It’s easy to believe that the latest high-tech dual pane windows are better than anything that came before them — their high quality construction, reflective coatings and general fit and finish makes them an impressive sight. When you drive past homes with these windows installed, they never fail to draw your attention. As much as you would want them in your own home, do they really make a difference?
Now that summer is around the corner, you’re probably interested in their ability to keep you cooler in warm weather and save your energy in the process. What can you expect?
Why single-pane windows are a problem
A large single pane window can let through a great deal of light, and make your home feel bright and cheerful. Unfortunately, along with all the light comes a great deal of heat. Depending on the size of your windows and the angle at which the sun comes in, you can let enough heat in to raise your air conditioning bills by up to 18% (you see $18 on every $100 that you spend on air-conditioning simply go to waste). If your windows aren’t snugly installed in your walls, you’ll have air leakage around the frames, as well.
Switching your single-paned windows out for double-paned ones, you’ll see an immediate change in your comfort level. Not only will your air-conditioner kick in less often, it’ll actually be effective. The areas around the windows will be cooler, and you’ll have less noise coming in.
Not all dual-paned windows are created the same, though. You need to do your research, and choose a product with the best technologies included.
Finding the best dual pane windows
Try the Energy Star website: This government website has tools that let you determine the type of climate zone you’re in. You’ll need climate zone information to find out what exact type of window technology will work for you.
Find a great window company: Once you locate a reputed manufacturer of dual pane windows, you should ask for a window for your climate zone, and look at the National Fenestration Rating Council sticker on it. The label should show you how well it is rated for energy efficiency.
Find the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient sticker: SHGC is a measure that lets you know how much heat a window passes in from the outside. The lower the number, the better. The Energy Star website will let you know what the best SHGC number is for your area.
Locate the U-factor rating label: This label will tell you how much heat the window passes from the inside of your house to the outside.
Finding the best materials
Dual-pane windows are sold with fiberglass framing materials, vinyl, wood or aluminum. Clearly, aluminum is a bad idea because it easily passes heat through. Wood is problematic because as a natural material, it tends to twist and warp. Vinyl and fiberglass are excellent choices. You should choose a model with foam insulation inside.
Dual-pane windows with inert gas such as argon between the panes help cut down heat transmission even more efficiently. Find a model with low-emittance (low-e) coatings on both the outside and the inside. You should also look for the use of nonmetallic spacers.
With the right choices made and with competent installation, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the energy saving potential of this technology.