Energy Efficient Replacement Windows

Krypton or Argon-Filled, Low-E, Double-Hung Energy Star Units

Windows aren’t what they used to be. Plenty of contractor-grade windows are installed by residential building contractors, but an upgrade to a krypton or argon-filled, low-e, double-hung model will quickly pay for itself.

A residential energy audit will quickly point out which windows will benefit most from replacement.

Why Krypton or Argon-Filled Windows?

Argon is in fact a very useful gas. It’s used inside incandescent light bulbs to keep oxygen from degrading the tungsten filament. It’s used in processing the silicon to make the semiconductors that make reading this article possible.

With the advent of double-paned windows, manufacturers originally flushed the cavity with nitrogen or simply filled it with air. But they quickly discovered that a slower-moving gas reduces conduction, thus minimizing the transfer of heat and cold from the inside to the outside of the dwelling.

Both krypton and Argon fit the bill. Both are non-toxic which places them in the green building arena. Krypton is the more efficient of the two gases, but more expensive, so it is used in cases where the cavity space between the double panes needs to be reduced.

Low-Emittance (Low-E) Coatings as a Radiant Barrier

Low-e coatings are metal or metallic oxide layers that are microscopically thin and almost invisible to the naked eye. The manufacturer applies them to window and skylight glazings. The end result is a reduction of the U-factor by quelling radiant heat flow.

In this respect, low-e coatings, combined with a gas-filled void, function in a manner similar to radiant barrier foil or paint used in conjunction with attic insulation.

There are two categories of coatings which should be taken into account when selecting energy-efficient windows. High solar gain glazing is more effective in winter, but low solar gain (also called sputtered) wins the prize during the summer.

The home’s dominant weather pattern should determine which type will result in lower utility bills.

The Role of Window Frame Material

energy-efficient windows

Many homeowners focus exclusively on the window and its thermal properties. But consider that the frame itself comprises anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the unit’s surface area. It’s no surprise that the material has an impact on efficiency.

Aluminum: This material is extruded so it’s a good choice for complex arcs and other shapes. A disadvantage is high thermal conductance. It’s also notorious for condensation and even frost inside the home in very cold weather.

Aluminum with a Thermal Break: In an attempt to reduce thermal conductance, the inside of the frame is separated from the outside and a less conductive material is place between the two sides.

Vinyl: Actually this is polyvinyl chloride, or the familiar PVC used in residential plumbing applications. It provides a good insulating factor and the color is permanent since it goes all the way through; there’s no need to paint.

Insulated Vinyl: This is the same as regular vinyl with an insulated core designed to improve thermal performance.

Fiberglass: This material is also known in the industry as glass fiber reinforced polyester. It’s extruded like aluminum, but offers superior thermal qualities.

Wood Window Frames: Wood is the most traditional of all frames. Since it needs to be painted, changing the home’s color scheme is a snap. It can also be fashioned into complex shapes. Routine maintenance is important since wood is susceptible to rotting.

Add an Outdoor Room to Your Home

Outdoor rooms add area and allow a connection with the outdoors

Yards can be used as additional rooms (living, kitchen, dining, etc.), adding square feet, a connection to the outdoors and as an alternative to cranking up the air conditioner. No longer are yards solely the domain of grills and plastic chairs. Today, many are outfitted with ovens, refrigerators, lamps, heaters and sofas.

outdoor rooms

Think about the type of room you would like to add. What are your needs? Think beyond the grill. Outdoor rooms should reflect your lifestyle. How will it be used? Do you entertain a lot? Are you a red meat aficionado? Is pizza your thing? Will this outdoor space be used solely for lounging?

• The range of appliances available is enormous. Explore all of your options. An outdoor kitchen does not have to be limited to a grill and a fridge. Think about a warming drawer, beer dispenser, wood-fired pizza oven, sideburner, smoker, rotisserie, refreshment center or ice machine.

• While you can grill almost any day in some climates, outdoor kitchen appliances are typically only rated to 32 degrees F, so warranties become void in many states due to extreme temperatures, wind and moisture.

• The room/space should be protected by architectural elements such as overhangs and partially enclosed areas. Not that you will necessarily be entertaining outdoors in February, but it does not hurt to block wind and the occasional sprinkle of rain.

• Anything connected to plumbing will need to be winterized (disconnected, blown out and stored). This is a major consideration if you decide to add water lines for sinks, ice makers and more.

• Limit material choices to those that can survive being hosed down (think after-party clean up, mid-summer rainstorms and winter snow as well). Stainless steel, stone, pretreated and exotic woods and brick are perfect for storage and the structure itself. Think about materials that survive well in the climate in which you live.

• Use waterproof and fade-resistant materials for furnishings, cushions and rugs as well. It is better to invest in sturdy pieces rather than replacing them every other season.

• Lighting is crucial. Entertaining and cooking often occur in the transition time between day and night. Add direct lighting to shine on the grill and over the countertops. Consider ambient or mood lighting for seating areas. Many manufacturers make lamps specifically for outdoor spaces.

• Heaters and fireplaces extend the season and allow you to stay outside longer. To create a cozy gathering spot, consider a firepit. For heating and lighting, think about a heater/lamp, which can be used separately or together.