Choosing Green Windows
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Few home improvements do more for your home from a green perspective than installing new, green windows. Poor windows can heat up your home like an oven in the summertime, and they can account for as much as 25 percent of your home's heat loss in the winter. On the other hand, energy-efficient windows and designs can drastically improve your home's energy efficiency in all seasons, as well as improve your home's looks, resale value, and overall comfort.
David Johnston on Green Windows
HomeAdvisor understands that it can be tough for homeowners to wade through all the "green" remodeling information out there, which is why we've teamed up with green remodeling expert David Johnston. Johnston is the founder of the green consulting firm What's Working, Inc., the author of multiple books on green remodeling (including the Nautilus Award Winner Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time), and he knows plenty about how to turn your new window installation into a green project.
Cost, Value, and Green Window Replacement
The first question most homeowners have when talk turns green is how much it's going to cost. Between different levels of energy-efficiency and homeowner requirements, it's tough to put a hard and fast estimate on what green windows run. That said, there are a few things you should keep in mind as you decide whether green windows are right for you and your budget.
- Energy SavingsEnergy savings can be substantial if you go green with windows. By simply replacing old, inefficient models with new ones, you can increase energy efficiency in your home by 30 percent or more. And if you embrace green remodeling and design to make the most of things like passive solar heating, natural lighting, and thermal mass, the benefits will be even greater.
- Installation Costs Remain the SameJohnston notes that installation costs are the same whether you choose energy-efficient windows or not. In other words, if you're going to install new windows anyway, the only extra cost you'll incur by going green will be for the windows themselves.
- The True Value of Going GreenThe benefits of going green aren't always best measured in dollars and cents. Johnston is quick to warn homeowners against investing in green solely for the prospect of reduced energy bills. While green homes are more energy-efficient, they are also healthier, require less maintenance, and place a premium on comfort and quality.
Energy Efficiency and Green Replacement Windows
The single biggest reason that green replacement windows are so popular is their potential to significantly increase the energy efficiency and comfort of your home. Here is some of Johnston's advice about choosing the best possible green replacement windows.
- Multiple PanesUpgrading from a single pane to a double pane window can reduce your heating costs by 15 percent. That alone can add savings of as much as $2,000 over the life of a window. Triple panes and superwindows can improve overall energy efficiency even more.
- Low E WindowsLow e coatings can prevent heat loss in winter and reduce heat from entering your home during the summer. Most importantly, low e makes windows much more comfortable all the time. In fact, the right low e coating (it will differ from climate to climate) can make such a significant difference when it comes to improving overall energy efficiency that adding a low e coating to your windows generally pays for itself in a few short years.
- Low Conductivity FramesAluminum and steel window frames contribute to poor energy efficiency. Purchase wood, vinyl, or fiberglass window frames and opt for insulated frames where applicable.
- Window Coverings and LandscapingExterior blinds, window awnings, and deciduous trees are all effective ways to reduce solar heat gain during the summer months. Tight fitting, insulated window shades will help trap heat inside during colder times of the year.
- Reduce the Need for Artificial LightingThe more natural light you can let in through windows, skylights, and design features like clerestory windows and light shelves, the less you'll have to rely on expensive artificial light.
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Going Green for Quality, Comfort, and Health
As we said before, the benefits of green remodeling go beyond energy efficiency and energy savings. As Johnston puts it, he's not in the building business, he's in the comfort business. Here's a list of non-financial benefits for installing green windows.
- LooksThe most attractive windows and frames on the market (i.e. wood) are also the greenest. In other words, new windows aren't only an investment in higher efficiency, but they're also an investment in a more beautiful home.
- UV RaysUltraviolet rays are a major cause of fading in upholstery, carpeting, wall hangings, and wall coverings. Many window glazings reduce the level of ultraviolet rays that get through the glass and protect your home from sun damage.
- ComfortReduced energy bills aren't the only benefit of high energy efficiency. More consistent indoor temperatures make for a more comfortable environment for you and yours.
- QuietWindows with higher levels of insulation (i.e. double panes, superwindows, gas filled, etc.) also insulate better against noise pollution.
- Ventilation & HealthPoor indoor air quality is a major contributor to a wide array of health issues. The best way to combat it is to provide as much ventilation as possible.
Different Shades of Green Window Replacement
Going green with your windows is a smart choice for any homeowner, though the scope of green remodeling can be overwhelming for some. If you feel like you're in over your head, you're not alone. Finding a contractor who understands the ins and outs of going green with windows is a great place to start, since they will provide you with the best advice possible for you and your home. And you should always keep in mind that going green isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. Any step you take in a green direction is a smart one, whether you opt for double paned windows over single paned ones, or completely redesign your home to make the most of your new windows and the sunlight they let in.
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