Although replacing your windows might seem expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Switching to energy-efficient windows can help you save money, protect your belongings from fading and improve indoor air quality. Whether you experience relentless summer heat or frosty winter chills, you’ll be comfortable in your home with energy-efficient windows.
Let’s take a closer look at how to evaluate energy-efficient windows, when you should replace your current windows and how much you could save after their installation.
How Are Energy-Efficient Windows Rated?
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), windows that let air leak through are responsible for 25% to 30% of residential cooling and heating energy use.
The EERE recommends choosing the most efficient windows that you can afford that are most compatible with where you live. Typically, energy-efficient windows have quality frame materials, low-E coatings, multiple panes and warm-edge spacers, and are filled with insulating gas. To ensure that you’re getting the most energy-efficient windows, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created criteria for selecting windows: ENERGY STAR.
Through rigorous testing, the EPA has created a system to rate the energy efficiency of windows, doors and skylights. It has specific performance criteria that depend, in part on your climate. In addition, energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights must follow three rules:
- Be manufactured by an ENERGY STAR partner
- Be independently tested, certified and verified by the NFRC
- Have NFRC ratings that comply with the EPA’s energy-efficiency guidelines
For instance, if you live in the North, you need windows that make the most sense in cold climates. On the other hand, if you live in the South, you should choose windows that work with high temperatures. The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) independently tests, certifies and verifies how windows perform.
It bases performance on five categories:
- U-factor: The rate of heat transfer, which tells you how well the window is insulated. Well-insulated windows have lower U-factors.
- Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC): The solar energy transmitted, signifying how well the window blocks heat. Windows that release less solar heat have lower SHGCs.
- Air leakage (AL): The rate at which air passes through window joints. The lower the AL, the less air leakage from the window.
- Visible transmittance (VT): The amount of light let through the window. If a window lets through a lot of light, it has a higher VT.
- Condensation resistance: How the window repels water buildup. The higher the condensation resistance, the less buildup that the window enables.
Common Features of Energy-Efficient Windows
Even though ENERGY STAR doesn’t have requirements for specific window technologies, it does have a list of common product features in windows:
- Vinyl frames are low maintenance, provide great thermal insulation and have sections that are hollow or filled with foam insulation. In certain cases, you may choose to vinyl sills reinforced with wood or metal.
- Aluminum frames are low maintenance and durable. They often are recyclable and are made up of at least 15% recycled material.
- Fiberglass frames are durable, low maintenance and strong, and provide great insulation.
- Combination frames that are made from multiple materials. These frames tend to perform well.
- Wood frames are strong, insulate well and tend to be a great fit in historic neighborhoods. Often, the exteriors are clad with vinyl or aluminum.
- Composite frames are made up of multiple materials. These materials have been blended to create low-maintenance, durable and well-covered windows.
When to Update Windows and What to Consider When Choosing an Energy-Efficient Window
If your windows are noisy, leak air and moisture and don’t block the UV rays that fade fabrics, look into updating your windows to energy-efficient models. Sears Home Services can help you at every step in your journey to cost-effective, efficient windows.
Below are four things to consider when shopping for new energy-efficient windows:
When selecting energy-efficient windows, keep your climate in mind. Depending on where you live, you’ll want to make sure that your windows meet NFRC standards to save on your monthly utility bill. Luckily, if you decide to talk to a Sears Home Services consultant, they can walk you through the process, ensuring that you have the most efficient windows for your climate.
- Northern climates: Try to choose a window with a U-factor of ≤ 0.27. In northern climates, you can choose a window with any SHGC.
- North-central climates: Look for windows with a U-factor of ≤ 30 and an SHGC of ≤ 0.40.
- South-central climates: Search for windows with a U-factor of ≤ 0.30 and an SGHC of ≤ 0.40.
- Southern climates: Find windows with a U-factor of ≤ 0.40 and an SHGC of ≤ 0.25.
Ensure that the Window Meets Energy-Efficiency Standards
Make sure that the window you selected meets all of the necessary codes for your region and climate, which can help you save money in the long run.
Claim Financial Incentives
After you purchase the energy-efficient windows, make sure that you’re taking full advantage of financial incentives and tax credits. You might be eligible to receive promotions and local rebates in your area. In addition, you could be eligible to claim federal tax credits once the windows are installed.
Average Cost of Energy-Efficient Windows
The cost of updating to energy-efficient windows varies from home to home, because the best energy-efficient windows are made to fit your home’s specifications. Additionally, when you buy new windows, consider the service that you’ll get. You’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the right service and that the technicians and installers have great attention to detail.
For energy-efficient windows, you can expect to spend between $300 to $1,000 for each window. Usually, you’ll spend more money on the most efficient windows.
Luckily, buying energy-efficient windows can help save you money over time. With this investment, you can expect to save between 7% and 15% on home energy costs. For someone who typically spends $2,000 annually on home energy, they can save $140 to $300 each year with energy-efficient windows, which adds up.
In addition, you should consider the location of the windows. Window location can significantly alter the cost. For instance, replacing the windows in a bedroom can cost anywhere between $300 to $700 each, whereas a basement window replacement can fall between $250 and $1,000. In special cases, such as a basement egress window, you can spend between $2,500 and $5,000.
When upgrading your windows, consider these factors:
- Time demands
- Need to alter any existing frames
- Structural inefficiencies
- Insulation type
Given that purchasing energy-efficient windows is an investment, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the best deal during and after purchasing the product. It’s a good idea to look into purchasing both quality windows and quality service.
Sears Home Services offers a labor warranty between two and five years, depending on the plan you’ve chosen. Additionally, there is a lifetime limited warranty on the frame and hardware.
Taking the Next Step
You may be hesitant to purchase energy-efficient windows on your own, but, thankfully, you have support. Sears Home Services offers a free in-home consultation so that you can understand the process for your home. Our team of knowledgeable consultants can help you through every step by measuring your windows, helping you choose your windows and coordinating the installation process.