THE VALUE OF ENERGY-EFFICIENT WINDOWS

If your home isn't new, chances are you'll be thinking about replacing your windows at some point. Maybe they're inefficient, or not the style you want, or you're doing a big renovation and figure it's a good time to do the job.

Things have changed a lot in the window industry - especially in the past 20 years. New technology and new materials have made good windows more affordable - and you'll be amazed at what you have to choose from. But picking the right window may not be as easy as you think. So make sure you call in a qualified and knowledgeable window specialist.

FUNCTION

A window should do more than provide light and air flow to your home. It should also keep heat in and cold out in the winter, and help keep heat out in the summer. That's a lot to ask of the humble window.

Every window leaks heat - it can't be as thermally efficient as an insulated wood or concrete wall. No matter how good a window is, its R-value won't be as high as those barriers. Warm air leaks out in cold weather and heat seeps in in the hot months. And, year-round, UV light passes through the glass.

Old windows were made with a single pane of glass, set in a wooden frame and secured with putty. Things improved when storm windows were placed over these, which created an air layer between the two windows and helped with insulation.

Later windows had double-glazing - two sheets of glass together in the frame. Many older homes still have single-glazed or old-style double-glazed windows, and they lose a lot of heat. It's like having a hole in your wall.

Today, better-quality windows have an inert gas injected between the layers of glass. This helps provide insulation and almost doubles the R-value of a window.

Another feature to look out for is low-E glass - low-emissivity glass. This has been treated with a microscopic metallic oxide spray that reduces the amount of UV light passing through the glass. It lets in light but reflects heat in summer and helps retain it in winter.

TYPES OF WINDOWS

You can get windows in many architectural styles, and in a variety of materials to suit your budget. There are windows made of wood, aluminum, fibreglass and vinyl in a variety of designs and styles: single- or double-hung, vertical or horizontal sliders and casement. I like vertical-sliding windows that tilt in for easy cleaning.

Wood windows are beautiful, but they can be high-maintenance as they have to be repainted regularly. These windows will expand and contract a lot if they are in direct sunlight for any part of the day. As a result of the expansion, the paint is stretched to the breaking point.

If the window is always in the shade, it won't expand and contract as much, and the paint will remain stable. But, you'll want your house to match on both sides, won't you? Sure, so you'll need to paint all around.

Another option is wood-clad windows with vinyl exteriors. They provide more weather resistance and need less maintenance.

On a lower-quality, vinyl-clad window, however, you can have problems with water getting under the vinyl and rotting the wood. I prefer high-quality vinyl windows to metal or wood: Vinyl is easier to clean, it lasts longer than metal and needs less maintenance than wood.

INSTALLATION

No matter how good a window is, it's not worth much if it's not installed properly. It will leak air - and possibly let in water - and cost you more money.

Make sure your installer is a professional. If it's a replacement window job, make sure they remove the old window completely and clean out the opening right down to the rough stud before they try to install the new one. Be sure they check for any damage or rot - and if they find it, repair it - before they finish the installation. And, most important, make sure they spray insulation foam around the window to eliminate drafts.

When it comes to windows, like most things, you get what you pay for. Whatever type of window you choose, make sure it's a high-quality thermal one with a good R-value. And most important, ensure it is properly and professionally installed.

SOURCE: THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Jackie Dall'Orso

Jackie Dall'Orso

Sales Representative
CENTURY 21 Miller Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage*
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