How Much Money Can Energy-efficient Windows Really Save You

Some homeowners are reluctantly putting off the decision to replace their windows because they’re not sure if they will recoup their initial investment. Still others are putting the decision off until they see what’s going to happen with the economy.

Is replacing your windows with energy-efficient windows really worth the investment? How much money replacement windows will save a homeowner depends, of course, on numerous factors. At the top of the list is the type of window you choose and there are plenty to choose from. There are single-panes, double-panes, and triple-panes. There are coated and uncoated windows. There are windows with hard coating and windows with soft coating. There are windows will gas filling and there are windows without gas filling. Some windows are filled with Argon, some are filled with Krypton. Decisions. Decisions. Where does a savvy homeowner begin?

You don’t need to be Einstein to deduce that dual-paned windows will save a homeowner more money on their energy bills than single-paned windows. But does the same hold true with triple-paned windows? Will triple-paned windows save you more money than dual-paned windows? Here’s what Energy Star, a government agency which promotes energy efficiency, says: “All energy efficient windows have at least two panes, but not all double-paned windows are energy efficient. Twenty years ago, double-paned meant energy efficient; today, advanced technologies have enabled the development of windows that are much more efficient than traditional clear-glass double-paned windows.”

Just as a dual-paned window is much more energy-efficient than a single-paned window, so also a triple-paned window is much more energy-efficient than a dual-paned window. But what are some of these “advanced technologies” that Energy Star is referring to?

There are four things to look for when choosing an energy-efficient window:

1. The layers of reflective glass coating.
2. The type of reflective glass coating.
3. The type of gas used between the window panes.
4. The U-Value of the window.

Once you find a triple-paned window that is manufactured by a reputable company, you have narrowed the playing field considerably. Now you need to consider whether the window panes are coated, how many layers of coating the manufacturer uses, and the type of coating they use. Some windows are coated with a reflective coating, while others are not. By selecting a window with coated glass, the coating will reflect unwanted cold in the winter and unwanted heat in the summer, thereby reducing your fuel costs and saving you money.

But not all reflective coating is created equal. Also bear in mind that most window manufacturers only coat one pane of glass. Few window manufacturers are willing to go the extra mile by coating two panes of glass. Naturally, this will increase the initial cost of the window. Nevertheless, this extra coating will usually pay for itself in savings many times over. Once you have found a triple-paned window that coats two panes of glass instead of just one, you will have eliminated most of the windows on the market. But your search for optimal energy efficiency is not quite complete yet. Patience, dear reader; we’re almost at the finish line.

The next thing to consider is whether or not the window manufacturer uses hard coating or soft coating. Soft coating is much better because it is more reflective. So why doesn’t every manufacturer use soft coating on their windows? Again, soft coating costs a little more. But investing a little more for soft coating will usually pay for itself many times over.

Insulation can be further improved by placing inert gas between the panes of glass. Some manufacturers use Krypton, most use Argon. Again, Krypton costs a bit more than Argon, but the extra savings that come from Krypton gas is well worth it.

The exact energy efficiency of a window can be scientifically measured by a trained window expert. It’s a smart idea to have a trained professional measure the energy efficiency of your current windows. Some say, “I don’t need to replace my windows. My home is just a few years old.” That may be true. However, some homebuilders try to cut costs by installing cheap windows that are not as energy-efficient as they could and should be. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Have an expert measure your windows for energy efficiency. Usually, there is no cost or obligation for this free service.

Once you’ve checked around and are ready to get a free estimate on your windows, be sure to ask the representative for the exact U-Value of the window you are considering. The official standard of measurement for energy efficiency is called a U-Value, also known as a U-Factor. The lower the U-Value, the more energy-efficient the window is. Here is a sampling of a few popular windows and their U-Values:

Alside (Vinyl): 6000 Double Hung 0.30

Alside (Vinyl): R601 Double Hung 0.33

Andersen (Wood): Woodwright (Low-E & Argon) 0.33

Preservation: 9001/P601 0.30

Anderson (Wood): A series Double hung 0.31

Marvin (Ultrex): Integrity (Low-E & Argon) 0.29

Marvin (Ultrex): Infinity (Low-E & Argon) 0.29

Pella (Wood): Proline (Low-E & Argon) 0.32

If you are considering replacing your windows with any of these popular brands, be sure to ask the representative these four following questions:

1. Do you use multiple layers of soft coating on two panes?
2. Do you fill those panes with a gas?
3. (If yes) Do you use Argon or Krypton gas filling?
4. What is the U-Value of your window?

