Have you noticed a slight increase in your energy bills? If you have–and most of your electronics and appliances are fairly new–the reason for your excessive energy consumption is likely something else. Take a walk around your home and examine the condition of your windows. Are they old and worn down? If so, their poor condition may be compromising your home’s energy efficiency, especially when they display these warning signs:
Rotted framing material, which is both a structural and energy-efficiency risk.
Large gaps and holes between the windows and the adjacent wall, allowing costly energy to leak out of your home and outside air to leak in.
- Broken glass, which can negatively affect the entire windows’ thermal performance.
- Difficulties in operation, like jamming and sticking. Not being able to close your windows properly can lead to significant energy loss.
Should you notice any of these issues, now is the perfect time to invest in newer, better windows. Not only will they lookbetter than your existing ones–they will also be equipped with innovative energy-saving features modern window technology can provide. Just make sure that your replacement windows are actually energy-efficient.
You probably already know that window replacement is a big deal. To make the most out of your investment, you need to do your homework. Start by checking just how energy-efficient your new windows will really be. One way to do this is by paying particular attention to the windows’ ENERGY STAR and the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) labels.
ENERGY STAR and the NFRC
When it comes to rating energy-saving products like replacement windows, ENERGY STAR and NFRC are the authorities. ENERGY STAR is a voluntary program designed and implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It aims to help homeowners save money and protect the environment by choosing energy-efficient options for their home improvement needs.
In fact, up to 90% of American households recognize ENERGY STAR, making it one of the most recognizable symbols in the country. Since ENERGY STAR was established, it has consistently shown impressive results. In 2010, Americans managed to save enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 33 million cars, saving up to 18 million on utility costs in the process. When you see the familiar blue-and-white label on your replacement windows, you’ll know they have met the strict energy-performance requirements established by this program.
Benefits of ENERGY STAR-Qualified Replacement Windows
Improved Comfort. You no longer have to worry about overheated rooms and cold drafts in your home. ENERGY STAR-qualified replacement windows help maintain a consistent, comfortable indoor temperature. In fact, you can sit right beside an ENERGY STAR window and not feel even the slightest hint of chill from outside. That’s a testament to the excellent insulation these products provide.
- Increased Energy Savings. Because replacement windows certified by ENERGY STAR help reduce your reliance on your HVAC system, less energy is wasted on heating and cooling requirements. This means lower energy expenses–yet another huge win for budget-conscious homeowners.
Reduced Carbon Footprint. Investing in greener home improvement solutions, like ENERGY STAR-certified windows, helps contribute to the environment. That’s because these windows are manufactured using sustainable building practices and, by helping reduce energy consumption, have less of an impact upon the environment.
Renewal by Andersen® of Greater Philadelphia is the premier home improvement contractor you can count on for high-quality, energy-efficient replacement windows. Call us at (610) 813-6777 today!
The NFRC serves much the same function as ENERGY STAR. It’s an independent, non-profit organization that has established objective energy-performance ratings on windows, doors and skylights. The black-and-white NFRC label indicates these ratings, allowing you to compare the energy efficiency between products and make smart purchasing decisions.
Here are the ratings used by the NFRC in determining the energy performance of your replacement windows:
- U-Factor. This measures how well your new windows can keep heat from escaping from inside your home. Check the NFRC label to see if your replacement units have a lower U-factor. A low number means the window is better at keeping heating energy inside your home.
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). This rates how well your replacement windows resist unwanted heat gain. SHGC is especially crucial during the summer. You’ll want windows with low SHGC because they reduce the amount of heat entering your home, keeping your interior cooler and more comfortable. This, of course, helps lower cooling bills.
- Visible Transmittance (VT). This measures how effectively your windows light your home during the day. More natural light enters your home when you choose units with high VT, which comes in handy when you’re aiming to reduce artificial lighting costs.
- Air Leakage. This rates how much air can enter your home through your windows. Make sure to choose ones that have a lower number. This means less potential for drafts and energy loss.
Understanding a Window’s Energy Efficiency
The ENERGY STAR and NFRC labels can help you determine your new windows’ energy performance, but they’re not the only way. Other factors also affect just how your replacements provide you with more energy savings, like the following:
Through Window Style
The design of the window itself can contribute to your home’s energy efficiency. One style may help reduce cooling costs, while another may provide exceptional insulating value. For example:
Choose double-hung or casement windows for cooling your home. These window styles are champions at providing greater natural ventilation, which can help cool your living spaces naturally. Casement windows can be angled or opened fully to direct breezes into your rooms, while double-hung windows have two operable sashes you can open at the same time. The top sash expels warm, stale indoor air from your living spaces, while the bottom sash lets in cooler, healthier air. Because double-hung and casement windows keep your home cool and comfortable, you’ll enjoy increased energy savings, while improving indoor air quality.
Consider picture windows. This window style’s primary function is to frame a stunning outdoor view. However, that’s not the only thing picture windows are good for. With slim frames and expansive glass, they admit a copious amount of natural light, which can help lower your costs for artificial lighting. Because picture windows are inoperable (meaning they can’t be opened), they have tighter, more durable seals that prevent significant energy loss.
Through Window Material, Glass and Other Components
The framing material and glass used in your replacement windows also affect energy performance. There are many options available in today’s market, including wood, vinyl and aluminum frames, plus heat-absorbing and insulated glass. However, there’s one good combination that sets itself apart–replacement windows made of composite framing material and low-emissivity (Low-E) glass.
Composite. This material is fast becoming a favorite of many homeowners–and with good reason. Composite can offer some of the best features of other framing materials, but without their drawbacks. These benefits include wood’s superior insulating properties, aluminum’s excellent strength and vinyl’s maintenance-free performance. Composite frames resist weather damage and don’t change shape when exposed to extreme thermal changes. Because of these factors, composite frames form airtight seals that help ensure energy remains where you want it: inside your home. One prime example of composite framing material is Fibrex®, an exclusive option from Renewal by Andersen®.
