3 Popular Types of Energy Efficient Windows

August 5, 2019

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Understanding the various types of energy efficient windows on the market today will help any homeowner make the best choice when it comes to their home’s overall comfort and efficiency levels. This will also ensure you choose energy efficient windows that enhance your home’s style and curb appeal while also saving you money on your utility bills!

The 3 most popular types of energy efficient windows on the market today include:

  1. Triple-glazed vinyl windows.
  2. Gas-filled double-glazed windows with wood or vinyl frames.
  3. Triple-glazed windows with wood frames.

While these might be the 3 most popular types of energy efficient windows available for homeowners today, there are many other features and details that go into window design and manufacturing, and which offer various levels of energy efficiency. To help you strike a balance between thermally efficient windows and those that offer the style and function you need in the home, note some vital details about these options and other window types as well. You can then discuss your choices with a window installer near you, and know that you’ll make the best selection for your home.

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The 3 Popular Types of Energy Efficient Windows

Note a few added details and features of the 3 most popular types of energy efficient windows so you better understand why these are a good option for virtually any home:

  • Triple-glazed windows offer three panes of glass, providing added thickness and insulating properties against outside heat, cold, and humidity. Vinyl is a very dense and durable frame material that isn’t likely to shift and move out of place, creating a weather tight seal around the outside of a window and preventing drafts.
  • Double-glazed windows are very thermally efficient windows and often more budget-friendly than triple-glazed windows. Argon and krypton gas both offer more insulating properties than air, so choosing double-glazed windows with either gas filler makes them some of the best energy savings windows.
  • Wood frames are not quite as energy-efficient as vinyl but wood doesn’t conduct heat and cold as easily as aluminum and other such materials, making it an energy efficient choice for your home. Wood also offers a more pleasing look than vinyl, fiberglass, and other such manmade materials, making wood frames an excellent choice for craftsman style and traditional homes.

While these options might be the most insulated house windows available, there are many other options and details to consider when choosing thermally efficient windows. The best energy saving windows for your home are also those that offer all the air circulation and shade needed for your home in particular, considering your average outside weather conditions and the ambient temperature you desire inside the home.

To help you choose the best window style for home while ensuring you don’t sacrifice energy efficiency, note some features to consider about various window styles and frames, as well as technical terms you might come across when shopping for various types of energy efficient windows. Discuss these options with a window installer near you for even more assistance in choosing the best energy saving windows for your home!

Window Installation Terms

First note some window installation terms you might encounter when shopping for various types of energy efficient windows. This handy guide will help you better understand how windows are rated when it comes to their energy efficiency and which are the right choice for your home, considering their style, price, and amount of insulation offered:

  • Heat gain and loss refers to how well materials conduct  and hold heat versus how quickly they lose heat. As an example, vinyl window frames don’t tend to conduct and hold heat and their light color allow them to lose heat quickly, making them an excellent choice in warm areas or for windows exposed to lots of hot, direct sunlight.
  • Solar heat gain coefficient refers to the amount of solar energy or sunlight allowed to pass through a window. The lower a window’s solar heat gain coefficient, the less sunlight allowed to pass through and the more shade it offers. You might choose windows with a low solar heat gain coefficient for bedrooms and windows opposite an entertainment center or computer desk, for less light and glare.
  • Air leakage, as the name implies, refers to how much air passes through a window’s frame. A low air leakage rating means less air passing through the window and more energy efficiency.
  • Visible transmittance refers to how much light passes through a window and which can be seen with the human eye. Higher visible transmittance means more light through the window; you might choose skylights and windows in a living room or sunroom with a high visible transmittance rating.
  • The U-factor of a material refers to how well it conducts heat flow. The lower the U-factor, the more energy efficient a window or door or other building material in your home.
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Energy Efficient Windows Start With Frames!