The answer to the first three questions ultimately determines the U-Value of the window. Therefore, question number four is the most important. The U-Value will tell you how energy efficient a window is and give you an idea of how much money you’ll be able to save on your energy bills. The lower the U-Value, the greater a window’s resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value. One window, though not as well-known as Andersen, Pella, or Marvin, has been able to achieve an incredibly low U-Value precisely because they follow the criteria mentioned in this article. Consider, for example, the U-Value of the Bristol Window, manufactured by Winchester Industries in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania:

Bristol (Reinforced Vinyl, overall window U-Value with Krypton): .18

Bristol (with Alpha-10): .21

According to the company’s literature, this particular window has been known to cut homeowner’s energy bills in half, though the exact savings will naturally vary depending on a wide variety of factors. A window expert can test your windows to find out whether or not they need to be replaced and calculate approximately how much money you will save if your windows do need replacing. By comparing the amount of money a window costs with the amount of money you will save, simple math will determine whether or not it is cost-efficient to replace your windows.

Another thing to consider is a window’s warranty. While most windows are only made to last for approximately 10 years, Bristol windows come with a transferrable 50 year warranty. That’s a huge difference. Instead of replacing your windows 5 times over the next 50 years, you can save additional money by only replacing your windows once.

Look at it this way: The government is giving you a huge head start. One thousand five hundred dollars is nothing to sneeze at. Now consider all the money you will probably save in the meantime. Often, the savings alone will pay for the windows within a few short years. It’s smart to have an energy expert help you do the math. If you still live in a home with energy wasting windows, you will pay for windows whether you replace them or not. The question is, would you rather pay extra money to your utility company for energy-deficient windows? Or would you rather invest in your home’s future value while dramatically reducing your energy bills by replacing your windows with energy-efficient windows? The choice is yours.

Energy Efficiency of Cooktops

How energy efficient is the various types of cooktops? This is a question that everyone wants the answer to when they are shopping for cooktops. While most of the newer models of induction, electric and gas cooktops have acquired the Energy Star rating, some are still more eco-friendly than others. The key is to find the balance between your needs and those of the environment when shopping for cooktops. An appliance is not truly efficient if your productivity is decreased.

Induction cooktops are some of the very energy efficient types of cooktops on the market today. Because induction cooktops use the transfer of electromagnetic energy to heat the cookware rather than the cooktop, there is virtually no loss of energy. Approximately 90 percent of the energy produced is used. This means that induction cooktops may help you to save money on your electric bill each month as they offer some great energy saving benefits. Your kitchen will also stay cooler using these cooktops, thus reducing your monthly utility bills even more. If your primary concern is reducing your carbon footprint, then induction cooktops are probably the best choice for you.

Electric cooktops are another type of cooktops that help with energy efficiency. Today’s electric cooktops boast a number of features to reduce the loss of energy. Many models have duel size burners, reducing energy wasted from pans sitting on heating elements that are too big. Some electric cooktops also have an automatic shut-off feature if you accidentally leave the burner on. Many do not require as high of a voltage of electricity as induction cooktops, making the monthly operating costs slightly lower in some cases. If the green in your wallet is just as important as the green in the environment, electric cooktops may be the correct answer for you.

Gas cooktops are preferred by many as it offers a different cooking style. They are still a favorite among professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts. Gas cooktops may give you more control over the heat than induction cooktops or electric cooktops and, as a result, cook food more evenly. If cooking with gas is important to you, you can slightly increase the energy efficiency of gas cooktops by choosing a model with a lower BTU. Gas cooktops may cost less to operate each month depending on your rates for natural gas. With the cost of electricity on the rise, gas cooktops are definitely the gourmet, budget friendly choice for those looking for energy saving cooktops.

Once you decide whether induction cooktops, electric cooktops or gas cooktops best fit your needs, you should consider some of the durability factors of the various models within that category. Is the appliance insulated? Is it vented? The answer to these questions will help you to pick the cooktops that will work best for you and your situation.

cooktops

Nashville’s Best Vinyl Replacement Windows. Energy Efficiency

A new national survey notes an interesting return to aesthetics being more important than energy efficiency in the consumers decision making process with regards to vinyl replacement windows. I believe there are two reasons for the shift. First, there may be some level of expectation that most products provide enhanced levels of energy efficiency because of the governments stimulus tax credit. Many manufacturers, because of the stringency of the requirements, scampered to find products that qualified. The other reason for the change is that the higher end consumer, who previously considered vinyl a lesser quality product and would only look at high cost wood and clad windows, now, because of the economic realities, are ready to look at vinyl as a lower cost, more energy efficient, alternative. Aesthetics have always been a driving force in that customers decision-making process.

