Windows are one of those great things in our homes. They’re also kind of an oxymoron because while they let in daylight and bring us so much joy and connection with the outdoors, they also put a big hole in the middle of a (usually) well insulated wall. Knowing this when you plan to build a house, replace your windows or just work with your existing windows, can help to use your windows to their best advantage. Your windows can be a big source of heat gain and loss as well as drafts. What do you do? How do you figure out what to do?
Windows In An Existing Home
Let’s start with the most common, an existing home. The first thing to do with your home is understand which side the windows are on. Which ones are on the north, south, east, and west? Why does this matter?
For one thing, the north wind really does bring colder air and draftiness into a lot of homes. Your north-facing windows are especially good candidates to weather seal or put storm windows on, especially if you’re in a colder climate for the winters.
The windows on the east and the west side, especially if they are due east and west, bring in a lot of direct sunlight and often a harsh glare, especially as the sun rises and sets. These may be good windows to put window film or solar screens on or some type of window treatment to cut down the direct sunlight and glare. I’ve used the tilt-able vane blinds; my favourite are the wood blinds.. . I tilt the blinds up so that the light coming in the windows reflects off the ceiling for a softer light. I’ve also used the cellular shades where I don’t care about the view.
Understanding your windows and what to do with them can help a lot. There are also some great window coverings out there, even at the big box stores. You can find lined drapes, cellular blinds, and other coverings that will help to reduce the energy that is lost through the glass. Of course, sealing around your windows will help cut down on the draftiness and the energy that’s being lost through gaps or small surfaces around the window. If you are remodelling and want to replace windows or you’re in a new house and you want to choose windows, you are faced with a wide array of choices.
Selecting New Windows
While new construction windows and replacement windows offer similar features and options, you do want to be sure to consult a professional for help selecting the best options for your home and lifestyle. There are so many terms describing the features and science of windows, that it can be pretty confusing – Low E, triple pane, dual pane, thermal insulated, argon-filled, and more. It is important to look for the U-Factor. The U-Factor is the inverse of the insulation or what we call the R-Factor for insulation. The lower the U-Factor, the more insulation you’re getting. Typically, to get a decent amount of insulation or decent U-Factor you need to be at least at 0.35 which is the minimum requirement for a window to qualify for Energy Star. Speaking of Energy Star, that’s a great way to ensure the items you’re buying or using meet at a third-party minimum energy standard. HomeNav offers a number of resources about windows, as well as a construction terms glossary. There are also some excellent resources on the National Fenestration Resource Council’s website (NFRC). While a little trickier to understand for the average homeowners, your contractor can help you interpret this.
As you are looking at new windows, be sure to consider the u-factor for the entire window assembly, not just the glass. You also want to look at the infiltration rates. This is how tight the window components are put together so that they don’t let a lot of air into or out of the home since you don’t want to pay to heat the outside. Consulting a window expert or contractor that understands windows and how to accomplish your energy and comfort goals, will help them to recommend the best windows for your particular application.
If you want to learn more, there is a lot of great information in HomeNav on windows. Check them out under the resources section of the My HomeNav Dashboard. For other questions, feel free to contact me directly. My information can be found on the Contact page here on the HomeNav website or just call us at 1-877-828-1827. Have a great day!