Homeowners often don’t realize that window frames are a vital part of their energy efficiency. Various frame materials are denser and more likely to block heat and cold, while other materials actually hold heat or become cold during winter months! Some window frame materials are even filled with insulating materials that make them more energy efficient overall.

While it’s vital that a homeowner choose a frame material that provides the overall look and style they prefer for their home, it’s also important to note how those materials affect the insulating properties of the types of energy efficient windows on the market today. Note some differences between window frame materials so you can choose the best option for your home:

  • Aluminum and other metal frames are durable and offer a classic look and are often very budget-friendly, but note that metal traps and holds both heat and cold. Metal frames are typically considered the least energy efficient choice on the market today, so consider this option carefully when shopping for the best energy savings windows.
  • Wood frames are very energy efficient as wood doesn’t conduct and transmit heat and cold easily, but wood frames need consistent maintenance and are prone to water damage, rot, chipping, and cracking. Painted wood also fades over time and especially when exposed to harsh sunlight and weather conditions, so wood window frames often require regular stripping and repainting over the years.
  • Composite frames are constructed with wood particles including particleboard and laminated wood. Some composite frames also contain a certain percentage of plastic and polymer pieces, making them more durable and less likely to chip and crack over the years than real wood.
  • Fiberglass and vinyl frames both contain air pockets that can be filled with insulting materials, making them very energy efficient. Both fiberglass and vinyl window frames are strong and stable and not likely to shift out of place, decreasing the risk of air leaks around the windows themselves.

Choosing Glass for Energy Efficient Window Replacement

Not all window glass is alike and not all residential windows contain the same glass type! Various types of energy efficient windows will have different glass materials and these will affect the overall energy efficiency of a window and your home’s interior comfort levels.

Window glazing refers to its glass panes; double-glazed windows have two panes of glass, for example, with a pocket of air or specialty gasses between them. Window glazing might also have specialty coatings designed to insulate against harsh sunlight or outside weather.

To help you choose the right glass for your energy efficient window replacements, note some added details about window glass or glazing. Also, remember that you might choose different types of glazing for different windows throughout your home, depending on the direction of the windows, how much insulation you need in certain rooms, and the like:

  • Insulated windows refers to two or more panes of glass with specialty gas fillers between those panes. The added panes and gas between them add to a window’s overall insulating factors, much like putting on more layers of clothing to block outside cold or layering window treatments to keep out summertime heat.
  • Low-emissivity or low-E coatings on glass block heat transfer. Low-E glass is an excellent choice in tropical areas and those with lots of outside sunlight, while also insulating a home during winter months, keeping in your heating and ensuring a comfortable interior environment.
  • Gas fills and spacers between glazing also block heat and cold; argon is especially effective at insulating a home while krypton gas is even denser and offers added insulation, although slightly more expensive than other filler options.
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How Operation Affects Energy Efficient Windows

Window operation refers to how that window opens and closes. A window’s operation actually affects its overall insulating factors and your home’s interior comfort levels, as some allow for maximum fresh air circulation while others are more prone to air leakage and resultant drafts.

  • Awning windows are hinged at the top and open outward at the bottom, like an awning over a window. Awning windows are excellent for areas prone to lots of rainfall, as you can open the window and allow for fresh air and the angle of the sash will direct rainwater away from the window.
  • Hopper windows are the exact opposite of awning windows! Hoppers are hinged at the bottom and open inward. Hopper windows are excellent for upper levels of the home as they allow trapped heat to escape without bringing in too much outside air.
  • Sliding windows, as the name implies, consist of two or more sashes, at least one of which will slide to one side to open. As the window sash fits snugly in the frame, sliding windows are very energy efficient. Sliding operation is also a good choice for large windows as the weight of oversized, thick glass might tend to push other designs of windows out of place when opened.
  • Casement windows are hinged on the side, like a door, and open outward. As the entire window sash opens with a casement window, this style offers maximum fresh air circulation. As the sash closes against the frame, casement windows are also very energy efficient windows.
  • Fixed or picture windows don’t open at all so they don’t allow for air circulation in the home but are also less likely to suffer air leakage. Large fixed windows allow in lots of sunlight, an excellent choice for homes in areas with long, dark winters!
  • Single-hung windows are probably the most popular style on the market today, along with double-hung. These windows have two sashes, one on top of the other. Single-hung windows have a lower sash that opens up and down while the upper sash is stationary; both sashes open up and down for double-hung windows. These windows are often the least types of energy efficient windows as they are prone to air leakage and drafts.
  • Bay windows have at least three panels that jut out from a home. All three panels might be fixed while some styles have casement windows on the left and right of the center panel. Bay windows allow for maximum light inside a home, keeping it bright and welcoming. Many bay windows also have a window seat across their interior, providing a cozy spot for reading or relaxing!

