When choosing windows for your home, whether for new construction or to replace your existing windows, it’s important to pick the most energy-efficient models that your budget allows. Doing so could lead to significant savings, as the loss and gain of heat through windows accounts for 25 to 30% of energy usage in a home.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the many benefits of energy-efficient windows and provide tips on how to choose energy-efficient windows for your home.
Why Energy-Efficient Windows Matter
Opting for high-quality, energy-efficient windows can provide significant benefits over many years. Here are just a few advantages of energy-efficient windows:
- Enhanced insulation: Energy-efficient windows do an extraordinary job of creating a barrier against uncomfortable outside temperatures. They help keep your home cool during the summer and warm during the winter without having to rely too heavily on heating and air conditioning. Energy-efficient windows also help to eliminate those cold and hot spots found in some rooms of your home.
- Eco-friendliness: As mentioned above, energy-efficient windows keep the temperatures in your home comfortable without the air conditioner or heater working too hard. This results in less energy usage, which means your home doesn’t consume as much power generated by coal, natural gas, or other fossil fuels. This makes your house more environmentally friendly.
- More savings: Consuming less energy to cool and heat your house means you’ll also save on energy bills. In addition to the energy savings, you may also be eligible for tax credits due to your eco-friendly upgrade.
- More protection for items in your house: Energy-efficient windows feature a coating that blocks ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can do damage to carpets, rugs, fabrics, wood, and furniture. However, with energy-efficient windows, 98% of the sun’s UV rays never make it into your home, so your home furnishings, accessories, and flooring will not experience deterioration or fading as a result of UV exposure.
- Blocking noise: Another benefit of energy-efficient windows is their soundproofing capabilities. Their insulating ability reduces noise from railroads, sirens, road traffic, and other outside disturbances. This is particularly desirable for people who live in modern, urban communities.
- Less maintenance: Due to their ability to minimize the transfer of energy, energy-efficient windows significantly reduce the buildup of condensation. This means that that mold is less likely to form and those who suffer from asthma will feel more comfortable. The coating that blocks UV-rays also practically eliminates dirt buildup and water spots on the outside of the window, meaning you won’t have to spend as much time washing them.
Frame Material Matters
The thermal performance of a window often comes down to the material of the frame, so in this section, we will discuss the most common window frame materials. Each one functions and ages differently, so make sure you’re familiar with the pros and cons of each before making your decision.
Fiberglass consists of glass fibers and resin. Fiberglass frames are attractive and, thanks to recent advancements, can be easily configured to blend well with your home’s exterior decor.
Other pros of fiberglass frames include:
- Flexibility: Fiberglass frames match the appearance of wood and you can paint them to match your home’s exterior. Some models even come with a wood veneer on the interior.
- Durability: Fiberglass is highly resistant to swelling, warping, and rotting.
- Strength: Fiberglass frames are strong and can hold large glass pieces like bay, bow, and picture windows.
- Best insulator: Fiberglass frames are available with foam-filled cores, which are the best insulators and perform well in cold climates.
- UV resistance: Fiberglass windows come with UV-resistant finishes that withstand fading.
Disadvantages of fiberglass include:
- Limited colors: Fiberglass frames do not come in many colors, so you may end up having to paint them to match your house, which then requires future maintenance.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) window frames are a popular option because of their high performance and affordability. However, there are still low-quality vinyl products on the market, be sure to look into the manufacturing process of a vinyl product you’re considering.
Some advantages of vinyl frames are:
- Affordability: Vinyl is a less expensive window frame material compared to others.
- Less maintenance: Perhaps the most attractive feature of vinyl is its ease of maintenance. It will look great for years to come.
- Energy efficiency: Although sometimes hollow, the frames can be filled with foam for better insulation.
- Durability: Vinyl frames are UV-resistant and non-corroding. They’re also welded at the seams, which prevents water and air infiltration.
- Variety of colors: These days, you have a greater choice of colors when it comes to vinyl — not just the standard tan and white.
Some cons of this material include:
- Existence of many inferior products: As mentioned above, if you don’t research your vinyl product before buying it, you may end up with a shoddy material with poor insulation and durability.
- Susceptibility to damage during installation: It may also warp with time. Make sure you work with a professional that stands by their work.
- Expansion and contraction with temperature changes: This means the seals at the glass may break, allowing moisture and air to infiltrate.
As wood has been the go-to construction material for thousands of years, it’s naturally one of the first materials many homeowners consider for their window frames. Some advantages of wood frames include:
- Eco-friendliness: Wood is a renewable, environmentally sustainable natural resource that can be made into many sizes and shapes.
- Superior insulation: Wood is an effective barrier against cold and heat transfer.
- Durability: Wood is exceptionally strong and can even become harder with age.
- Flexibility: Wood can be stained or painted to match the exterior of your home.
A few potential disadvantages of wood include:
- Cost: Wood simply costs more than most other window frame materials.
- Maintenance: Wood requires cleaning, painting, sanding, staining, and caulking. If not maintained properly, wood is susceptible to mold, mildew, and rotting.
