When it comes to making your home more eco-friendly, one of the most important steps is to choose the right windows. Traditional single-pane windows are known for letting out precious heat or cooling in your home, and it is estimated that between 15 and 22% of the heat in a home is lost to single-paned windows. This can have a negative impact on your ecological footprint, as well as your utility bills. To reduce energy bills, you may have plugged many of your home's air leaks and added insulation to the attic floor, but what should you do with your old windows? The answer depends on the condition of the windows.
Sometimes it makes sense to leave them as they are, while other times it may be best to repair window strips and add storm windows. In some cases, replacing old windows with new, energy-saving windows is the best option. Triple-glazed windows are becoming increasingly popular in Europe, where they are now standard in almost every new home. In the US, builders of super-insulated homes in cold climates consider triple-glazed windows essential.
Manufacturers offer triple-glazed windows with high solar gain, and many Americans get these windows from Canadian manufacturers. Homeowners can now receive a federal tax credit for 30% of the cost of new energy efficient windows, authorized by the US Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed by President Obama in February. European window manufacturers produce exceptional windows, and some high-efficiency home builders in North America are turning to them for their glazing. The well-known NFC sticker found on most new windows sold in the US includes a number in the upper left box labeled “U factor”.
This is an important measure of a window's energy efficiency, and understanding it can help you choose the right green windows for your family. Vinyl windows are environmentally friendly and often considered one of the best economic options when looking for new or replacement windows. Low-emissivity glass can have a low solar heat gain coefficient or a high SHGC, depending on your climate and needs. Fiberglass frames are one of the most expensive options on the market but also one of the most durable and environmentally friendly window frame materials available.
Argon-filled windows are also an excellent choice for green homes, as they provide an air space between two panes of glass that helps keep hot air out and prevents fog or frost from forming on the window. Mix equal parts vinegar, water, and isopropyl alcohol to make an easy-to-make, scratch-free cleaner you can use around the house to make sure your windows aren't toxic. For most homeowners, understanding all the components of an energy efficient window can greatly help them choose the right green windows for their family. Savings reflect the installation of ENERGY STAR certified products compared to non-certified ones by replacing single-panel windows, based on average savings among homes in modeled cities.