Winter is here and glancing through the windows of your home may make you feel a chill inside when you see the dreary landscape, but walking past the windows should not make you literally shiver! If your windows are sucking the heat from your home, the money from your wallet and the joy from your heart, it’s time for a change.
A window upgrade is a fast way to increase the energy efficiency of your home and lower your utility bills in one step. Here are some of the most common techniques and products from basic maintenance to simple window coverings to sparkling new replacement windows.
A Leaky Glass Holds No Wine
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There’s a good chance no wise literary figure ever actually said that, but the principle remains sound. Poorly sealed windows mean you’re leaking air, which means you’re leaking money. The very first step to upgrading your windows is to check the state of your window maintenance.
Have a look at the caulk around the outside of the windows and the glazing on the glass. Is it old, cracked, peeling, discolored? If your windows rattle or you feel a draft when you walk by, it’s time to replace the caulk and glazing and add weatherstrip to the where the window meets the frame (usually called a bottom rail).
Still feeling the chill? Consider the next suggestions or take off your DIY cap and have a professional consultation to find the problem and discuss solutions.
A Well-Dressed Window
Photo by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash
The next way of improving the look of your windows and preventing the loss of your valuable climate-controlled air is to install new window treatments. These can range from simple UV-blocking sheers to traditional curtains to insulating cellular shades.
The US Department of Energy estimates that about 30% of a home’s heat can be lost through the windows in cold weather and about three-quarters of the sunlight entering a room in the summer will be converted to heat. Simply physically blocking this energy exchange with a window treatment can save you money each year.
In particular, cellular shades are made with honeycomb-shaped air pockets which trap air and provide great insulation. Properly installed shades can cut your heating costs by as much as one-fifth!
Once you find the best choice for your budget and decor, remember a few tips:
- keep your window covering as close to the windows as possible
- avoid gaps at the sides and where the material meets in the middle
- open and close during the day to best utilize or avoid the sunlight streaming in
A Thin Layer of Savings
Photo by Alexander Leonhardt on Unsplash
If you don’t want to ruin your view or you have windows that are not easy to frame with fabric, consider UV-protecting window tint or exterior shutters. Both of these options are good for blocking the sun’s heat from entering your house, but being primarily summer helpers doesn’t mean they don’t pull their weight in winter, too.
Window tint can reduce heat loss by providing another layer of reflectivity to bounce warm air from your heating system back into the rooms of your house. Window tint also has the advantage of filtering damaging ultraviolet rays that can fade furniture and flooring in summer and winter.
Exterior shutters are an old-fashioned solution that has been updated with a great variety of materials and styles. While they don’t help much with heat retention, these can block as much or as little light as you like and they offer the advantage of protection against inclement weather which can be especially hard on your windows. Both tint and shutters can enhance energy efficiency in a much more visually subtle manner than window treatments.
One Piece at a Time
Photo by energy.gov
If none of these simpler methods are providing the efficiency boost you’re looking for, consider changing some of your present components for energy-saving new parts.
Very old window glass that tends to get foggy can be replaced with sparkling new panes without changing the entire window. You’ll want to keep in mind that foggy glass is just a symptom of a failed window seal. During extreme weather the window frame expands and contracts, too much of this and it can cause the seal around the glass to break. The real solution for a failed window seal is a replacement window with better thermal performance.
You might also consider low-E interior storm windows. The addition of storm windows to your home can improve energy efficiency by reflecting heat back inside the house. All of these solutions will save you money but they are just alternatives to replacing your windows and may not completely address the underlying problems. For example, adding storm windows will not seal any gaps around the existing frame and replacing the existing glass won’t prevent the sealant around the glass from breaking again.
Out With the Old, In With the New
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If you’ve already tried or rejected the prior suggestions and you’re ready to take the plunge into the ultimate upgrade for maximum efficiency, congratulations! Yes, the initial expense will be higher, but once your new windows are installed, you will be done with the whole issue for several years.
Additionally, your house will increase in value, your energy bills will be reduced and you’ll enhance the style of your home inside and out. There are so many exciting materials and styles available now and energy-efficiency ratings are a standard part of the product information, so you’ll know exactly what to expect.
The first and most important step to getting your brand-new windows is to find a window company you’re comfortable with. Their salespeople will be able to explain all the options and let you see samples in their showroom. Installation crews will be inside your home for days so you should feel comfortable with them and the process.
Shopping for new windows can be an exciting time and great learning opportunity. Enjoy the chance to compare vinyl, wood, aluminum and other replacement window options that are available now.
Most importantly of all, regardless of how you decide to address your leaky window problem, make sure to ask a million questions during the whole process. Whether hiring a handyman for installing shutters or tearing out the old windows with gleeful abandon you should feel comfortable asking questions about each step of the process.
Remember, you’ve made a good decision to be proactive and solve your window problems; your good sense and the right information will make your upgrade an A+!