Many windows on today’s homes – especially the older ones – are simply not very energy-efficient. What’s worse is that many older windows do too little to maintain the temperature in your home, too little to keep you and your family comfortable. For most of us, however, replacing our drafty windows with high-performance windows represents a considerable investment. We need to know that replacing our windows is an investment that will pay off.
Just about everyone knows that modern windows can help save energy, but few of us know how that translates into savings on our utility bills. As it turns out, you can save quite a lot. According to a 2009 report, homeowners could save a minimum of $27 per year by replacing a single-pane window with an energy-efficiency rating-equipped window. For an average home, that comes out to about $400 dollars a year in savings.
Of course, your actual savings may differ based on the type and number of windows replaced, your local climate, and a variety of other factors. That said, quality replacement windows are expected to last decades. Your total savings over the years is almost certain to be substantial – well more than enough to pay for your window replacement.
Immediate Tax Incentives
Even if you know that replacing your windows is a shrewd long-term investment, it’s still a considerable expense. Thankfully, Uncle Sam can help. There’s a federal tax credit available to help with the cost of window replacement. Qualifying for this tax credit isn’t that difficult. For starters, you don’t need to replace all the existing windows in your house. You just have to use Energy Star-rated windows to replace the old ones; the tax credit covers a specific percentage of the total costs.
Hallmarks of Energy-Efficient Windows
Let’s say that you’re sold on the idea of installing more efficient windows on your home. You’re probably wondering how you can tell if a new window is highly efficient or not. The key to answering this question is understanding some of the factors and metrics that can illustrate the efficiency of a window; here are some of those:
- U-Factor: This term expresses the insulation value of windows. The lower the U-factor, the better the window provides insulation and resists heat flow; an energy-efficient window might have a U-factor of 0.50 or lower. Renewal by Andersen windows – which feature an effective insulating material as well as low-E glass – are a good example of a window with a low U-factor.
- Low-e Glass: This glass comes with a colorless coating, which reflects away heat-producing, long-wavelength infrared light, but allows short-wavelength light to pass. Low-e glass keeps the heat either outside your home – or in and contributes to a window’s U-factor.
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): This figure expresses how much heat a window blocks; the lower the figure, the more heat is being blocked. In cooler climates, letting more heat through may be desirable; in warmer places, windows with a higher SHGC might save the most energy.
- Air Leakage: An air leakage rating indicates the amount of air passing through the window assembly gaps, as measured in cubic feet or air passing thorough a square foot of window. The lower the rating, the better; a rating close to 0.1 would be excellent, while a rating of 0.3 would be fair.
Other less technical things to look into are the number of glass panes employed by the window. Single pane glasses are easy for light to penetrate and pass through. Generally, double- and triple-pane windows increase a window’s total energy efficiency. The frame construction type, gas variant between panes, and usage of glass tinting and coating should also be considered.
If chosen wisely, windows can be a wise investment. New windows can increase your comfort as well as the curb appeal and value of your home. And the energy cost savings provided by modern windows can greatly offset the initial expense of installation. If you’re deciding whether or not to install new windows, you’ll want to take every factor into account.