips: Windows

Windows can be one of your home's most attractive features. Windows provide views, daylighting, ventilation, and heat from the sun in the winter. Unfortunately, they can also account for 10% to 25% of your heating bill by letting heat out.

During the summer, your air conditioner must work harder to cool hot air from sunny windows. Install ENERGY STAR®-qualified windows and use curtains and shade to give your air conditioner and energy bill a break.

If your home has single-pane windows, consider replacing them with double-pane windows with high-performance glass—low-e or spectrally selective coatings. In colder climates, select gas-filled windows with low-e coatings to reduce heat loss. In warmer climates, select windows with spectrally selective coatings to reduce heat gain.

If you decide not to replace your windows, consider following these tips to improve their performance.

Cold Weather Window Tips

Illustration shows how windows with low-e coatings reflect back part of your room's heat in the winter.

  • Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames to reduce drafts.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating window shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
  • Close your curtains and shades at night to protect against cold drafts; open them during the day to let in warming sunlight.
  • Install exterior or interior storm windows, which can reduce heat loss through the windows by approximately 10%-20%, depending on the type of window already installed in the home. They should have weatherstripping at all movable joints; be made of strong, durable materials; and have interlocking or overlapping joints.
  • Repair and weatherize your current storm windows, if necessary.

Warm Weather Window Tips

Illustration shows how windows with low-e coatings reflect back part of the summer sun.

  • Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
  • Close curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day.
  • Install awnings on south- and west-facing windows.
  • Apply sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain.
Long-Term Savings Tip

Installing high-performance windows will improve your home's energy performance. While it may take many years for new windows to pay off in energy savings, the benefits of added comfort, improved aesthetics, and functionality can offset the cost.

Shopping Tips for Windows

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label.
  • Check with local utilities to see what rebates or other incentives are available for window replacement.
  • Choose high-performance windows that have at least two panes of glass and a low-e coating.
  • Choose a low U-factor for better insulation in colder climates; the U-factor is the rate at which a window, door, or skylight conducts non-solar heat flow.
  • Look for a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC)—this is a measure of solar radiation admitted through a window, door, or skylight. Low SHGCs reduce heat gain in warm climates.
  • Select windows with both low U-factors and low SHGCs to maximize energy savings in temperate climates with both cold and hot seasons.
  • Look for whole-unit U-factors and SHGCs, rather than center-of-glass (COG) U-factors and SHGCs. Whole-unit numbers more accurately reflect the energy performance of the entire product.
  • Have your windows installed by trained professionals according to manufacturer's instructions; otherwise, your warranty may be void.

Consider windows with impact-resistant glass if you live along a coast or in areas with flying debris from storms.

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