Energy-efficient windows require expert installation

April 21, 2012

The right energy efficient window for your home can not only reduce your heating and cooling bills, it can provide added value to your home over time. In a competitive housing market, consumers find it easy to choose homes with efficient or green HVAC systems and appliances over homes that continue to gulp down energy. While coatings, gas fills and special glazing are important in choosing a window, you should pay close attention to your frames. Frames can take up one fourth of the total window area.

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Fine Home Building magazine reports that wood and vinyl-clad wood frames hold 46 percent of the American market. Wood is the most costly material, and wood frames without cladding need annual maintenance. Wood absorbs moisture and even with the best preventative paints, can warp, rot or mildew. Vinyl frames are easy to maintain, but not flexible should you want to change their color.

How efficient are vinyl frames?

Vinyl window energy efficiency depends on a number of variables, including U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), visible transmittance (VT), air leakage and condensation resistance. You can read these performance ratings on any window product that carries the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label.

The U-factor that measures insulation qualities of your window improves by choosing a vinyl frame over a standard wood-frame alternative, according to Fine Home Building. If your vinyl window installation complies with the manufacturer's warranty, you can expect immediate gains in energy efficiency.

Energy Star reports that you should shop for windows with a U-factor of .30 or lower in cold northern climates, and lower than .60 in the southern part of the country. The average home may lose up to 30 percent of its energy through windows. By dialing in your frames and energy-efficient options (gas-fills, low-e coatings and dual- or triple-glazing), you could save $150 in energy bills depending on your region.

Why choose expert vinyl window installation?

You may know how to wield a caulking gun, tacker-stapler or nail gun, but can you install a new window while ensuring a professional seal according to manufacturer's instructions/warranty requirements? Some installation guides are vague about fasteners, while others will void coverage if you use the wrong-sized screws.

You may decide to use different window ratings for south-facing windows over your north-facing ones. A certified contractor can help you with your choices and make sure that the work is done correctly.

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