How to reduce window installation cost and energy bills

November 18, 2011

The key to energy-efficiency is not just buying the right windows; it's buying the right windows for their purpose. People believe in purchasing multiple items in matched sets, thinking that they'll save money in bulk. Consider this analogy: if you could buy un-matched shoes to fit the different lengths of your feet, wouldn't that be perfect? When it comes to new or replacement windows, you should buy windows that work in harmony with the effects of sunlight on each independent side of your home.

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The Department of Energy recommends that homeowners in colder climates use a window with a high solar heat gain coefficient in the wall that faces south. And choose a window with a low U-factor. This kind of window transmits warmth into your home during brutally cold months.

The heat gain coefficient measures how well the window blocks sun rays that heat up the interior of your home. The U-factor measures heat transfer and insulation quality of your window. Hence, in warm climates, you want a window with just the opposite characteristics: a south-facing window with a low solar heat gain coefficient that will block out the sun's scorching energy in the summer.

Mix and match features to reduce your total window installation cost

The Efficient Windows Collaborative reports that for northern residents, it's best to orient as many windows toward the south for conserving the amount of energy used in heating. In the central zones of the country, orienting windows to the south will result in heat gain in the winter. Meanwhile, use an awning or overhang on those windows to cut the solar heat gain in summer months.

In the south of the country, orient most of your windows facing north, allowing your home to cool in torrid summer weather and cut down on your air conditioning costs.

The best window rating for a south-facing window may not be appropriate for windows in your home that face north, east and west. You can actually save money overall by choosing the most protection where you need it, and going with a lower grade window on other sides of the home. However, that doesn't mean going to extremes by putting in single-glazed windows on those sides--they are extremely inefficient.

Some of the best advice you can get for mapping out a window strategy is from a window manufacturer or window contractor who knows your climate. When you shop for windows and estimates,make a drawing of your home, marking all your window placements and compass orientations. Choose wisely, and you can reap the benefits of reduced utility bills and affordable window installation costs.

Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.

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