Maximum Value Energy Efficiency Projects: Windows and Doors

Did you know that just by replacing your windows and doors with more efficient models, you can save energy, improve comfort, minimize condensation, increase natural light, reduce fading and lower HVAC costs? Think about it; with every entryway to your home comes the risk of also letting other things in and out -- such as heat, humidity and light -- that can decrease your home's ability to function in an efficient way. With new products on the market, windows, doors and skylights can reduce your energy bills by up to 15 percent while helping protect the environment.

CURRENT TRENDS

  • Low-E coating for windows and doors. According to the Department of Energy, low-emissivity (Low-E) coating is a microscopically thin metal or metallic oxide layer deposited on the surface of one or more of the panes of glass. The Low-E coating reduces the infrared radiation from a warm pane of glass to a cooler pane, in turn lowering the U-factor of the window. Although Low-E windows can cost anywhere from 10 to 15 percent more than regular windows, they reduce energy loss by as much as 30 to 50 percent. Low-E coating can come on windows and glass doors, which can be especially nice for homes with French doors, sliding glass doors or anywhere glass is used, because glass on its own is a very poor insulator.

BIGGEST MISTAKE

Before taking on a whole-house window and door remodel, it's important to know how your house stands up in an energy audit. Many times, homeowners will assume that the smartest decision is to replace all windows and doors to maximize energy efficiency throughout the home, but this isn't always the case. According to appraisal expert, Leslie Sellers, president of the Appraisal Institute, "Checking for cracks and leaks before going through with a whole-house revamp can save a lot of money in the end." An energy audit can help identify the best strategies for implementing new materials into your home's design for increased savings. "If you wind up only having to install weather stripping for proper sealing, that alone is worth the energy audit."

Once an energy audit is completed and areas are targeted to help increase efficiency, the federal government as well as state, local and utility programs may offer financing help or weatherization assistance to bring your home up to optimal standards. It goes to show that the biggest spenders aren't always the smartest energy savers.

EXPERT TIPS

  • On a Budget: A less expensive option when looking to replace old windows and doors is to use storm windows/doors that can improve the energy efficiency of what you already have. When storm windows/doors are installed in combination with models that are older, the new model can create a barrier between the weather and your home's interior, enhancing efficiency without breaking the bank.
  • Mid-Range: If you are looking to install Energy Star windows and doors but want to stay on a reasonable budget, consider installing newer models in the rooms that get the most use in the home. Good places to start are the front door and windows for the family room, main bedrooms and the kitchen. In other spaces, storm windows and doors, weather stripping or even using window treatments or coverings can add an extra level of protection from heat loss and air leakage.
  • High-End: If you are building a new home or doing some major remodeling, take advantage of the opportunity to incorporate your window and door selection as an important part of your whole-house design. This is a great approach for constructing a fully energy efficient home. Always work with an architect or designer that understands whole-house efficiency incentives before taking on such a large project. They can help build a successful strategy for implementing the particular windows and doors that work best with your home's climate and energy efficiency needs.
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