Energy Efficient Replacement Windows
Buying Tips

Energy efficient replacement windows can save on energy bills associated with seasonal heating and seasonal cooling. Windows play a major role in providing a better insulation. I can witness from my own experience how much better insulation is with energy efficient windows.
According to the Energy Star official site, the saving is $126 to $465 every year by replacing a single-pane window. The saving is dependent on where the home is located.

Window Frame Materials

The frame material plays a significant role, aesthetically and economically. Different frame materials have different look and they differ in their insulation capabilities. Different frame materials also differ in their relative price. With the rising cost of energy, window insulation is the dominant factor in the window contribution to energy saving.

  • Wood was used traditionally for ages. Wood is a very good insulator and for many people it is the ultimate choice esthetically. Wood is however a relatively high maintenance material. Annual re-painting is needed to prevent distortion, cracks, and decaying phenomena.

  • Vinyl (a kind of plastic) is becoming more popular. Vinyl frames carry a cheaper price tag; they are sturdy in regions where the temperatures are not extremely hot or extremely cold, or worst of all going erratically from one extreme to another.

  • Aluminum is a low maintenance material, it is preconditioned so it does not require periodic painting. However, being a metal it is a very good heat conductor and it does not provide good heat insulation. In cold winter regions, aluminum is not recommended. My own experience (in California and in Israel) with aluminum frames is very good.
    Because aluminum frame has so much to offer in terms of beauty and low maintenance, a solution to the heat conduction problem of aluminum frames was conceived. The solution is called "thermal break" by the industry. The frame has an internal side and and external side and a non thermal conductive material separate between the two. The thermal break reduces the heat loss rate by a factor of 2. This construction is extremely useful at cold regions. It not only reduce heat dissipation from the house but it also prevent water vapors condensation. This innovation is not so much necessary in mild and warm regions and the "old" technology is sufficient for all practical purposes in these regions. Bottom line: pay the premium price for the "thermal break" frames only if you live in the cold regions.

Energy Efficient Replacement Windows Advanced Features

Over the last 20 years, energy efficient replacement windows technology went through a leap frog advancement. Some of the advanced newest features available to the consumer are listed bellow

  • Multi-layers Glazing

  • Insulation is enhanced by adding more layers of glazing. The added layers can be glass or in some cases a thin transparent plastic sheet is added. The more layers are employed, the better is the insulation quality. It is usual to have a quarter inch (6 mm) air space between the layers. (air is an excellent thermal insulator). More advance windows use argon, carbon dioxide or argon-krypton mixture. Using other than air as a filling gas provide a better thermal insulation and can prevent the condensation phenomenon that some air filled spaces exhibit.

  • Tinted glass coatings

  • Tinted glass coating are not recommended for domestic application. The tinted film degrades the transparency and hence reduces visibility. New improved tinted film windows claim they have overcome these issues. Let me know what is your experience with tinted glass windows.

  • Low-e Coatings

  • A thin coating of silver or tin oxide is placed on the glass surface. The layer is so thin it does not reduce the visibility. Low-e coating is efficient in reducing the heat loses because the solar heat infrared radiation is reflected back into the room.

Watch these signs that indicate the need to replace the windows

  1. You find out that it needs a mechanical effort to open or close smoothly the windows; you have the feeling “the windows just do not sit right”

  2. The windows’ look is shabby and not aesthetic.

  3. Air leaks around the window frames or between the frames and the windows can be felt

  4. The windows shake when the wind blows and create shuddering noise pulses

  5. Replacement is recommended by a certified home energy auditor

Energy Efficient Replacement Windows Tax Credits and Return on Investment

The 2011 energy efficient tax credit is a 10% credit up to a maximum of $500 combined .Of that, only $200 for Energy Star windows can be applied. For exterior doors, you may be qualified for a 10% credit up to $500. If you enjoyed energy efficient tax credits for 2009 and 2010 exceeding $500 – you can’t claim the 2011 energy efficient tax credit

  • Only windows and/or doors that enjoy U-Factor of 0.30 or less, and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) of 0.30 or less are eligible to the tax credit; more significant though, if you install qualified windows and doors will really save you big money on cooling and heating.

Ratings of Energy Efficient Replacement Windows

U-factor measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping a home or building, and generally falls between 0.20 and 1.20. The lower the U-factor, the better a product is at keeping in heat.Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) measures how well a product blocks heat from the sun. SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The lower the SHGC, the better a product is at preventing unwanted heat gain. See bellow how the NFRC label looks like.

NFRC label

Energy Efficient Replacement Windows will eventually return the capital investment

Top-quality, professionally installed energy-efficient replacement windows from a reliable source will save you big money in heating and cooling expenses. Your overall home appearance will improved dramatically and you will enjoy the comfort of homogenous temperature inside your home. The house value will be appreciated and you you will be able to get a higher price on your house

View a map of the expected saving in each of the US regions on the Energy Star official site

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Jacob Mintz

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