Eyes may be the window to the soul, but windows are the eyes of a home. Some homes have lots of windows up front; otherwise have a few and reserve their window space for the back of the house, where sliders, French doors and longer windows bring the light into the kitchen, bedrooms or family room.
As much as windows can make or break the look of a home, they can also make or break your energy budget. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the windows in your home can account for as much as 25% of your heat or cooling loss. After the last few winters, anything we can do to keep the heat in will help. What can you do to avoid that loss? Are there simple ways to reduce heat/cooling loss that don’t involve replacing windows entirely? Of course!
The first step toward making your windows more energy efficient is to recaulk around the windows and doors. Caulk is a waterproof seal used to close the gap between the house and the windows and doors. Take a walk around the house and make sure the old caulking is removed. Next, recaulk the areas so there is a more complete seal. Make sure you’re using a caulk that is 100-percent silicone, not acrylic; silicone is permanently waterproof and does not shrink the way acrylic caulk does. While you’re caulking the windows and around the exterior doors, also check the area around your attic door and where the plumbing comes into the house; they could probably use caulking as well.
Next, take a look at your window coverings. Do you already have shades installed? If not, it’s time to get them put up. Window shades should fit tightly within the window casing, without overlapping the molding. White is the best color, as it will reflect the heat inside the house back into the home; in summer, it will reflect the heat back outside, keeping the home cooler.
In newer homes, especially, most opt to forego drapes and curtains; some feel they’re old fashioned, while others just don’t want the bother. Installing lined drapes will add another level of protection against weather. By closing them during the day in summer, you’ll keep more cold air in; closing them at night in the winter will keep the cold air out. Opening drapes on a sunny winter day can bring some heat inside, but be careful to check and make sure you don’t feel any drafts coming in from the windows.
If your existing windows are especially drafty, it might be wise to have storm windows installed. Storm windows fit on the outside of your regular windows; some have built-in screens to allow fresh air in during the summer without the mosquitos attacking inside as well as out. Just remember to bring the storm windows down over the screens (if included) before the first wave of cold air arrives.
Of course, the best option for weather-proofing your windows is to install the newest windows with the latest e-glass. Here’s what to look for when buying new windows, according to the Department of Energy:
- Make sure your new windows are ENERGY STAR(R) rated
- See if your local gas/electric company is offering any rebates for installing new windows
- Windows should be at least double paned with low e coating on the glass
- If you live in a cold climate, windows will need to have a low U-factor, which is the rate at which a window allows heat to escape the house
- Lastly, hire a reputable window installer to put your windows in; don’t rely on the guys who come to your door selling windows. Most big-box hardware stores have lists of reputable contractors they work with.
Making your home as energy efficient as possible is the best way to reduce your overall costs each year. Next, we’ll look at your thermostat – is it time to replace it? Do you really need one of the fancy new thermostats to be energy efficient?
For more information on ways your windows can reduce your heating and cooling costs, check out the Department of Energy’s website here.