The cost of your utility bills is partly dependent on how well your windows assist proper indoor insulation and cooling. Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency estimates that energy-efficient windows (also known as high-performance windows) can yield nine to eighteen percent reductions in space heating costs. Recent advancements in home improvement technologies have made windows a vital part of sustainable home living. A properly functioning window built with energy-efficient materials can minimize air leakage, insulate your living space, and protect against condensation and ultraviolet radiation. Homeowners looking to decrease their energy bills and minimize their environmental footprint should consider replacing malfunctioning or aging windows with energy-efficient models.
Why Energy-Efficient Windows?
If you have windows that are malfunctioning, or in a state of disrepair, purchasing new windows may be more cost-effective. Although home improvement projects can be expensive, having properly installed windows with a good energy performance rating guarantees long-term savings through decreased utility bills. With these savings, homeowners can recoup the costs of their energy-efficient windows within a relatively short period (a concept known as payback, which you can ready more about below). Over time, the climate-control properties of energy-efficient windows should have a profound effect on your home’s indoor comfort, and limit your dependence on heating and cooling utilities. Consequently, you’ll reduce your impact on the environment with the energy that you conserve, while being able to heat and cool your home sufficiently.
The U-Factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient
Determining a window’s efficient- energy performance primarily involves two criteria: the U-Factor, and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SGHC). The U-Factor considers the rate of heat loss through the entire window, and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient measures how well the window blocks heat from the sun. These definitions were devised by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) – a nonprofit organization dedicated to “all things related to windows, doors, and skylights” – to help consumers purchase windows ideal for maximizing the energy efficiency of their property.
The U-Factor is measured on a scale of .20 – 1.20. The lower the number, the better a window retains heat. Therefore, windows with low U-Factors are extremely useful in cold climates. The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, measured on a scale of 0 – 1, determines how well a product resists excessive heat. Windows with a lower Solar Heat Gain Coefficient are more adept at repelling heat, and can lessen household reliance on air conditioning during the summer season. Talk to a local professional to determine the best combination of U-Factor and SGHC for your climate.
How to Pay for Energy-Efficient Windows
A multitude of local, state, and federal incentives exists to assist homeowners with financing energy-efficient windows. Residential PACE (Property-Assessed Clean Energy) financing allows homeowners to install energy-efficient improvements to their property with no money down. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offers residents $2 per square foot in rebates for dual pane windows installed in an air-conditioned space. Incentives exist in practically every state; nearly 30 financing options are available in California alone. Homeowners should take advantage of these incentives to lower the upfront costs of their energy-efficient windows, and generate a substantial return on their investment through future energy savings.
How much can you save when you choose energy-efficient windows over conventional windows? With gas fills that reduce heat loss, awnings that maximize ventilation, and panes that reduce sound control, homeowners can use existing window technologies to maximize their energy savings, and decrease their dependence on utilities for indoor comfort. Energy Star reports annual savings between $126 and $465 when replacing single-pane windows with products that meet the program’s criteria for energy efficiency (as of 2017, homeowners can receive a tax credit of up to $200 for installing windows that are Energy Star certified). The federal Energy Star label confirms a product’s energy-efficient properties, and should be considered along with the U-Factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient when purchasing windows.
The concept of payback determines when an energy-efficient project will pay for itself with the resulting energy savings. Let’s consider the payback for an energy-efficient double pane window worth $350, with a conventional model worth $295, and an energy-efficient savings of $12 per month:
$350 – $290 = $55 difference in upfront costs
$55 / $12 per month of energy savings = 4.58 months
In this example, you could recoup the difference in upfront costs of your energy-efficient window compared to a conventional window in less than five months. And you can still enjoy a continuous monthly savings of $12 after recouping the difference in cost. In fact, in less than 2.5 years, this energy-efficient window completely pays for itself!
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