Year by year, people look for more ways to save energy, reduce their ecological footprint, and lower financial costs of energy consumption. Because climate change is an ongoing topic of conversation, families and businesses look for ways to do their part. The push for greener buildings has altered the way people choose and view their windows.
As you become more environmentally aware, you learn about how to maintain your comfort while still contributing to conservation. Learn about some of the ways that windows make a difference and how the push for greener options has affected both individual window and overarching home and business window design.
More Natural Light
Probably one of the simplest ways to reduce energy consumption is to build homes and offices with natural light in mind.
Before the development of ubiquitous access to electricity,people had larger windows in living spaces, such as parlors and libraries, and had different living rooms for different times of the day. Windows were both decorative and functional to maximize interior light.
As electricity became more available, windows were not as necessary for light, and so were not as essential to the design of a home. You might see some homes built in the 1940s and 1950s that have small windows or rooms with windows on one wall in one living room. Often, these windows face the street, without regard for the location of the room in relation to the light of the day.
The trend of small windows or a limited number of windows continued in some home designs for the next sixty years. Small windows were also featured in modern office buildings that used electric fluorescent lighting. However, now that society understands the financial and ecological cost of electricity, design has come full circle.
You see newer homes with larger windows on more walls, allowing as much light as possible into the room. The use of windows as the first light source for a room reduces the need to use electric lighting.
Reduced Heat Loss
A primary concern for homeowners is whether their windows are energy-efficient. Having a lot of windows for natural light only helps to save electricity and other fuel use if these windows also prevent cold or hot air from leaking as temperatures shift with the seasons. New windows are always designed and marketed with energy efficiency in mind.
Newer windows can be highly effective in preventing any heat loss, resulting in all-season comfort no matter what the weather. This is achieved with double or even triple panes of glass, which sandwich inert gases,such as argon, which in turn provide a barrier against any heat transfer.
On a different but related note, single-pane, older windows have been maligned as the reason why homes feel drafty or have hot and cool spots. This is largely true, but these windows can still be functional and surprisingly effective if you take some extra care in maintenance and preservation.
You can help to make an older window more efficient by putting up protective films and installing storm windows that fit tightly on the exterior, adding another barrier against the outside. Replacing weatherstripping and worn glazing and using drapes and blinds also helps to make older windows more effective.
For some old-house enthusiasts, preserving windows is another green option just because it saves and reuses materials that are still reasonably effective.
Another development that now affects the window market is efficiency ratings. These ratings help consumers to know how their new windows will perform. These ratings can sometimes be challenging to understand, but essentially, they measure three different types of energy losses.
Heat Flow Through Non-Solar Sources
This rating is known as the U-factor, and it measures the heat transfer that comes as air from your warm home flows to the cool exterior or air from the hot exterior flows to the cool interior. The lower the U-factor number, the more effective the window is at preventing heat transfer.
Solar Heat Gain
As the sun shines through the window, your room feels considerably warmer. This is called solar heat gain, and in the summertime, it is the enemy of your home cooling system. Windows now have built-in protections against solar heat gain, and the lower the rating (called SHGC), the better the window.
The best windows should have minimal, if any, air leakage, given proper installation of the window. Air leakage is also considered in the ratings — lower leakage numbers indicate a more energy-efficient window.
As a home or business owner, the extra cost of making your windows energy efficient can seem high, simply because consumer mood and demand is ever increasing. However, you can do what you can with what you have.
If you have older windows, contact us at Ken Caryl Glass, Inc., to learn more about energy-efficient options you can try now. If you want to replace your windows for newer, better-rated products, we can also provide direction. It’s never too late to join the push for greater environmental awareness.