Whether you’re building a new home or updating your existing home, if energy efficiency is important to you, the windows you choose can have a significant impact on your home’s ability to retain energy. In any home, your windows and doors are the most likely point for energy transfer, which means you have to put extra effort into choosing an energy-efficient window that can keep your home comfortable year-round, while also helping cut down on those energy costs. If you’re looking for new windows, there are four major considerations to make to help you choose the most energy-efficient option for your home.
Step 1: Choose an Energy Efficient Window Frame
Today’s windows are available with a range of different frame materials. It’s important to understand how well each material insulates, so you can choose a window frame that maximizes your home’s energy efficiency.
Window Frame Material Options:
- Wood windows. Wood window frames offer excellent insulation. Wood naturally has low conductivity, which means it transfers less heat or cold into your home. Many wood-framed windows are clad, which means they’re paired with aluminum or vinyl for greater durability, without losing their energy efficiency.
- Fiberglass window frames. Fiberglass isn’t inherently energy efficient, but these window frames are usually filled with a foam core that makes a fiberglass window frame nearly as energy-efficient as a wood window frame.
- Vinyl window frames. One of the most popular window frame materials on the market, vinyl is manufactured with energy efficiency and durability in mind. Choose a vinyl window frame that features air-filled chambers or added insulation to ensure you’re getting the most insulated option.
- Aluminum window frames. While aluminum is exceptionally durable and affordable, it’s not as energy efficient as the other options. Aluminum is highly conductive, which means that even when insulated, it’s not the best window frame material choice if energy efficiency is what you’re going for.
Your window frame insulates one of the most vulnerable parts of your home — the space between your window panes and the walls of your home. The first step in choosing energy-efficient windows is ensuring that your window frames are well insulated.
Step 2: How Many Window Panes Are Best for Energy Efficiency?
Once you’ve settled on a window frame material, the next step is choosing your window panes. Most window manufacturers offer one, two, and three-paned windows, but how can you know which is the best option for your home?
- Single-paned windows. It’s uncommon to choose a single-paned window for a modern residential home. Especially in harsh climates, a single-paned window cannot provide the insulation you need for ultimate energy-efficiency.
- Double-paned windows. Double or dual-paned windows are the ideal choice for homeowners seeking an energy-efficient window. Double-paned windows are offered by all window manufacturers as the standard and can provide exceptional energy-efficiency, especially when paired with a low-E treatment (we’ll talk more about this in the next section).
- Triple-paned windows. Triple paned windows are available and are often touted as the gold standard in window efficiency, but it’s important to recognize the cost vs. the benefit of these options. In most cases, a triple-paned window won’t offer you much additional energy efficiency but will cost significantly more than a double-paned window.
In general, a double-paned window is the best, most energy-efficient option for your investment. Only slightly more costly than a single-paned window, the second pane adds greater insulation for the life of the window. While triple-paned windows may be necessary for some extreme climates, most homeowners will find they afford only nominal increases in energy efficiency, for significantly greater investment.
Step 3: Energy-Efficient Window Treatments
Once you’ve decided on a window frame and a number of panes, it’s time to decide on any energy-efficient window treatments. If you’ve been researching energy-efficient windows, you’ve probably already heard a little bit about low-E glazings or insulating glass. Here’s the full rundown on each:
- Low-E Glazings. Low-E glazings or coatings are a very thin, transparent coating, applied to glass window panes. These coatings of low emissivity (Low-E) material work to reflect heat coming from the sun in the summer, and retain warmth in the winter. Most window manufacturers offer a range of low-E glazing treatment options according to your region’s unique climate.
- Insulating Glass. Another energy-efficient technique used in today’s windows is insulating glass. This treatment injects a specific type of gas between the two panes of your dual-paned window, where it is sealed in. Most manufacturers use a gas like argon or krypton, which slow the movement of warm and cool air, helping improve your window’s overall thermal performance.
The best, most energy-efficient windows make use of both a low-E glazing and insulating glass, to improve thermal performance, and to improve your window’s ability to retain a comfortable temperature in your home year-round.
Step 4: Expert Installation
While the majority of this article has been geared to the type of window you choose and how it’s treated, this last step is equally important. To ensure ultimate energy efficiency, your windows must be installed properly.
Any energy-efficient window is only as good as its installation. If your window is slightly off-center or isn’t well-sealed, all of the great, energy-efficient components you’ve invested in won’t matter much. Choose windows from a supplier who can offer expert window installation to ensure you’re protecting your investment and outfitting your home with the most energy-efficient windows possible.
Many window manufacturers offer their own certified installation technicians or require that their suppliers be certified to properly install their windows. Look for these qualifications from your window manufacturer, and be sure to check out the warranty before you make your final decision. Your window manufacturer’s warranty will outline their policy for any installation issues, and show you how your new windows are protected should you encounter any unlikely problems while your windows are under warranty.
Whether you’re looking for new windows or replacement windows, it’s worth it to invest in an energy-efficient option that will keep your home comfortable year-round, while reducing those energy bills. If you’d like to learn more about energy-efficient windows or are ready to make a purchase, Zeeland Lumber & Supply is here to help. Our team of experts is happy to answer any questions you might have, and we supply a range of energy-efficient windows from a number of the top brands on the market. Give us a call at 888-772-2119 or contact us online today!