Star quality: Tips for choosing energy-efficient windows

November 18, 2011

Choosing energy-efficient doors and windows for your home is a great way to save money on your utility bills. The right products can help reduce heat transfer, keeping warm air inside in the winter and outside in the summer. Of course, these products can help conserve energy, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emmissions. Spending less money and causing less impact on the environment, how can you go wrong?

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An ENERGY STAR is born

Things aren't always what they seem, and just because a product claims to be "energy efficient" doesn't mean that it actually is. Most trusted products are certified by ENERGY STAR, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

To be ENERGY STAR certified, a product must meet strict guidelines that address the following four issues:

  1. Energy efficiency. Will the product - in this case, a window - actually help to conserve a significant amount of energy?
  2. Customer satisfaction. Is this a product that people actually want to buy? Does it have attractive features?
  3. Cost. How expensive is the product? If it's more expensive than other available products, will a customer recoup their investment by saving money on utility bills? How long will it take before the product "pays for itself"?
  4. Proven results. A product's energy-saving performance can be tested and measured.

Of climate and compass, finding great windows for your home

Now that you know to look for ENERGY STAR certification, it's time to start window shopping! The ENERGY STAR website suggests that your search for new windows should involve these two steps:

  1. Figure out your ENERGY STAR climate zone. What's it like, where you live? Do you have extreme weather, or does the temperature tend to stay the same year-round? The best windows for your home will depend upon where your home is located. Enter the state and county that you live in on this form to help determine what type of climate you live in, and what products might be right for you. Make sure to select windows that are certified for your climate zone.

  2. Consider the compass. You may want to choose different types of windows for different sides of the house. A window that faces south may be hit with a different amount of light and heat than one that faces west.

Finally, choosing the right windows won't matter much if they aren't properly installed. Hiring an experienced contractor--particularly one who has installed ENERGY STAR products--can be a crucial step. Ask your friends, family and neighbors for their recommendations, as well as the retailer from whom you purchase replacements windows. You can also fill out the form on this page to get more information on contractors in your area.

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