Winter, spring, summer, fall; we love our seasons, and our lives are greatly influenced by the cycles of nature. We go to different places as they become more attractive each season, and adjust our fashion style to changes in heat and cold. Crops and fruits are harvested differently, and thus our food also varies.
The further you go from the equator, the more pronounced the variation in the seasons; in Utah, for example, we can go through hot and humid summers followed by severely cold winters. The passing of the seasons affects how we regulate our temperature at home. We might not always realize it but we use more or less energy to maintain comfort in our homes depending on the prevailing climate.
According to the Department of Energy, windows account for 25-30% of energy use for heating and cooling our homes. This makes it an important consideration when considering a window replacement or first-time installation; the effect on energy consumption will be immediate and continues passively each day.
An energy-efficient window can be designed for cool climates – providing insulation and keeping in the warmth – or for hot climates, where the design is made to keep heat out. Since you only pay upfront for the window, you’ll save money in the long run. Not only that, by conserving energy that would otherwise be spent on thermal regulation of your home, you’re lowering your carbon footprint and helping out the collective effort to go green.
There are many variations on the design for energy-efficient windows. Commonly, multiple glass panes are used. Air is trapped between these panes and infused with inert gases that reduce heat conduction. The panels are sealed to prevent airflow.
Different coatings may also be applied to the glass in order to produce the desired effect – heat retention in cold climates, or reduction of heat entering the home for warmer regions. Typically, special materials are also used in the frames and spacers to reduce heat transfer.
Some efficient windows can be given an Energy Star rating, which is earned by meeting strict quality and testing standards. Energy Star windows have an R-value of 3 indicating average heat loss through the window of around 30%. Modern technology allows companies to continue innovating, producing ultra-high efficiency windows with even higher R-values, aiming for a standard of 7. Clearly, technology applied to this feature will continue to enable even greater efficiency of thermal regulation from windows alone.
One thing you should note when considering an energy-efficient window for your home is the VT rating, which indicates the visible light transmission. Multiple panels and glass coatings reduce the amount of light entering the room – the lower the VT rating, the darker the room will be.
Like many home improvements, efficient windows will also add to the value of your property. If you consider selling your house in the future, having this feature installed could yield a considerable return on investment.
The Department of Energy estimates that these windows save an average of 12% on utility bills every year. However, in practice, this number has considerable variance as not all homes are built alike. Within the same state, city, or even neighborhood, a house’s exposure to fluctuation in sunshine and temperature can vary greatly. It is always a good idea to consult with a professional contractor who can give a more accurate estimate of the initial costs and average savings you may expect from this project.
With the important factors taken into consideration, going energy efficient with your windows is a great way to regulate your home temperature and enjoy the changing seasons while helping the environment.