Today’s rising energy costs make choosing the right window a crucial decision.
When replacing windows you must first consider that 80% of the window is the glass, therefore the most important part of your window. There are so many different types of glass available today that it can be very confusing for consumers.
There is clear glass, insulated glass, Low-E glass, tinted glass, double-pane glass, triple-pane glass, laminated glass, tempered glass, the list goes on and on. So which is the best for your particular needs?
Just about all replacement windows now will have a minimum of clear insulated glass, which is 2 panes of glass spaced anywhere from 1/2″ to 1″ apart, and then filled with argon gas. The argon gas between the glass is an inert gas (that is significantly thicker than oxygen) which acts as an insulator by slowing the heat from passing through the glass. Some companies are using krypton gas instead of argon in the window because it is thicker and heavier. However, the cost difference between the two is significantly greater for the krypton gas. The energy savings, however, are not as significant. So in my opinion, your money is better spent upgrading the glass itself than upgrading the gas between the panes.
Low-E glass is nothing new; it has been around for decades. Ford Motor Co. originally started using Low-E glass in their cars to keep the dashboards from cracking, and interiors from fading from sunlight. Over the years, it has made its way into the replacement window market. The original purpose of Low-E in residential windows was to filter out the UV rays from the sun, keeping your carpet, drapes, and upholstery from fading. Since then, it has also been marketed as an energy saving feature. However, not all versions of Low-E glass perform the same as others. Low-E stands for Low Emissivity, NOT Low Energy, as some consumers are lead to believe. There is hard coat Low-E, soft coat Low-E, double Low-E, Low-E squared, not to mention that different companies use different chemicals in their Low-E coatings such as: tin nitrate, silver oxide, or combinations of different chemicals.
So how do you choose which one is right for you? And since they all look the same, how do you know what you’re really getting?
The government has now made it mandatory for all replacement windows to have a label that tells the consumer what the particular window’s U-Factor is. The U-Factor is the speed at which heat is lost or gained through the glass. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the glass is. For a replacement window, you must have a 0.35 U-Factor or below to be Energy Star approved. In order to qualify for federal tax credits, the U-Factor must be 0.30 or below. There are now some windows that have a U-Factor as low as 0.20 and others that are as high as 0.45. Usually the more energy efficient the window is, the more expensive it is to manufacture, therefore having a bigger price tag for the consumer. However, additional costs to upgrade to a high performance window are usually recouped within about 3 years just in increased energy savings!
The bottom line is: you have to consider what your intentions are with your home. If you’re planning to live in the home for several years, it may be well worth the extra money to upgrade to a high performance window. If you’re planning to sell the home in the near future, you may want to elect to go with a less efficient product to keep the cost down.
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