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   What You Need to Know About Windows
 
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As the primary source of natural light, windows are an important feature of the home. The style and shape of the windows also add greatly to the overall appearance and feel of the house.
 
Windows can also be a major source of energy loss. In fact, it is estimated the average North American home loses as much as 30 per cent of its energy through the windows.
 
That’s a lot of money wasted.
 
Although most homeowners choose new windows based on appearance and cost (of the product itself), it would make more sense to put energy efficiency at the top of the priority list.
 
If you choose wisely, you can have stylish windows that will look good, make your home feel more comfortable, and save you money for years to come. Depending on how much energy you are currently losing and which type of window you choose, you could begin to see a payback in your investment in as little as two years.
 
The following are some of the basics to help guide you in your choice:
 
Windows lose and gain heat. The energy term to describe this heat transfer is called the U-value. The U-value of a window is critical to its performance — the lower the U-value, the better the insulating value of the window.
Most older homes have windows with just a single layer of glass. A double or triple-glazed window will offer better thermal performance. Most windows feature a fill gas, such as argon, krypton or carbon dioxide, between the panes to add to the insulating value of the window.
Windows with low-emissivity (known as low-E) coatings allow the light to come in but prevent the passage of heat energy. This prevents uncomfortable heat build-up in both summer and winter. A double-glazed window with low-E coatings will act like a triple-glazed window.
A well-designed window will be tightly constructed and have good weather stripping to prevent air leakage. The style of your window will affect the amount of air that moves in and out of the home. Casement and awning style windows, for instance, have tighter closures. Although a good quality single, or double, hung window will also prevent air leaks. Slider, or glider, windows are generally more prone to air leakage and better suited to a warmer climate.
The materials, used for the sash and frame of the window will also affect the energy efficiency of the product. Wood is still the perennial favorite, although it does require regular maintenance or it will begin to deteriorate. Vinyl and PVC are very popular as they are cost-effective and pretty much maintenance-free. Luckily their energy efficiency ratings have improved considerable over the past number of years, making them a good choice from that perspective also. Fiberglass windows are expensive but still gaining in popularity due to their durability. They also rate very well in terms of energy efficiency. Wood clad windows (wood windows clad with vinyl or aluminum) look great and rate well in terms of energy efficiency. Their big selling feature is that they don’t require the labor-intensive upkeep of wood.
The style of window you choose should fit in with the overall design of your home. Looking at the house from the outside, the windows should provide symmetry and balance. By choosing the right windows, your home can take on a fresher, more contemporary look.
 
Windows are a major investment. It’s important to take the time to research the properties and design of windows so that you can make the best choice for your home.