Is your money going out the window? It could be if your home’s windows are old and poorly insulated. Without energy-efficient windows, much of the energy and money you invest in heating and cooling your home goes to waste. If this is the case in your house, replacement windows are in order.
With new windows, you’ll not only enjoy an immediate reduction in energy bills, but also add to the value of your home with a feature attractive to future buyers and capable of bringing you a return on investment of over 70 percent.
Once you’ve made the decision to replace old, drafty windows with new, energy-efficient models, you’re already on the road to better views and big energy savings. But before you start comparing window styles and brands, let’s cover the basics:
- Do I want a standard or full-frame replacement? Replacement windows are designed to make use of the existing window frame, and are installed with very little disruption to exterior or interior surfaces. In most cases, a frameless replacement model is what you need, but if the existing window frame exhibits damage, plan on purchasing a full-frame replacement window instead.
- Do I need to worry about lead? If your home was built before 1978, there’s likely a lead-contaminated finish on or around the windows. Prevent dangerous exposure to lead by working with a window replacement expert certified in lead-safe renovations. They’ll know exactly how to help you upgrade your windows while protecting your family’s health before, during and after installation.
- No film, please: Thanks to great new glass technologies, you don’t need to add films or tints to contemporary replacement windows. They already offer superior UV protection and have low-e coating that helps to reduce glare.
With these three considerations in mind, you can begin your search for the right energy-efficient windows for your home. Replacement windows can be found to match any home style – but, of course, looks are far from the only important factor. As you shop for the best window match for your home, look for the labeling that signals major energy savings. Windows should display the Energy Star seal, which tells you the window is independently certified to perform at levels meeting or exceeding strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Also take time to understand and compare information on the National Fenestration Rating Council’s (NFRC) energy performance label, standard on every window. It provides the window’s U-factor, a measurement of how well it prevents heat from escaping; Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), or how well the product blocks heat caused by sunlight; Visible Transmittence (VT), meaning how much light comes through the model; an Air Leakage (AL) rating equivalent to the cubic feet of air passing through a square foot of window area; and Condensation Resistance (CR), measuring the window’s ability to resist the formation of condensation on its interior surface.
Not sure whether you need windows with double or triple panes? It all depends on the amount of UV, sound and draft protection required where you live, but double-glazed replacement windows do the trick for most environments. Low-emissivity (Low-E) glass is now common in all glazing formats, and is coated by a thin layer of metal oxide that allows UV-filtered sunlight to pass through while keeping interior heat from escaping. Buying into such a vast improvement in window efficiency means you can even ditch that old-school winter storm window routine!
Installing new windows is an investment you’ll probably only need to make only once or twice in the life of your home. If budget is an issue, replacing windows on just one side of your home at a time can make sense. If you live in a colder climate, cut heating costs by replacing windows on the north side first, followed by the east, west and south. For southern climates, reverse the order to save on cooling costs. By spreading out the window project investment over time, you’ll be able to more easily afford the project while maximizing the energy savings along the way.