Making Windows More Energy Efficient
Our windows are the largest cause of energy inefficiency in our homes, especially if we live in an area which requires air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter. If we don’t have energy-efficient windows, we’re letting both heat and cold air escape, and making our heating and air conditioning units work harder, which uses more energy.
Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between high energy bills and an expensive window replacement.
During the summer your house is at constant war with the sun. The shingles on your roof are battling back its beating rays. Your walls are deflecting its heat. Meanwhile, your windows are letting intruding light pour into your house.
However, that does not mean you have to let the sun get the upper hand when it comes to keeping your house cool and efficient.
Here’s why and how to insulate windows so you can have energy-efficient windows without a complete replacement.
The Problem - The Heat Transfer Constant
Heat from outside your home is always trying to equalize with the lower temperature inside your home.
Heat from outside your home is always trying to equalize with the lower temperature inside your home. This process is known as heat transfer, and it‘s based on the same principle that causes ice cubes to melt in a glass of water. When your windows allow excess heat into your home, it takes a lot more energy to keep your home comfortable.
When your windows allow excess heat into your home, it takes a lot more energy to keep your home comfortable.
How Do I Fix Windows Wasting Energy?
Not to worry. Options exist to remedy this situation for any sized budget.
When it comes to fighting the seasons, it can feel like a losing battle. While purchasing energy-efficient windows is always going to produce the best results, it simply isn’t an option for everyone. Fortunately, you can change this cost-effectively. Whether you have single-pane windows or double pane windows with leaky edges, own your home or rent, there are ways to make your home more eco- and bank account-friendly.
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What are the Benefits of Making Windows Energy-Efficient?
- Better comfort at home: will no one sit by a window in the winter due to the draft? When you make your windows more energy-efficient, your home will maintain its temperature not only more easily, but more consistently. This makes it a far more comfortable place to be.
- Save money: an overworked air conditioning or heating unit seriously burns through money due to the amount of energy it uses. Of course, because it’s working harder, it will also need more maintenance, which costs additional money.
- Save the planet: burning through that energy not only burns through your cash, it’s likely burning through fossil fuels, too. The majority of our energy is still sourced from burning coal and other materials that produce harmful gases when burned. We can help you change that (find out more about how you can switch to clean energy here), but it’s still a good idea to use a little less energy!
How to Make Your Windows More Energy Efficient: Small Budget
Install insulated and heavy curtains or blinds Pros: This is the least expensive option when it comes to improving your windows’ ability to reduce heat transfer, and it can be very effective. Insulated window curtains come in all manner of shapes and sizes, so it’s worth doing a little research and shopping around to look for the best price. Energy-efficient blinds are also a great solution.
- Cons: A major downside to this solution is that you must pull the blinds for them to insulate. Doing so will spoil any view you may enjoy on days when the temperature is at extremes.
Install weatherstripping Weatherstripping is much like the caulking in the next section, but it’s a budget-friendly way to add just a little extra to your windows and doors, especially if you rent.
- Pros: cost-effective, often renter-friendly, and relatively easy to do.
- Cons: time-consuming and not as effective as other methods.
Install window film Window film is another cost-effective option (typically $15 a window) – it’s simply a film that adds an additional layer of insulation to the glass. Some are transparent, while others are translucent for additional shade.
- Pros: cheap and works well for the cost. Often renter-friendly.
- Cons: can be difficult to install and may look messy or unattractive.
How to Make Your Windows More Energy Efficient: Medium Budget
Check and replace the caulking Pros: Caulk is the “sealant” around your windows. Caulk can be used anywhere to seal gaps or adhere two or more different types of building materials together. It can be an extremely effective way of saving money on energy bills by blocking any drafts or excessive heat from entering the home.
It’s worth noting that caulking does differ from using a sealant and is preferable in this case. Caulks tend to be quite rigid when dry, and are designed for use in areas with minimal expansion and contraction. Sealants are flexible and are mostly made of silicone, which makes them ideal for areas that are prone to expansion and contraction.
If the caulking around your windows is cracked or old, you’ll need to clean it thoroughly before you replace or re-caulk it. This can be done yourself if you’re handy with a caulking gun, but you may require the help of a professional if not.