To reduce the amount of maintenance required for wood windows, some manufacturers make window frames with two materials: wood on the inside and aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass on the outside. Although expensive, wood frames bonded with another material during the manufacturing process are advantageous for many reasons:
- Exceptional weather resistance: Wood-clad windows are great at resisting damage from the sun, rain, and other natural elements.
- Low maintenance: The only upkeep required is simple cleaning.
- Flexibility: Wood-clad frames come in a wide variety of color coatings. They can also be painted.
Windows with wood-clad frames are associated with the following disadvantages:
- Susceptibility to rotting: Wood-clad frames may be more vulnerable to rotting as moisture is often able to infiltrate through the unsealed edges. Sometimes moisture even gets trapped in the frame while being manufactured.
- Cost: Wood-clad is the most expensive of all frame materials.
- Potentially longer installation time: If the wood frames are bonded with aluminum, capping may be necessary, which will prolong the installation time.
Aluminum frames are similar to vinyl in that they are affordable and low-maintenance, but they can be superior to some vinyl frames in terms of strength and durability. Other advantages include:
- Easy maintenance: Aluminum frames are available in baked-on or anodized finishes, meaning that no painting is necessary.
- Increased glass area: Narrow frame and slim profile options make your windows look bigger.
- Customizability: You can customize aluminum frames to fit particular configurations.
- Retention of shape: Aluminum frames retain their shape for a long time.
Some disadvantages of aluminum frames are:
- High U-value: Aluminum conducts cold and heat easily, meaning that it is the least energy-efficient frame material. Some manufacturers, however, offer frames that have built-in thermal breaks between the exterior and interior surfaces, which enhance efficiency.
- Corrosion: Aluminum can be susceptible to corrosion in certain climates. Corrosion can cause issues with the overall performance of your window.
Window Types and Performance Levels Vary
In addition to the frame material, you should also pay attention to the type of glass. While they all may seem the same at first, they have varying degrees of performance. To assess the performance of an ENERGY STAR window, you should look at the window’s rating, which is comprised of the following features:
- Solar heat gain coefficient: This number measures how well the window keeps out heat. A lower number is preferable as it shows that less solar heat gets transmitted through the glass.
- Visible transmittance: This refers to the amount of natural sunlight the window lets in. The higher the number, the better.
- Air leakage: This number measures the amount of air that passes through the window’s cracks and small joints. In this case, lower numbers are preferable.
- Condensation resistance: This number tells you how resistant the window is to fog and water buildup. A higher number is better.
Keep in mind that every window configuration and size has its own unique rating. However, a representative from Homespire can give you the rating for a sample window or a range where our windows fall.
Windows can also be categorized in terms of how many panes of glass they have. There are three types: single pane, double pane, and triple pane. For double-pane and triple-pane windows, the panes are separated by a gas.
- Single pane: Single pane windows are poorly insulated and not particularly durable, and are therefore not recommended for homeowners.
- Double pane: Double pane windows, with their two panes of glass separated by a gas, provide sufficient energy efficiency, durability, and sound barrier benefits for your home at a reasonable cost, and are therefore the type we recommend.
- Triple pane: Triple pane windows provide all the benefits that double pane windows do, but at a significantly higher cost. For this reason, we do not believe that triple pane windows are a wise investment for most homeowners. Before splurging on triple-pane windows, think about how they compare with double-pane models in terms of energy efficiency, durability, and cost.
In summary, we recommend double pane windows because they’re both energy-efficient and affordable.
Exterior Features and Architecture Are Important
You are probably wondering how much an upgrade to energy-efficient windows will save you. To answer this question, you’ll want to consider the exterior features of your home and your home’s architecture.
The amount of light and heat that enters your house will determine the amount you’ll save on energy bills with new, energy-efficient windows.
In certain situations, a window upgrade makes a great impact. For instance, if you have lots of large, south-facing windows with no overhangs or eaves and no trees to block the sunlight, upgrading to energy-efficient windows can significantly lower your cooling costs during the warmer months of the year.
On the other hand, if your home has a porch or deck with a patio cover or large overhangs that already help to block some of the sunlight, a window upgrade will have a less significant impact.
DIY Measures Can Reduce Your Window’s Full Potential
The energy efficiency of a window doesn’t just depend on its frame or glass type — it also depends on how well it’s installed.
To get the most out of your new energy-efficient windows, you’ll want to make sure they’re installed properly — and the only way to guarantee that is to have it done by a professional. When a professional installs your windows, you can rest assured that they have weather-tight seals around the frames, are free of air leaks, and are installed according to the specifications of the manufacturer.
When you work with a professional installer, you can also consult them on the best brand of windows for your home. They can help you choose the best option based on your needs, style, and budget.
Additionally, professional installation companies generally offer warranties that will cover the replacement or repair cost over a certain period, which means you can have peace of mind throughout the process.
Leave Your Installation in the Hands of Homespire Windows and Doors
At Homespire Windows and Doors, we promise you high-quality, energy-efficient windows and we also ensure that they are installed to the highest standards so that you enjoy their maximum value. Instead of hiring out third-party installers, we train our own technicians on the most efficient installation techniques — which means we take full responsibility for your project from the beginning to the end.
Schedule a free window analysis by calling us at 1-833-684-1873 or filling out our contact form.