How to Choose Windows that Boost Your Energy Efficiency Savings

It's no secret—energy prices are on the rise. Asa result, optimizing your home to keep your heating and cooling as efficient as possible is more important than ever. But, unfortunately, we can't controlMidwestern weather or ballooning natural gas costs. So, before the thermostat takes a plunge into winter, it's time to think about your home's airtightness and overall efficiency.

For many homeowners, windows are the first step towards getting energy bills in check. With the right seal and properly insulated glass, efficient windows can keep your air-conditioned air in and cold winter chill out, which greatly impacts your overall utility costs.

To help you get the most from your window insulation, we've put together a list of five things to look for when shopping for new windows:

Ensure a Tight Seal

The most important feature of your new windows will be an airtight seal that keeps cold air from seeping in during the winter.Single-pane windows, especially if they're older than 20 years, are notoriously drafty and not designed with modern energy efficiency considerations.

To test for a good seal, close your window on a piece of paper. Think of the paper as a small flow of air. If the window isn't clamped down around it securely and the slip of paper can easily move about, then so can that teeth-chattering winter breeze.

Consider Low-E Coating

Low-E coatings are a cost-effective way to keep your home comfortable year-round. Ideally, this coating is applied to both the interior and exterior glass. On the outside, the coating reflects away intense sunlight to keep the room cool. In the interior, the coating reflects the ambient room temperature. While there is a reasonable upfront cost to have this coating applied, by keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, it will more than pay for itself in time.  

Insulated Glass

Even if your window is airtight, many standard windowpanes don't do a great job of keeping outside temperatures away.Insulated glass or double-glazed or double-paned windows feature multiple layers of laminated or tempered glass. Each glass pane is separated by an inert gas to diffuse heat.

Insulated glass is sold as part of a unit that includes a spacer and frame, so it's the perfect investment if you're updating the window build or configuration of a home.

Don't Forget the Window Frames

While it's important to make sure the insides of your windows are insulated, don't forget about the window frames themselves.Older frames or ones that are not properly insulated allow heat to leak out. Most Midwestern homes prefer to go with vinyl window frames, which hold up well to the challenges of fluctuating weather conditions and provide excellent insulation from outdoor temperatures. In addition, these frames are available in wood-styled finishes, so you never have to sacrifice your home's style for comfort.

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) Is Important, Too

Finally: Look at the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of your windows. This number measures how much heat the window lets in and will help you understand how well a particular window style will perform in colder climates.

The lower the number, the more insulation the window provides, so aim. In Kansas City and the Midwest, since we typically have hot summers and cold winters, an SHGC of less than .40 is ideal.

If your home was built earlier than 2005, chances are your windows weren't chosen with SHGC in mind. Nevertheless, it's an important metric to know, so if you aren't sure if your windows are performing their best, contact Open and Shut KC. We can help you determine if your windows need an efficiency boost.

Now that we've covered all six things to consider when shopping for new windows, it's time to look at the different types out there.

Energy-Efficient Window Options

Double-Pane Window with Low-E Coating

Encompassing all the above features in one, double-pane windows with low-e coating are your best bet for energy efficiency.

The extra layer of glass will help keep your air warm, and the low-e coating will reflect some of the heat back inside to avoid losing energy out through the window.

Double-Pane Window with Krypton Gas Fill

Another good choice, double-pane windows withKrypton gas fill has two layers of glass with an insulating gas, like krypton, in between to help retain more heat. This type of window is fairly common and can be found at many home improvement stores.

Thermal Windows

Thermal windows have an insulating glass interior and a thin metallic coating on the exterior, reflecting heat away from your home. This type of window is most effective when paired with a low-e coating to help keep any heat coming through the window in the winter months.

Green Window Options

Window Tinting

Window tinting is a simple, eco-friendly option that reduces heat from sunlight coming through your windows.

A tinted window can be a good choice for those living in warmer climates where the hotter temperatures outside would otherwise make it harder to cool down your home. Tinting also works well if your windows are on your house's east or west side and subject to frequent direct sunlight.

Window Blinds

Window blinds are a more affordable option, and they're easy to install yourself. They don't offer as much insulation as a double-pane window, but they do still help keep the inside of your home more temperate. If your windows are a bit drafty, window blinds can work well to insulate some of the cold breezes from the main room as well.

Window Shutters

Window shutters are another affordable option if you're not ready for a full window redo. They don't offer as much insulation as a double-pane window, but they still help block outside wind and temperatures from seeping in.

Energy-efficient Glass Options

Laminated Glass

Laminated glass windows are double-pane windows but with an extra layer of glass that holds together at the edges. This type of glass is typically used for storm protection and extra security, as it is difficult to break and remains in its frame on impact. However, laminated glass also helps reduce household emissions by reducing the solar radiation or UV rays entering your home. This not only keeps your energy bills in check but also protects your furniture, artwork, and décor from fading due to UV exposure.

Low-Emissivity(low-e) glass

Low-emissivity (low-e) Glass is a specially designed coating applied to windows and other glass surfaces to reflect heat back into the room. It works best on triple pane windows, but you'll also find it on double pane windows and even on some car windshields.

Wrapping it Up

The type of window that you choose for your home largely depends on where you live, your home improvement goals, and your overall budget. For those of us in the Midwest, where the summers are a sauna and the winters are frigid, energy-efficient windows just make sense. However, as utility costs continue to rise, it's more important than ever to ensure your home is airtight and your windows are well-insulated to keep your home comfortable all year long.

Ready to give your windows an upgrade? If you are a Kansas City area homeowner ready to save on your energy costs, Open and Shut can help you find and install the perfect windows for your style and efficiency goals.

In the market for a full remodel? Total Home can help you every step of the way, from designing your new space to building and installation. Contact us to get started with a free consultation.


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