When it comes to making your home more energy-efficient, it can be easy to overlook the impact your windows have on your energy usage. Drafty windows are easy to diagnose, but you don’t need to wait for there to be an obvious issue with your windows before opting for replacements. The right windows can help you save energy when it comes to heating and cooling your home.
Thanks to innovative technologies, the glass in your windows can increase energy efficiency. And that doesn’t just mean tinting your windows. Multiple-pane choices, various types of glazing, gas fills, and even the method used to install the glass can help you save money on your energy bills, regardless of the season.
Get to know the basics of ENERGY STAR®
When choosing windows for their energy efficiency, it's important to first investigate their energy-performance ratings in relation to the local climate and your home's design. What does “energy efficiency” even mean and how can you compare the energy savings of one window against another once they’re in your home?
ENERGY STAR is a government-backed trademark that provides consumers with a reliable source for energy efficiency information about products. When shopping for an energy-efficient window, search for the ENERGY STAR label. It will show a number of factors that go into identifying performance. Here’s a look at 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): Normally listed 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 typically 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): This measures how consistently the window resists water buildup on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the CRF, the better the window will guard against condensation.
Make sure to look for scores based on whole-unit numbers as opposed to center-of-glass numbers (COG). Whole-unit numbers are more trustworthy indicators of the window’s overall performance, while COG numbers may not be as consistently reliable in areas of the window farther away from the center.
Multiple panes of glass can help maintain climate control
Generally, the more panes of glass in your window, the more energy efficient it will be. Double-pane windows, for example, are an attractive option for homeowners looking to save on their energy bills. The space between the two layers of glass can provide more effective insulation, keeping the cold out in the winter and retaining more heat in the summer.
While they can cost more, triple-pane windows can offer even greater energy efficiency that is worth the expense. Adding a middle pane means greater protection against the elements and allows the inner pane of the window to stay closer to room temperature. A third pane also cuts down any convection currents and drafts that could make a room intemperate.
Beyond improving energy efficiency, triple-pane windows also provide greater protection against sound and break-in damage than double-pane replacement windows. So, if you have loud neighbors or live on a busy street, consider the benefits of triple-pane windows.
Increase energy efficiency with more than tinting
The glazing on your windows can have an impact on reducing both the SHGC and VT that determine ENERGY STAR ratings. For years, many people have used tinted glazing to block sunlight and reduce glare. But there are two other techniques that can help on both sides of the glass and increase energy efficiency in your home.
For 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, nearly 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 decrease energy loss by as much as 30 to 50 percent.
Keep your home insulated with gas-filled windows
Gas-filled windows made of at least two panes of glass with either argon or krypton gas filling the space between each one, are becoming increasingly common these days. The gas creates another invisible barrier against the heat and cold that would impact a window’s U-factor or leakage rate.
Argon and krypton are nontoxic, 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 can help seal out leaks
The last factor that helps improve your window’s energy efficiency is the edge spacer. Edge spacers serve a number of functions.
- Bear the stress the window faces with expansion and contraction during times of heat and cold.
- Provide a moisture barrier to prevent water or vapor condensation.
- Provide a gas-tight defense 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 because of the material’s strong energy-conducting traits.
Single-seal systems include an organic sealant applied behind the spacers that holds the unit together and prevents moisture leakage. A double-seal system adds a secondary backing sealant, often silicon, to further defend against leaks. Double-seal systems are most often seen in Low-E windows to prevent any of the sealed gasses from escaping.
There’s a lot of science that goes into developing an energy-efficient replacement window. But, by knowing the basics of what goes into the ENERGY STAR rating and understanding the differences in window glass options, you can discover 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 talking to our professionals at Pella.