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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog


Posted by Jason Haupt - Energy

Let's talk about windows this week. Windows are an important part of your home. They let light in, provide ventilation, and add to the general aesthetic of the home. Older windows can also be a problem for efficiency in your home. Windows can account for 10% to 25% of your heating costs by leaking heat out says the US Department of Energy. During the summer months, hot air from sunny windows can make your air conditioner work overtime. So if you have older windows, consider replacing them. If that is not an option, there are steps that can be taken to increase the efficiency of your windows. Below are some suggestions on how to make your windows more efficient and also a list of factors to consider when you are buying new windows.

Increase Your Windows' Efficiency

There are a number of things that can be done to current windows that will improve their efficiency. These things will help to improve and reduce heat loss or gain through your windows, but they will not be as effective as replacing your windows.

  1. Heavy duty plastic shrink wrap for windows- attaching these plastic sheets, which are widely available as weatherization kits, will decrease the draftiness of windows.
  2. Use heavy insulation window shades and curtains- these can help reduce the drafty feel during winter and help reduce the heat coming from the summer sun.
  3. Close curtains and shades- in the winter closing the heavy shades and curtains will reduce the draftiness of the windows. Opening them during the day allows the heat from the sun to warm your home. In the summer, closing curtains on windows that face south and west during the day will reduce the unwanted heating of your home. Using white shades will also help to reflect unwanted heat from the sun away from your home.
  4. Installing storm windows- when properly maintained and used, storm windows both on the exterior and the interior of the home can reduce heat loss by as much a 50%.
  5. Maintain your windows- check to make sure that the caulking around your windows is still intact and not cracked or missing in places. If this is the case, remove the caulking and replace it with new caulking. If you have wooden windows, make sure that the paint is not peeling or chipping. Again, if this is the case, scrape the window frame and repaint to protect the wood. Wood windows are particularly vulnerable during the winter months, if the wood is exposed.

What to Look for in New Windows.

If you are looking to purchase new windows, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Look for the "Energy Star" label on your windows- The USEPA "Energy Star" label distinguishes efficient products. This is to allow the consumer to make informed decisions about the products that they purchase.
  2. Choose a window that has at least two panes of glass.
  3. Choose a window that has a "low-e coating"- The low-e coating will reflect heat back into the room during the winter and will reflect some of the heat from the sun during the summer.
  4. Choose a window with a "low U-factor"- The U factor is the rate a window conducts non-solar heat flow.
  5. Choose a window with a Low Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)- The SHGC is a measure of solar radiation that is admitted through the window.
  6. Look for windows with whole unit U-factors and SHGC rather than Center of Glass. The whole unit is a more accurate measure of the energy performance of the entire window.

Some tax credits are available for window replacements when the windows are Energy Star windows. Also check with your local utility companies to see if any rebates are available for replacing windows in your home. Remember that having more efficient homes means less energy is required. This will reduce both your carbon foot print and your pocket book.

Information and facts were obtained from (the US Department of Energy)

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