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, and improve indoor air quality. Whether you experience relentless summer heat or frosty winter chills, you’ll remain comfortable in your home with energy-efficient windows.
In this guide, we’ll 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, windows that allow for heat loss and gain account for between 25% and 30% of residential cooling and heating energy use.
They recommend that you choose the most efficient windows that you can afford and that are most compatible with where you live. Typically, energy-efficient windows will be made of quality frame materials, low-E coatings, multiple panes, gas fills, and warm edge spacers. To ensure that you’re getting the most energy-efficient windows, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created criteria for selecting windows: Energy Star.
Through rigorous testing, the U.S. government has created a system to rate windows, doors, and skylights as energy-efficient. It has specific performance criteria that are, in part, dependent on your climate. In addition, energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights must follow three rules:
- Manufactured by an Energy Star partner
- Independently tested, certified, and verified by the NFRC
- Have NFRC ratings that comply with the energy-efficiency guidelines set by the EPA
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 off five categories:
- U-factor: This measures the rate of heat transfer, telling you how well the window is insulated. Well-insulated windows have lower U-factors.
- Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC): This measures the solar energy transmitted, signifying how well the window blocks heat. Windows that release less solar heat have lower SHGCs.
- Air leakage (AL): This measures the rate at which air passes through window joints. The lower the AL, the less air leakage from the window.
- Visible transmittance (VT): This measures the amount of light let through the window. If a window lets through a lot of light, it has a higher VT.
- Condensation resistance: This measures 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 does not have requirements for specific technologies, it does have a list of common product features in windows, which are listed below.
- Vinyl: These frames are low maintenance, provide great thermal insulation, and have sections hollow or filled with foam insulation. In certain cases, you may choose to reinforce vinyl sills with wood or metal.
- Aluminum: These frames are low maintenance and durable. They also tend to be recyclable and are made up of at least 15% recycled material.
- Fiberglass: These frames are durable, low maintenance, strong, and provide great insulation.
- Combination: These are window frames that are made from multiple materials. These frames tend to provide really good performance because of their build.
- Wood: These frames are strong, and they also provide good insulation and tend to be a great fit in historic neighborhoods. Often, the exterior surfaces are clad, which means they are covered by vinyl or aluminum.
- Composite: 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
Although it’s tempting to stick with your current windows, you might be left with air and moisture leaks, which result in noisiness, fading furniture, and other inefficiencies. If you’re starting to notice these issues, it’s a good idea to look into updating your windows to energy-efficient models. Thankfully, Sears Home Services can help you every step of the way. Many of our windows are Energy Star-certified, making the process of buying new windows cost-effective and efficient.
Below are four things to consider when shopping for new energy-efficient windows:
When selecting energy-efficient windows, consider the performance criteria with 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: You should try to find 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
Before you check out, make sure that the window you selected meets all of the necessary standards for your region and climate. This can help you save money in the long run.
Claim Financial Incentives
After you purchase the energy-efficient windows, make sure that you are taking full advantage of financial incentives and tax credits. Keep in mind that 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 you make these installations in your home.
Cost of Energy-Efficient Windows
It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of updating to energy-efficient windows can vary from home to home. This is because the best energy-efficient windows are custom-made to fit your home’s specifications. Additionally, when you purchase new windows, consider the service that you will receive. 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, purchasing 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 can add 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.