Vinyl windows have been around for over thirty years, realizing more and more acceptance from consumers for various reasons. Many focus group studies have been undertaken by various manufacturers and one of the most interesting things that has been learned is that the one main thing that consumers that have otherwise loved their vinyl windows didnt like was the fact that they had to give up glass viewing area. Unfortunately, most manufacturers dont talk about that issue with the customer because of structural decisions that have required their vinyl extrusions to be big and boxy, leaving the customer to notice it only AFTER their windows are installed and too late to make a change. One of the reasons that so many products have big, bulky extrusions has to do with the increased necessity of energy efficient mainframes to meet Energy Star guidelines. Some manufacturers have made the investment in products that, in essence, allow you to have your cake and eat it too.
One of the interesting things about vinyl is that it shares a couple of properties of steel. One of the properties is that every 90 bend in vinyl increases its structural integrity. Many of the bulky, boxy mainframes available use many 90 bends for structural strength, but this increases the overall bulk of the product. The aesthetics conscious consumer is looking for a product that combines looks structure and energy efficiency.

One rarely discussed difference in products is the variations in the white color. Most customers that have white trim have painters white. Many manufacturers, including some that have some of the lowest advertised prices, still use the original white vinyl color, which has a blue or black tint to it. Again, this typically is not discussed at the time of purchase and is only discovered after the products are installed, too late to make a change. Make sure the home improvement consultant matches their white to your white.

Illuminating The Future Of Kitchen Lighting Energy Efficiency By Capitol Lighting

It doesn’t matter if you live in a home with a modern kitchen that has all the fancy upgrades, or one that just has a single overhead light in the center of the room. If you’re not using the latest generation of energy-efficient bulbs, it’s time for a lighting upgrade.

“Kitchen lighting has made great strides in the past couple of years, not just from a design standpoint, but with regards to energy efficiency. So upgrades are definitely worth looking into,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the American Lighting Association (ALA) and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design. He travels the country tracking trends, and one he’s noticed lately is the focus on energy conservation.

“Lighting manufacturers are spending a considerable amount of time, and dedicating a lot of resources to developing fixtures capable of using more energy-efficient light sources than the standard incandescent,” Rey-Barreau says. “And it’s no coincidence that this trend is growing in popularity at a time when energy costs are on the rise,” he says.

As recently as two years ago, the only fixtures available for the kitchen that used the most energy-efficient light sources available today – fluorescents and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) – were not aesthetically pleasing. In today’s marketplace, however, decorative energy-efficient fixtures are available in every product category, whether you’re looking for something traditional, modern or artsy.

“We know consumers want to capitalize on the fact that compact fluorescent bulbs are approximately three to four times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and LEDs can be three to 10 times more efficient, so we’ve dedicated a lot of resources to developing new fixtures that utilize the technology,” says Scott Roos, vice president of product design for Juno Lighting Group. “We’ll be introducing an LED under-cabinet unit in the fall that requires just eight watts of energy to provide the same illumination as an 80-watt halogen light source. Our new LED down light will be 40 percent more energy efficient than a compact fluorescent and 75 percent more energy efficient than an incandescent.”

Holtkoetter International, Inc., a manufacturer of residential lighting fixtures based in St. Paul, Minn., plans to release several models of fixtures that use LEDs early next year. But energy-saving products are nothing new for Holtkoetter. “We’ve been offering fixtures that take halogen IRC bulbs, capable of improving energy efficiency by 50 percent, for the last five years,” says company president Paul Eusterbrock.

Infra Red Coating (IRC) bulbs are designed in such a way that the heat they generate can be recycled and turned into light.

Hubbardton Forge, a lighting manufacturer out of Chandler, Vt., meantime has concentrated its efforts on developing decorative fixtures that take compact fluorescents. “We have offerings in every category for decorative fixtures that really enhance what you get out of a compact fluorescent,” says George Chandler, president of Hubbardton Forge.

No matter which of the new technologies you choose to go with, when shopping for energy-efficient fixtures, Rey-Barreau says it is important to look for the Energy Star label. In order to qualify for the Energy Star designation, the product must meet specific performance criteria for energy-efficient performance set by the U.S. Department of Energy.

As for concerns people may have about the quality of light given off by compact fluorescents and LEDs, Rey-Barreau says that “while in the past color rendering may have been a concern, it is no longer a problem. Consumers can rest assured the quality closely matches that of incandescents.”

Today’s advancements are quite impressive, but what does the future hold? Rey-Barreau expects the lighting industry to work hard at getting more products on the shelves that use the most energy-efficient technology developed to date – LEDs. “Right now LEDs are still kind of expensive, but once they become more readily available, the cost will come down significantly,” he says.