With the transition from warm summer weather into cooler fall and winter temperatures, you want to be sure your home is as energy efficient as possible. One of the biggest drains on your heating bill come from drafty windows.
Air leaks are not always easily seen. One way to test air leaks in your home, and especially around your windows, is to do a “smoke test.” All you need is a lit incense stick. To conduct the test, close all of the windows and doors in your home and turn off any combustion appliances, like a furnace or water heater. Turn on your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans so that you create a negative pressure in your house. This negative pressure sucks outside air into your home through cracks or openings.
Now, to check for leaks, hold the lit incense stick close to the spaces around the edges of your windows and doors and look for a noticeable change in the smoke coming from the lit incense stick. If there is an air leak, the smoke with be drawn inwards by the outside air being pulled into your home by the exhaust fans. If the smoke doesn’t change or remains undisturbed, you can assume that there are no leaks in that specific area. You will want to repeat this test throughout your home, checking all windows and doorways as well as any other areas you suspect a leak.
If your windows are the source of your air leak, you will want to consider replacing your windows with a more energy efficient window. For our area, you will want to look for at least a double pane window with argon gas that is rated for Energy Star Northern Zone. To increase the thermal efficiency of your windows, you could choose a triple pane window or even a triple pane with krypton gas (that could even keep Superman out!).
Today, there are many window manufacturers to choose from as well as different window styles. Your contractor can help you choose the best window for your home and insure they are properly installed.
Are you thinking about replacing the windows in your home with better, energy efficient windows? There’s a lot to think about when deciding what to buy.
In addition to energy efficiency, you have the choice of different types and designs of windows. Some things to consider when deciding on your windows:
- Energy Efficiency – Some window designs are more efficient than others. For example,
- Double-hung windows are traditionally found in many homes. They can be an efficient choice and easy to keep clean.
- Casement windows are popular in windy areas. These windows have a crank that swings the window outward to open and seal themselves tight when the wind blows in toward the house.
- Picture windows don’t usually open and come in many shapes and sizes. This doesn’t mean they aren’t efficient depending on your glass choice and gas filled interiors. These are popular in larger rooms.
- What’s inside the frame? – A double-paned window will provide significantly more insulation than a single-pane. That’s because there is usually Argon gas between the two panes, offering additional insulation. There are other options with additional costs associated with them that may or may not be more energy efficient. This will depend on your specific location.
- What’s the best choice for frames? – Some materials are less prone to heat and cold transfer than others. Your ultimate choice will depend on what looks best on your home and your budget. Here are some options:
- Vinyl – Vinyl may be your least expensive option but that doesn’t mean it’s not the best. A well-constructed and properly installed vinyl window can be the most practical choice for your home and budget and still offer excellent energy efficiency through insulated glass and tight construction that reduces air leakage.
- Wood offers a great insulative value since wood doesn’t conduct temperature as easy as metals. They do require more upkeep than vinyl, wood-clad or aluminum frames. There is also potential for rot which means wood may not be your best choice.
- Aluminum is not the top performing material in terms of heat loss but they are practical in rainy and humid climates. They meet coastal building codes in hurricane-prone areas; but in the northeast may not be worth the expense.
- Wood-clad windows seemingly offer the best of both worlds. A low maintenance exterior, usually vinyl or aluminum, encases a temperature-transfer-resistant wood interior. One caution against these windows is in wetter climates as wood-clad windows can be prone to water intrusion, which can cause rotting where water tends to pool. Proper installation of wood-clad windows should include waterproof rubber membranes around the cladding and the sill pan. This will minimize moisture intrusion and wood deterioration.
As with any home renovation, your contractor can recommend the best option for your home type and location.