New Windows! Understanding the Home Energy Savings of Energy-Efficient Windows

Shopping for new windows for your home?  Then energy efficiency is probably at the top of your list!  New, energy-efficient windows eventually pay for themselves and can help minimize your heating, cooling, and lighting costs.  You can gain as much as a 30 percent reduction in energy use and boost your curb appeal at the same time!  Some energy companies, such as Alliant Energy, even offer rebates for each new energy-efficient window you install.

Here we want to give you some details on what to look for as you’re shopping for new, energy-friendly windows.

1. How do we identify the efficiency of a window?Window

Windows can lose heat in 4 ways:

  • Conduction
  • Radiation
  • Air Leakage
  • Convection

Based on these factors, a window is assigned a U-factor to help you identify its efficiency.  The U-factor represents the rate at which the window conducts non-solar heat flow.  The lower the U-factor, the more energy-efficient the window.

2. How does the style of the window effect efficiency?
What parts of a window are most important in making it energy efficient?  All if it!  Glazing features used on the windowpane as well as the frame itself both make a difference.

Glazing reduces winter condensation and helps reduce solar heat gain.  Sophisticated technology has made glazing very dynamic over the last few years.  Glazing options may include:

  • Single glazed
  • Double glazed
  • Double glazed, low-E coating
  • Double glazed, low-E argon gas filled
  • Triple Glazed, two low-E coatings, argon-gas filled

Your window frames can make a significant difference as well!  Approximately 46% of manufactured windows are made with wood frames, 36% with Hollow Vinyl, and 17% with aluminum.  Choose your window frame material carefully.  Though wood windows are the most expensive, they aren’t necessarily the highest quality or best fit for you.  Wood windows often involve more maintenance and can be subject to rot, shrinking, and swelling in certain conditions.  Read more about the pros and cons of window frame options here.

3. Why does my climate make a difference in what windows I choose?
Don’t forget that you want your windows to be efficient in both hot and cold weather, based on where you live.  Here in Minnesota, we have both extreme summers and winters to think about.  Understanding the Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) will help you decide what type of window is best for your climate and window orientation.  High SHGC ratings are more effective at collecting heat during the winter and low SHGC ratings are more effective at blocking heat during the summer.

With so many options and variables to understand, it makes sense to weigh your options before making a final decision on which windows are the best fit for your home.  One thing is certain however, replacing your current windows with high-efficiency windows will ultimately produce home energy savings, benefiting the environment and lowering your energy bill!

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