Secrets to saving with ENERGY STAR-rated windows

July 08, 2011

Would you like to get paid to reduce those ugly utility bills and increase the comfort and energy-efficiency of your home? You could be eligible for a federal income tax credit to help defray the window installation cost to install new energy-efficient, ENERGY STAR windows. Because a happy buyer is usually a knowledgeable buyer, you may need a "windows education" before you set out on a window-buying expedition.

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Consider these window factors

Understand how these four factors can contribute to selecting the right ENERGY STAR windows:

  1. Frame material: vinyl, aluminum, wood, fiberglass
  2. Number of glass panes: double pane, triple pane
  3. Glass coating: Low-E, tinted, reflective, spectrally selective
  4. Gas or air between the panes

Begin your ENERGY STAR windows education

Visit the ENERGY STAR website for helpful widgets and information to begin your windows quest:

  • Search for manufacturers
  • Locate ENERGY STAR partners
  • Find your climate zone
  • Locate state and local rebates and promotions
  • Check requirements for the 2011 income tax credit

Check the ENERGY STAR label

Energy Star labels--ENERGY STAR qualified in Highlighted Regions and ENERGY STAR Qualified in All 50 States--can help you decide on the appropriate windows for your climate. This quick guide to National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC) performance ratings can help you understand the ENERGY STAR labels that should be prominently displayed on windows you're considering. These five NFRC ratings can be found on labels for all new windows:

  1. U-Factor: heat transfer & insulation efficiency (range 0.20 to 1.20), lower is better
  2. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): how well the window blocks heat from sunlight (range 0.25 to 0.80), lower is better
  3. Visible Transmittance (VT): amount of light transmitted through the window (range 0.20 to 0.80), higher is better
  4. Air Leakage (AL): 0.3 is the industry standard, lower is better
  5. Condensation Resistance: (range 0-100), higher is better


In addition to climate, did you know…

That you can, and even should, install windows with different performance ratings on different sides of your house? In warm climates, south facing windows should have an SHGC greater than 0.6, a U-factor of 0.35 or less and a high VT. Windows on the east, west and north sides should have a low SHGC, according to the Department of Energy. In colder climates, south facing windows should have a higher SHGC and a low U-factor to reduce heat loss. East and west facing windows should have a low SHGC; the SHGC is less important for north facing windows but look for the lowest U-factor to minimize heat loss.

To avoid buyer's remorse, become knowledgeable. Buy the right ENERGY STAR windows for the best price and recoup some of the window installation cost with a tax credit, lower utility bills and the satisfaction of doing your part for the environment.


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