Cons: Sometimes, if the windows in your home are thin or simply too old to repair, caulking alone may not be enough to do the trick. It is definitely worth trying out before you launch into the expensive and potentially time consuming process of replacing your windows entirely.
Repair Broken Windows If you have a broken pane, especially on a single pane window, you’re going to be losing a lot of cool or hot air. It’s always a good idea to get this fixed ASAP, if you can afford to. The cost of this varies, but there’s no cons to doing so.
How to Make Your Windows More Energy Efficient: Big Budget
Replace your windows with energy-efficient windows If you have single-pane windows, you really need to consider upgrading to double pane windows or even triple-pane windows if you can. Before you replace your windows, an energy audit will determine where energy loss is occurring. An inspector will survey your home using thermal imaging cameras. The inspector will then provide infrared photos, in which a blue section indicates cold spots which you might not even feel or see using other methods. Areas that turn up yellow, orange, or red denote warm spots, in other words, heat loss. This way, you’ll know for sure that a window replacement is the right decision.
- Pros: This is by far the best solution to any of your window energy woes. The Department of Energy recommends this solution if your windows are just too old or worn out around the edges to effectively stop the transfer of heat.
- Cons: The cost of this process stops a lot of people from being able to carry it out. In addition, this process is only effective if done with every single window in the home. If you only replace some of your windows, the effectiveness is reduced. This may result in a big one-time hit to your bank account, but will increase the value of your home, so should be thought of as an investment.
Any one of these solutions will help your windows when they are doing battle with extreme temperatures. And it also means you will be using less energy, which is not only good for the planet, but good for your wallet as well.
What’s the difference between single, double, and triple-pane windows?
Double-pane windows are also referred to as insulated glass units (IGUs). They are known for their ability to insulate a home with their air pockets between their panes that are effective in diffusing the transfer of heat as well as reducing window conductivity.
Single-pane units do not feature air pockets, so heat is allowed to pass through the glass easily. Double-pane units are excellent insulators, and can also effectively reduce noise pollution and reduce energy costs.
Triple-pane windows contain three panes of glass within a sealed frame. The third pane of glass is located halfway between the inner and outer panes of double glazing. This pane creates two airlocks, which, depending on the type of air or gas used in the space between the panes, can improve the energy performance of regular double glazing by an impressive 50%.
Any one of these solutions can help your windows when they are battling with extreme temperatures. It will also result in a lower amount of energy used, which is not only good for your wallet, but good for the planet as well!
How can I insulate my windows better?
Take a look at some of the options in the sections above according to your budget.
What can I put on windows to keep cold out? How can I insulate my windows for winter?
About 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through windows, so it’s certainly worth assessing whether you’re doing all you can to ensure this number stays as low as possible. You can apply foam tape as a great weather-proofing alternative for doors and windows that are a little old and warped.
It’s also worth thinking about any curtains or drapes you have. When drawn during cold weather, most conventional drapes can effectively reduce the loss of heat from a warm room by up to 10%. In winter, you should close all drapes and curtains at night.
If you’ve got a higher budget, consider getting an energy audit and taking the inspectors’ advice on your next steps.
How can I insulate my old windows without replacing them?
- Add a film
- Use weatherstripping
- Use an under-door draught blocker on window sills
- Use heavy drapes or insulated curtains and blinds
What kind of windows are most energy-efficient?
Three-pane windows are the most energy-efficient windows because they trap your air conditioning or heating in the home.
Can you make single-pane windows more energy-efficient?
Yes, with some of the methods listed above. However, you should be aware that it’s always going to be a losing battle with single-pane windows.
Why are single-pane windows bad?
Single-pane windows are troublesome because they have no additional layer to trap in heat or cool air. It’s very easy for heat to transfer through a single pane of glass, which makes heating or cooling your home extremely inefficient.
What is the cheapest way to insulate windows for winter?
- Use weatherstripping and reseal where possible
- Invest in insulated or heavy drapes
- Add a window film
- Use a draught blocker on window sills
Generally, it’s worth doing a little research about the type of windows your home has before you dive into a process that may or may not actually be helpful.
Try out some of the less expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive practices before looking into replacing your windows entirely. Request a consultation with an inspector who can help you to ascertain whether or not it will actually be worth replacing your windows altogether.
The age, quality and state of your windows is also worth taking into consideration before making such decisions.
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