Aesthetics are essential when choosing windows for your home, but consumers also want durable, energy-efficient windows. Windows, like virtually all other building materials, has significantly improved in the last few decades.
Window manufacturers have several techniques for window insulation. Recently, North America has seen triple glazed windows increase in popularity. An import from Europe, these windows do an excellent job of insulating your home in all types of climates. Glazed glass means a type of glass coated with a glaze that allows in sunlight but reflects heat radiation. The triple panes serve to provide three layers of glass between the interior and exterior of your home, reducing the burden on your heating and cooling systems.
Triple paned glazed windows increase the amount of insulating space, meaning they work very well in cold winters. They are also a good option for those who live in urban areas because they block noise pollution. The pros and cons to consider:
Double pane glass in windows may be adequate for those who live in temperate climates. To decide which type of windows you need, the pros and cons of double pain glass include:
When choosing windows, insulation properties are an essential consideration. Though most people tend to focus on the glass, energy-efficiency starts with the framing materials used around the windows. Most people tend to choose window framing based on aesthetic qualities, but the framing is where the insulation properties of the window start.
Aluminum and metal frames have remained popular because they are durable, light, and maintenance-free. However, these materials conduct heat rapidly, making them a poor choice for insulating material.
Some manufacturers are addressing the insulation problem by adding a thermal break, which is an insulating plastic strip. The strip is placed between the inside and the outside of both the frame and the sash.
Adding the thermal break helps to increase the U-factor of the window. The U-factor is the rate at which windows, doors, and skylights conduct non-solar heat flow. Knowing the U-factor of any window is essential when seeking an energy-efficient option.
Frames made of fiberglass usually have air cavities that can be filled with insulation. These air cavities give fiberglass frames superior insulation capabilities when compared to vinyl or wood.
Composite frames consist of composite wood products and are often mixed with polymer plastics. The composites are stable and often have better structural and thermal properties as opposed to conventional wood. They are also moisture and decay-resistant.
Vinyl window frames are usually made from PVC with ultraviolet light stabilizers to keep sunlight from destroying the material. Vinyl frames do not require painting, and some come with hollow cavities that can be filled with insulation.
Wood is an excellent natural insulator but requires regular maintenance. Metal clad wood frames can reduce maintenance, but they also reduce thermal performance.
If you have an existing home and wonder if new windows would better insulate your home, consult your utility company about doing an energy audit of your home. A professional will inspect your home and make recommendations about the things you can do to make your home more energy-efficient.
Experts generally agree that single-paned windows, or windows of poor quality, will more than pay for a replacement in saved energy costs. If your windows are damaged, or a safety hazard, replacing them should be an immediate priority.
Once you have decided to replace your windows, and you have learned about the insulation value of each option, you still need to decide on the right type of window. The most common options are:
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