July 26, 2018

So, you’re in the market for new windows. Your energy auditor may have come in, done an energy audit, and recommended that you upgrade your old windows to save you money on your utility bills and to eliminate those pesky drafts you feel throughout the house. (Note: While updating windows might seem like the best first step to take in making your home more efficient, it might not reap the most benefits for your specific home. We highly recommend getting an energy audit done before you decide to take the leap.)

Windows provide light, ventilation, warmth, and style to a home, but they can also cause inefficiencies if you choose the wrong type for your space, or if they are incorrectly installed.

This blog will focus on the different types of energy efficient windows available and how they can help you save energy and money in the long run.

What are the different types of windows available and how efficient are they?

Different types of windows allow different levels of air leakage. Awning, hopper, and casement windows have sashes that close by pressing against the window frame, providing lower air leakage rates than sliding and double-hung windows. Fixed windows are generally air tight, but obviously don’t allow any ventilation. Following are descriptions of these window types:

  • Awning: These windows are hinged at the top and open outward to allow air in from the bottom, left, or right.
  • Casement: You can open these hinged windows with the turn of a crank. They can open outward from either the left or right side, depending on where the hinge is located.
  • Double-Hung: These windows have two sashes that slide up and down on the frame. You can open either the top or bottom panel of the window (as opposed to single-hung, which can only open on the bottom).
  • Fixed: Fixed windows don’t open, but can come in any shape or size you choose.
  • Hopper: Like casement windows, hopper windows are on a hinge, but they open downward and inward.
  • Sliding: Gliding along a track, these sliding windows have one window that slides horizontally over or past the other window.

What are the best windows to buy for your home?

The best window type(s) to install in your home could differ from what would work best even for your neighbors. Before jumping in, think about what types of windows (listed above) will work best for your space that will also improve your home’s efficiency.

As a rule, ENERGY STAR® labeled windows are more efficient than those that haven’t been labeled. ENERGY STAR® established minimum energy performance rating criteria by climate, but these labels do not account for window orientation.

For example, a home should have few windows on its east- and west-facing sides, since it’s hard to control heat and light when the sun is low in the sky. North-facing windows also collect little heat, but can let in a lot of light. South-facing windows, however, should have a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of greater than 0.6 to maximize solar heat gain and light transfer.

The energy efficiency of a window depends on all of its parts, from its frame type, U-factor, glazing, and more.

How much money can you save over time by installing energy efficient windows?

Different parts of the country can save different amounts of money when homeowners upgrade to an ENERGY STAR® rated window from either a single- or double-paned or more inefficient model. For a typical home, you could save $126-$465 a year when replacing single-pane windows and $27-$111 a year when replacing double-pane, clear glass windows.

What’s also great about upgrading your windows is that there may be rebates and incentives available from local programs or utilities to help you pay for these upgrades. For example, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), City of San Marcos, TX, and Columbia Gas of Virginia all offer the ability to receive rebates for installing new windows if you meet all requirements.

Finally, even the most energy efficient window won’t be as energy efficient if it is installed incorrectly. We recommend that you have a professional install them for you.

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Quinn Korzeniecki

Quinn Korzeniecki joined the Building Performance Institute, Inc. team as the Senior Marketing and Communications Associate in August 2015. As a new first-time homeowner herself, she enjoys sharing information on how other homeowners can not only save money and energy by being efficient, but can also keep themselves, and their families, safe and healthy in the process.