Energy Efficient Windows and Doors - Are They Worth It?

by Graham Tasker

When it comes to wasting energy, it's a fact that most of the heat that disappears out of your home does so through the windows. Most cheap windows have poor seals that lead to drafts and heat loss. This leads to you turning up the heating to compensate which in turn leads to higher energy bills and, topically, you're not helping the environment either. Of course, fitting new energy-efficient windows is a great idea, but it's going to be pretty expensive, right? Well, not necessarily. There are government tax breaks to consider and the ultimate saving in your heating bills.

It's certainly true that the US Government wants to encourage you to fit energy-efficient windows by giving you a 10% tax break for doing so up to a maximum of $500 per year. This specific tax credit is called the Existing Home Tax Credit for Fenestration and covers windows installed between 31st December 2005 and 1st January 2008. So there's still time for you to benefit.

The organization that rates the energy-saving capabilities of windows is the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). Their measures are the U-Factor which rates how well the window retains heat in your house - the lower this rating, the better - and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient which shows how well your windows keep your house cool - again, the lower, the better. In order to qualify for the above tax credit you need to install energy-efficient products rated by this organization. They'll all display NFRC stickers which you'll need to keep along with your receipts as proof of purchase.

What should you look for in a window, besides an Energy Star rating? The market supplies many choices, but here are some guidelines.

First, most insulating windows are made with two, or sometimes three, panes of glass. The manufacturer often fills the space between the panes with an insulating inert gas such as argon or krypton.

A lot of window manufacturers will also put a reflective coating on the glass to help it achieve lower U-Factor ratings. Another benefit of this treatment is that it will often help to filter out potentially harmful UV radiation. Not only is this UV radiation potentially damaging to you, it can also lead to fading the color of your furniture, so there's clearly a benefit if the product you're thinking of purchasing has a UV filter on it.

Finally, good windows have a tight seal that you should be able to feel when you open and close them in the showroom. Try it out. Repeatedly. Compare the cheap windows to the more expensive ones. With practice, you should be able to tell a well-sealed window from a badly sealed one. Only the seal on your refrigerator door should be better.

When you factor in the Government tax break and assume a minimum saving of ten per cent on your current heating bills, can you really afford not to replace your old, non-energy-efficient windows?