Green windows are becoming more and more popular as energy costs increase and environmental concerns are on the minds of just about everyone. You've probably heard about energy efficient windows, which make sense for consumers, but green windows go a bit further than saving energy.
Your climate, location of windows in your home, size of windows, source and sustainability of window frame materials and even window treatments and cleaning your windows are all part and parcel of the green windows movement.
Learn the Green Windows Lingo
Your climate is a vital factor in choosing your green windows in terms of energy efficiency. Do you live in a tropical environment? If so, you'll want to focus on windows that help keep your home cool. Same thing if you live in a cooler climate – windows that help hold the heat in would be the best choice. You can even try to find the best of both worlds for moderate climates. While manufacturers usually print specs to help you with this choice, it helps if you know the basic language:
- Double and multiple pane windows help to hold the heat in better
- Low E coated windows help make your home more comfortable and efficient in combination climates
- Low conductivity frames such as wood, vinyl or fiberglass are better energy savers than aluminum and steel window frames. Insulated frames are better.
Moisture in your climate is also a key factor to consider while looking to replace your current windows with green windows. If you live in rainy or damp climate, you will want to choose windows that are condensation resistant so that the window itself does not become damaged by the moisture in the air.
If you are into more detailed technical aspects of green windows, check out U.S. Department of Energy Selecting Windows for Energy Efficiency which gives a thorough review of insulation, glass types and frames, and you can also refer to a previous article about window replacement on this site.
Green Windows and Placement
To maximize the efficiency of your windows, figure out how window placement affects the temperature in your home. If you find a room that is sunny for the majority of the day to be uncomfortably warm, especially during the summer months, then you may want to consider tinted windows. You may prefer windows with higher condensation and moisture resistance for rooms that receive little sunlight during the day, depending on how cold your climate is.
It's a bit of a balancing act, because larger and more windows let in more natural light, which reduces artificial lighting energy usage, but larger windows can also draw a larger area for heat and cold to enter your home. Skylights, for example, are a great way to let in more natural light, but a hot summer sun can warm your room unless you choose a window designed to deflect the heat. Combining placement with the window that best suits your environment can make a big difference and contribute to your green windows project.
What About My Old Wood Window Frames?
I've seen homes with beautiful old wood window frames that when replaced with newer green windows just don't have the same character. Some historical societies are recommending that old wood windows should be refurbished and repaired rather than replaced because wood is a sustainable product and lasts longer than today's replacement windows, and wood is energy efficient. There is some merit to this argument in terms of cost, because even though the up front cost to repair and refurbish old wood frames might be costly, they will last longer that the 15-25 year guarantees on most new windows, saving money in the long run.
On the other hand, the glass in the old windows generally may need to be replaced or coated to help with some of the climate and placement issues mentioned earlier. Bottom line is that you have the choice of modern, green windows or fixing your old wood frames and both choices have green windows merit.
How Much Can I Save with New Green Windows?
Good question, and the answer depends on who you ask. The general consensus, is that efficient green windows can help you save money on your energy bill. Energy Star says energy bill savings in replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR qualified windows is about 7-15 percent. Other estimates go from as low as $27 a year to as much as $465 a year, all depending on types of windows, climate and size of your home. The cost to replace a window runs from $150 to $1000 or more, so it will be a while before you see the return on your investment. It's possible that refurbishing your current windows and/or insulating your windows is a better, cost effective viable option, as long as there are no leaks or serious structural damage.
Federal and state savings for installing energy efficient green windows are available if they are Energy Star rated and you don't have to replace all your windows to apply for this credit.
Window Coverings and Cleaning
There are a myriad of products on the market now for cleaning windows with natural ingredients and they are readily available at grocery and cleaning supply stores. The point is to reduce the amount of chemicals we are using in the cleaning process. Window coverings, both internal and external, are readily available in green options as well. Natural fabrics, wood, bamboo are good choices for internal treatments, while considering outdoor awnings to keep your home from getting too warm is still another consideration.
While going green in your window selections may not save as much energy cost as say, a solar heating system, it can help with your costs and is the green thing to do.
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