Slash your electric bills with replacement vinyl windows

May 18, 2012

The new generation of vinyl windows comes with improved coatings, tints and fills that can help homeowners battle rising power bills. The ratings -- along with choosing expert installation -- are the most important factors in selecting a replacement window.

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The USA Today has reported record-high electric bills for last year, marking the fifth consecutive year of skyrocketing increases. On average, Americans paid $300 more for electricity in 2011 than they did the previous year. That's why understanding vinyl window ratings can be essential toward providing you with adequate protection against heat or cooling loss throughout the seasons.

Evaluating vinyl window ratings

Window manufacturers affix the label from the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) on their products. The ratings measure U-factors, Solar Heat Gain Co-efficient (SHGC), Visible Transmittance, Air Leakage and Condensation Resistance. In addition to these ratings, many top brand makers list performance reviews online or in brochures.

Jeld-Wen, for example, offers free data downloads of all its vinyl windows based on NFRC thermal ratings, structural performance and acoustic ratings. You can also compare products across their lines, measuring ratings for vinyl, wood and aluminum frames.

Key ratings on the NFRC label are those for U-factors and SHGC. Based on these alone, consumers can get an adequate picture of how well the window fights against absorbing heat from the sun and how it performs in retaining indoor temperatures. Just remember: the lower the SHGC number, the greater the window's resistance to external heat; the lower the U-factor, the better the window performs in retaining interior temperatures.

Why frame types matter

When it comes to battling energy loss and heat gain, window frame materials make a huge difference, too. Sashes and frames can account for as much as 30 percent of the entire window unit, impacting performance. The Efficient Windows Collective (EWC) reports that the newest generation of vinyl window frames "have improved dimensional stability and resistance to degradation from sunlight and temperature extremes."

Some 45 percent of your total energy bill goes toward heating and cooling. Sadly enough, Americans pay about $35 billion for energy lost through their windows, according to the NFRC.

Digging deeper into vinyl window ratings

The EWC maintains a comprehensive ratings chart. Visitors can download data on performance by both window type and climate. Factors include glass (number of panes), frame types, tints, low-E coatings and Energy Star-ratings.

In addition, you can view products based on your top priorities: annual energy cost, electric peak performance, winter and summer comfort, and condensation resistance.

Fight back! Your research can translate into long-term savings and protection for your home.

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