3 considerations for double pane window replacements

January 06, 2012

If you've recently made the decision to invest in energy-saving products for your home--congratulations! This is a smart move for any home owner, as the act of conserving energy can also save you money on your utility bill. Choosing the right windows will be a key decision in your "green" revamp.

Double pane, double protection

Double pane windows are pretty much exactly what they sound like--two panes of glass that act as the bread on either end of an argon sandwich. This layer of stable gas acts as an insulator, helping to keep warm air inside of your house in the winter, and outside in the summer. It's a simple concept, but one that produces brilliant and toasty results.

Additional insulating powers are provided by low-emissivity (low-e) coating, a microscopically thin coating of metal or metallic oxide that's applied directly to the window pane. Low-e helps to lower a window's U-factor--the rate at which the window conducts non-solar heat. Essentially, the lower a U-factor, the better a window is at conserving heat and energy.

Choosing the right window

There are, of course, several brands of double pane windows for home owners to choose from. But which ones are the right ones for your home? The answer is that it depends on where you live and what the climate is like there. But there are a few guidelines for everyone to consider:

  1. Energy Star-certification. The U.S Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have teamed up to develop a strict set of guidelines for energy-efficient home products. Look for Energy Star-certification to indicate that the double pane windows that look pretty also act as a take-no-prisoners bodyguard against the elements.
  2. Design. Are you replacing a large picture window, or the window over your kitchen sink? Do you want the window to open? Inward or outward? Via crank handle? Sliding them up? Sliding them sideways? Consider both form and function when deciding what design to choose.
  3. U-Factor and SHGC rating. As mentioned before, the lower a window's U-factor, the more efficient it is at preventing non-solar heat transfer. A window's Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is the solar equivalent - the lower the SHGC, the more efficient the window is at preventing the transfer of solar heat. Double pane windows with low SHGC are a great choice for people who live in very hot climates and want to block out harsh heat from the sun.

Top brands

Consumer Reports lists the following brands as among the top choices for Low-e and energy-efficient windows:

  • Alside
  • Andersen
  • CertainTeed
  • Marvin
  • Peachtree
  • Pella
  • Survivor

These brands may all be good choices for your home, depending on the climate where you live. The Energy Star website features a helpful guide to determining your home's climate zone, which may ultimately be the deciding factor in selecting your double pane windows.

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