What About Energy Efficient Window Attachments?

As a large portion of a home’s heating and cooling is lost through its windows, it’s good to consider energy efficient window attachments. Window attachments or treatments allow you to block added sunlight and insulate your home’s interior spaces while also creating a cozy and welcoming look in the home as well. Window attachments or treatments also provide privacy in the home!

Insulated cellular shades are an excellent option for added insulation in the home. These shades have a honeycomb design with pockets of air between the shade layers, adding more insulating properties to the home’s windows and keeping out heat and cold while keeping in your heating and air conditioning.

Window quilts are similar to curtains but are typically thicker and have a quilted sewn pattern that allows for air pockets that also provide added insulation. The thickness of window quilts helps to block outside heat and cold that might enter the home through air leaks around the windows, while adding a softness to the windows that creates a very cozy look in the home.

Window films come in a variety of thicknesses, colors, and materials. Some films offer no insulating properties but are dark enough to provide added shade in the home, while other films are virtually invisible but provide thick insulating properties. Some films also reflect light or offer a mirrored effect, providing privacy inside the home.

Curtains offer varying degrees of insulating properties; thick curtains with a dense weave block drafts and outside heat, while sheer curtains might filter outside sunlight, keeping a home’s interior cool yet bright. Blackout curtains block maximum light, for a cool interior and for maximum privacy inside the home.

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Exterior Window Attachments for Added Energy Efficiency

While interior window treatments are an excellent choice for increasing the energy efficiency of windows, exterior attachments also keep a home’s interior cool and comfortable. Awnings help to shade windows from excess sunlight, keeping a space cool even during the brightest of summer days.

Outside roller shutters also block sunlight, heat, and cold, and provide security against intruders! Hurricane shutters also protect window glass from breakage during harsh storms. Solar screens look similar to standard window screens but provide added protection against harsh sunlight, reflecting that light and keeping a home’s interior cool.

3 Quick Tips for Increasing Energy Efficiency Around a Home’s Windows

While upgrading to an improved type of energy efficient window is an excellent option for keeping your home insulated, you might note three quick tips for added energy efficiency around your home’s windows:

  • Switch to motorized and programmable window treatments. Having window attachments that close automatically during the day when the sun is brightest ensures that your home is protected from added outside heat.
  • Add weather-stripping before winter, to block air leaks and resultant drafts.
  • Keep windows clean throughout the year. Sand, silt, and other abrasive grit and debris create tiny cracks and other damage on the surface of windows, weakening the glass and reducing a window’s energy efficiency.

Related Questions

Are energy efficient windows important in a home?

It’s estimated that some 30% of a home’s heating and cooling are lost through the windows! Poor-quality windows put added strain on your home’s heating and cooling systems and do little to block outside heat, cold, and humidity.

How much money do you save when you choose energy efficient windows?

While there is no easy way to determine how much money you’ll save by choosing various types of energy efficient windows, remember to factor in manufacturer or factory rebates and tax credits when considering your investment! Improved interior comfort also makes energy efficient windows a great investment for any home.

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