Efficiency With Style

Whether building a new house or looking to renovate, the choice of windows has several important components beyond the design and style for homeowners to consider. In the Midwest, double hung windows continue to be the most popular style. Both sashes can be opened for ventilation, plus they tilt in for easy cleaning. But new technologies in energy efficiency, construction style and even safety add important options. And in today’s economy, what about price?

“We continually see homeowners make decisions based on value instead of price,” says Dennis M. Lane, president and CEO of Thermal Windows, Inc., a Tulsa-based window and door manufacturer.

Although there are no current tax incentives for purchasing energy efficient windows, most homeowners are paying attention to options that can reduce their energy bills. “Surprisingly, what we haven’t seen are homeowners wanting to reduce the size of their windows,” says Lane. “We know that a wall is more energy efficient than a large expanse of glass, but so far homeowners are not willing to sacrifice the amount of natural light coming into their home.”

And that is why ongoing improvements in window technology continue to be important for manufacturers and consumers. Luckily, there are several resources for consumers to research during their decision making process. The American Architectural Manufacturing Association (AAMA) provides air infiltration, water infiltration and structural testing. “We recommend homeowners make sure any window they are considering has been AAMA tested,” says Brett Claxton, division manager and local partner for Champion Window Manufacturing, Inc. in Oklahoma City.

In addition, energy performance ratings from the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) provide statistics that help in purchasing windows based on their potential for gaining and losing heat, as well as transmitting sunlight. The NFRC uses a uniform, independent rating and labeling system for the energy performance of doors, skylights and windows. The organization’s website offers a convenient way to research a specific window’s energy properties that also allows consumers to compare products.

Also, the Energy Star designation indicates products that meet certain energy performance criteria. And since the performance varies by climate, product recommendations are given for four climate zones. Most of Oklahoma, except for parts of the Panhandle, fall into the heating and cooling zone of South/Central.

Because most of the window is glass, the type and quality of the glazing has the biggest effect on energy efficiency. “We consistently test new glass technologies to continue to improve our windows’ performance,” says Lane. Look for double and triple insulated glass. Inert gas, such as argon or krypton gas, added between the panes also improves thermal performance. Also, low-emissivity (low-e) coatings on the glass have been designed to allow for high solar gain, moderate solar gain, or low solar gain.

Finally, Claxton cautions consumers to beware of bargain windows that can often be poor quality with the manufacturers long gone when, years later, maintenance issues often occur. “Research each company’s warranty,” warns Claxton, and look for policies on ownership transfer details, guarantees against failure of the window’s glass, frame and sash as well as replacement stipulations.