What Makes Up Energy Efficient Windows?
Something you hear quite often is to make sure that your windows are energy efficient, but what does that really mean? What are energy efficient windows and how are they different from a normal window?
Energy efficient windows are windows that are made up of quality materials and multiple panes of glass to create a window that gives your home better insulation and weatherization.
What Are Energy Efficient Windows Made Of?
While the simplest way to explain them is that they contain multiple pieces of glass and trap air in between, that would only be partially correct. The truth is that energy efficient windows can be made of a large number of materials and the air trapped inside could be any number of clear harmless gases.
Popular Framing Materials:
- Fiberglass – It’s low maintenance, provides good insulation and really durable.
- Vinyl – The most common frame used due to its low maintenance and low heat conductivity.
- Composite – Is durable, low maintenance and creates well-insulated windows with the various materials that have been blended together during the manufacturing process to create it
- Aluminum – Usually made of at least 15% recycled content, it’s durable, low maintenance and recyclable
- Wood – This one is pretty common in historical neighborhoods because of their appearance and vintage/natural appeal. They also provide good insulation and are strong, although many are just wood covering aluminum or vinyl to reduce the necessary maintenance.
- A combination mixture – Unlike the composite mixture where different materials are blended together during manufacturing, these frames are different materials applied together. This allows you to have the window frame on the outside of your home to be made of a different material than the frames on the inside. So if you want the home to have wood frames inside your home but vinyl on the outside, this is the frame for you.
Gases Used Between the Glass Panes:
Many homeowners like the option of having a gas pumped in between the panes for added energy efficiency and insulation.
- Argon – It’s incredibly cheap in comparison to other gases. The lower cost is what makes this the most commonly used.
- Krypton – Is a much heavier gas but more expensive and therefore used less often.
Why Gas is Trapped in Your Windows?
You want gas trapped within your windows because it helps to block the air passing through from the outside to the inside of your home and vice versa. The heavier the gas, the harder it is for air molecules to slide through. This reduces heating and cooling lost and could be considered the most important part of an energy efficient window.
The gas is completely odorless, colorless and non-toxic.
Energy efficient windows also contain special coated reflective glass called low-E glass that can help to reflect the heat of the sun and keep your home cooler. They also help to reflect harmful Ultraviolet rays that could cause your furniture to fade.
Low-E glass is a term used to describe the microscopic layer of sputter coated silver that’s applied to the window panes to reflect the sunlight.
This is another important component that you need to have included on your windows. Even the best energy saving windows can be turned into an inefficient one if the weather stripping was done improperly or goes bad.
The weather stripping is what helps the windows to remain airtight and can be made of different types of foam, felt, or vinyl. It keeps the gas trapped inside, which keeps your home insulated.
Energy Star Rating
You should also make sure that your energy efficient windows were given the Energy Star Rating by the department of energy. That means they have been tested by a certified laboratory and have proven that they meet the performance rating requirements.
How Do Energy Efficient Windows Work?
With the special Low-E glass, you automatically block about 90% of the sun’s rays right off the start. Then add in the trapped gas and double panes of glass in your window and you have a system that works so well together that it’s virtually impossible for air to transfer between the inside and outside of your home.
Triple-paned windows can block up to 97% of the sun’s rays and keep your home even more insulated. They are newer to the market and unfortunately cost more money to have installed.
What Percentage of Heat is Lost Through Windows?
According to the Department of Energy, 25%-30% of residential heating and cooling energy use is due to the heat loss from windows.
This is a large percentage and can really make your energy bills reflect it during the extreme weather months.
How Much Do Energy Efficient Windows Save?
The U.S. Department of Energy also reports that energy efficient windows can save up to a few hundred dollars a year compared to a single pane. Meaning that you can start seeing real benefits and the savings pay for themselves within a year or two of your window installation.
Besides saving money on your utility bills, an energy efficient window can save you a lot of noise pollution.
The thick windows are great for helping to soundproof your home. Perfect for when you don’t want to hear the neighbor’s dog barking at 3 am or the sirens blaring 3 blocks away.
While it may not block the noise 100% you will see a considerable difference allowing you to no longer feel like these loud annoyances are happening in your bedroom with you.
Another way you can save money is with grants and tax breaks.
While there are several people who often shy away from the high installation costs of energy efficient windows, there are programs to help defer the costs.
Energy Efficient Windows & Government Grants
If you’re a homeowner or business, you may qualify for a window replacement grant. This is money given as part of an energy savings incentive. It can cover some or all of the cost of buying and installing windows. The best part is that you wouldn’t need to pay back any of the money given by the grant.
So to recap, energy efficient windows are made up of materials that save you money on heating and cooling. They can pay for themselves within a few years of installation and you can find programs to help pay for them upfront!