Low-E Glass. You can pair your composite windows with Low-E glass. This advanced glass package has thin, virtually invisible metallic oxide coating that helps reduce heat transfer in your home. This is augmented with spacers and gas fill to provide better performance. With this, you can enjoy a more thermally comfortable home, minus the high cooling bills. Additionally, some Low-E glass options come with sun-blocking technology. This helps reduce fading and other damage caused by harmful UV rays.
How Your Choice of Window Installer Affects Energy Efficiency
Even the most energy-efficient replacement windows are only as good as their installer. Improper installation can result in gaps and broken seals, allowing costly energy to escape from your home. If you want your new units to provide the superior energy performance you expect, make sure to choose an experienced, reputable professional for the job. They’ll know the necessary methods to ensure your new windows have durable, airtight seals.
How to Choose a Reliable Installer for your Home Upgrade
When it comes to choosing a contractor, you need to be scrupulous; don’t just choose any old contractor off the Internet. Remember, energy-saving window replacement will take a considerable amount of your time and money. To ensure a smooth and successful experience, start by asking friends and neighbors for local referrals. While this method seem a bit outdated, referrals offer an easier and more effective way of singling out the best window installer for your project.
Curious about how a given company handles the work? Referrals can help–but your due diligence shouldn’t stop there. Once you’ve gotten a list of potential installers, it’s time to narrow down your choices through thorough research. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can interview them, either by phone or face-to-face. This offers a great opportunity to gauge the professionalism of a contractor, as well as the quality of the customer service they provide. You generally want to avoid those who:
Can “maybe” fit you into their schedule. To avoid sloppy window installation, choose a contractor who will give your project the attention it deserves.
Refuse to give you references. Are they hiding something? If they’re reluctant to give you basic references, this likely means they’re not very confident about their workmanship and customer service.
Need a crash course in customer service. Does the contractor take forever to get back to you, or are they incapable of accommodating even the most basic questions? Even worse, are they rude to you? If so, don’t bother.
Give vague replies to questions. There should be clear communication between the window installer and the homeowner to establish confidence. This won’t be possible, however, if they only shrug or give out curt answers.
Look them up online and conduct your own background check. It’s likely that the contractor’s name will pop up on industry-related sites and forums. Previous clients usually don’t hold back when it comes to discussing their experiences with a given contractor, especially if the experience was bad. In addition, don’t forget to check your potential installer’s credentials. Armed with these essentials, choosing a contractor for your window replacement will be a bit easier.
Here are some of the qualities you should look for:
Licensed. Having the necessary license makes them eligible to perform this kind of work in your area. A licensed contractor will make sure to apply for the applicable building permits should the project require them. You’ll also have greater peace of mind knowing the window installation will adhere to local codes and other safety regulations.
Insured and Bonded. Window replacement is a fairly safe home improvement project, but work accidents and property damage can still occur, resulting in additional costs. To avoid this, work with an insured contractor. Make sure they also have workers’ compensation and liability coverage to better protect your and your investment. Bonds are additional security for you–should a bonded contractor fail to do the work as detailed in the contract, fail to pay for permits or cause damage to your property, you’ll be compensated.
Established. This means not only having a physical business address, working phone and email and/or updated website, but also having a proven reputation as well. Look them up on prominent trade sites like Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau to see if they’ve earned good scores and reviews. Better yet, call up their previous clients and ask them about their experience, or visit their website’s photo gallery to see the quality of their work. An established window company will make sure to give your project their full attention. They won’t have any qualms about handing over a list of references–that’s how confident they are in their expertise.
Experienced. You’ll want your window replacement done perfectly. The best way to ensure this is by working with an experienced contractor. Because they have already worked on countless window installations, they’re bound to be familiar with the best industry practices, including which method to use. This translates to less potential for mistakes that could set you back on both your budget and schedule. An experienced contractor will have a set work process, from the initial consultation to post-installation cleanup. This means they’ll be familiar with the best methods to employ to keep your new windows tightly sealed for better energy performance.
Certified. Manufacturer certifications serve as a badge of honor for many home improvement companies. This means they have met, or even exceeded, the stringent requirements and testing set by the brand they represent. Hiring a certified contractor also means you’ll have access to higher-quality window products you won’t see in any local store. These come with solid warranties that add an extra layer of protection to your investment. Plus, because the installer is certified, the work will definitely adhere to the brand’s quality specifications.
What to Expect in an Energy-Saving Window Replacement Process
How your new windows deliver improved energy efficiency in your home will depend on how they’re installed. That’s why you need to work with a contractor who already has a proven work process. Here’s what you should expect:
Custom Measurements. Your potential installer should take precise measurements of your window openings. This way, your replacement units will fit perfectly, eliminating the potential for gaps where energy can leak out and cold drafts can penetrate the home. They’ll also make the necessary adjustments to ensure your new windows are level. This is done so your units can operate smoothly and properly.
Insulation. Your window installer should seal the gap between the window edge and the frame. They’ll do this by filling the gap with a special insulating foam, helping keep your home free from drafts all year round.
Finishing Touches. Once the insulation fills the gap, your window installer should fit in trim to make it more visually appealing. Together, the insulation and trim create a more durable barrier against the harsh weather, which can compromise thermal stability in your home.
When planning a window replacement this season, it pays to keep energy efficiency in mind. You’ll find that investing in energy-saving options, plus working with the right window company, will deliver a number of rewards that will last you for many years.
Pave the way to a more comfortable and energy-efficient home by working only with a trusted window company like Renewal by Andersen® of Greater Philadelphia. Call us at (610) 813-6777 today!