Opening the Window on Energy Savings
By: Suzanne Elston
As energy costs continue to escalate, energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important. While we all want to spend less on home utilities, most of us don't know where to begin.
The answer is clear. In the average home, heating and cooling costs account for at least 60% of your energy bill. An estimated 25% of all heat loss literally flies out the window, thanks to old, builder's quality or ill-fitting windows.
From an energy saving perspective, standard thermal pane windows only provide an insulating R-value of between 1.6 and 2. The R-value of a window measures its resistance to heat flow. This can also be referred to as thermal resistance. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.
Another way to measure energy efficiency is by gauging the shading co-efficient of your windows. This measures a windowÕs ability to let light in while rejecting heat. With average summer temperatures increasing almost every year, peak energy demand – and cost – now occurs during the summer months. This not only impacts on your individual electricity bill, but also the ability of the grid to keep up with the total demand for power. Unless we can all find ways to reduce our electricity needs, we may soon face brownouts and blackouts during peak periods.
Depending on your budget, there are a number of ways that you can improve the efficiency of your windows. You can recoup about half the heat loss in older windows by sealing the cracks and crevices with caulking and weatherstripping.
If you already have blinds on your windows, use them on hot summer days. Drawing blinds in the morning, as soon as the sun begins to shine, can dramatically reduce your need for air conditioning.
While we usually try and keep the heat out in the summer, itÕs important not to overlook the benefit of passive cooling strategies. After the sun goes down and the temperature drops in the evening, an open window can provide a cooling breeze as well as fresh air, and the wonderful smell of summer flowers and fresh cut lawns.
Depending on what coverings you choose, upgrading your window treatments can triple the R-value of your windows while enhancing the beauty of your home. This can cut your heating costs in the winter, and substantially reduce your cooling costs in the summer.
Selecting the right window covering can also help protect you from the damaging effects of the sun. The newest generation of window coverings can cut ultra-violet (UV) radiation from 65 to 99%. This protects your furniture, hardwood flooring and carpets from sun damage and fading. Choosing the right window fashions can also provide you with privacy and sound absorption when you need it, and a window on the world when you want it.
To complete your window treatments, window tinting and security films, retractable and fixed or exterior awnings are all great ways to enhance the beauty of your home, reduce UV radiation and cut heating and cooling costs.
If you really want to get serious about reducing your energy bill, you may want to consider replacing your existing windows. Thanks to improvements in window design and construction, the newest generation of energy efficient windows offers R-values of 4.5 to nearly 12. While it may take several years to pay back the direct energy savings of replacing your windows, this will also reduce the strain on your air conditioner and furnace. This will translate into reduced maintenance costs and should also be taken into account.
If youÕre seriously considering this option, you should make sure that the company you've chosen displays the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) logo, and is a member of the Siding and Window Dealers Association of Canada (SAWDAC). Consumers should not take this accreditation lightly. Only window companies with five or more years in the business are invited to become members. This is important because most manufacturers offer extended warranties on their products. Obviously, these are only valid if the company is still around to support their work when you need it.
Whether you choose to install outdoor awnings, upgrade your interior blinds and draperies or completely replace your existing windows, itÕs important to do your homework. Check out the Consumers Guide To Buying Energy-Efficient Windows and DoorsÓ and other energy saving guides are available from Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency