New Windows are a No-Brainer Energy Saver

Woman Installing Insulation In a House Attic

Energy prices keep rising, and that trend is likely to continue. As is gets more and more expensive to fill that oil or propane tank, many home owners are thinking about ways to reduce their energy bills. In this article, I am going to outline a few key factors to consider when it comes to saving energy, starting with the biggest energy wasters - windows.

The Basics of Insulation

Spring Cleaning with windows openMost houses are designed with insulation in the walls to keep the heat in and the cold wind out. A typical wall design will include sheathing, an insulation cavity, vapor barrier, and interior wall material such as drywall, all of which adds up to a particular amount of heat-holding capacity, or R-value.

Actually, what we're talking about when we talk about insulation is a material's ability to slow the movement of heat. Insulation does this with thousands of tiny air pockets that trap the heat. The addition of a vapor barrier in your walls or ceiling prevents the pressure of wind from pushing cold air right through the wall into your house.

Let There be Light!

This is a pretty good system, and works well for the walls and ceiling. The problem is that a livable house needs light and ventilation, so we cut big holes in the wall for windows. Windows are by far the biggest loser when it comes to keeping heat in, for several reasons. No matter how warm your walls are, if your windows are outdated or poorly installed, that expensive heat is just blowing right out the window!

Time to Upgrade

Firstly, glass is not a good insulator. Older houses used to have single pane windows - which is the worst. Over the years, manufacturers have come up with new technologies to improve on the window pane's ability to block heat. Double or even triple-paned windows are now available, which are a vast improvement. New windows also have special coatings that let in the warmth of sunlight but trap radiant heat in the house.

Frozen ice coated window

Secondly, the frame of a window and the point where the window frame meets the wall are major weak points in a buildings "thermal envelope". Insulation can't be run right up to the edge of the window - there is framing, padding, and finally the window sash, all of which is typically covered by the trim.

This poorly insulated zone can allow cold air to infiltrate in around the windows through gaps in the woodwork, which leads to a drafty house and pushes those bills higher. The window frame and sash act as what is called a "thermal bridge", which is a place where heat can move from inside to outside without having to pass through insulation. Modern widows account for this and include thermal breaks, air pockets, and high tech materials to reduce thermal bridging and keep heat in.

New windows are the easiest way to improve your homes ability to stay warm, or cool.

If you are considering ways to reduce your energy use - updating your windows is an energy-saving no-brainer. Windows are the biggest openings through which heat leaves our house, and have improved continuously over the past few decades. You will be amazed at how much more comfortable your house feels and how much less fuel you use to heat it.

LEED Certified Building Insulation Product Guide

Photo credit: nicoledreher / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Red Moon Sanctuary / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.