Replacing windows and doors is the fourth most common home-remodeling project and experts say it can dramatically reduce utility bills. Yet when it comes to choosing more energy-efficient options, consumers might be overwhelmed by the whirlwind of technology, terminology and options on the market today.
Homeowners need to be armed with accurate information in order to make the best choices about the many available options. That's especially true as energy costs continue to climb. The Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program estimates that the savings from replacing single-pane with Energy Star-qualified windows ranges from $125 to $340 a year for a typical home.
Since Spring and Fall is the time of year when many homeowners embark on remodeling projects, here are five basic tips for selecting the most energy efficient windows and doors for your home.
* Use Low-E glass. Select windows with Low-E glass, which controls the amount of heat transferred through the window and prevents heat loss in the winter. Jeld-Wen, a window and door manufacturer, now offers Low-E glass as a standard for its wood and clad wood windows and as an upgrade option for its vinyl windows.
* Update technology. Replace older single-pane windows with dual-pane units, which insulate the home from both cold and hot weather. Using both Low-E glass and insulating glass units will reduce home energy costs.
* Consider how they're made. Choose doors with energy-efficient cores, sills and frames that provide a barrier to energy exchange. Dual-pane, Low-E glass helps ensure that they will be weathertight and energy efficient. For example, studies show that over time, steel doors made with polystyrene maintain energy ratings better than doors made with polyurethane.
* Understand the standards. Efficiency ratings are based on U-factor, which is the amount of heat flow through a product. The lower the U-factor, the more efficient the product. Efficiency also is measured by Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), which indicates the ability to block heat generated by sunlight. The lower the SHGC, the better. Finally, experts evaluate Visible Light Transmission, which is the percentage of sunlight that is able to penetrate a window or door. Higher percentages mean more light will enter through the glass.
* Focus on efficiency, not bells and whistles. Manufacturers achieve efficiency in different ways. No matter what technology is employed, one of the easiest ways to identify the most energy-efficient products is to simply look for the Energy Star label.