Guide to Choosing Energy-Saving Doors, Windows and Window Treatments
Whether you live in a centuries old home, or a newly constructed one, it's wise to know which products will help both conserve heat and keep you cool. The right combination of these 'smart' products can almost instantly provide home energy savings.
Start at your front door
Wood, Fiberglass, or Steel – what you need to know about each
Wood. A popular choice for its natural beauty, wood doors come in a wide variety of species and can take just about any stain or paint color. A good rule of thumb for choosing a wood door is the thicker, the better. High-end wood doors sometimes have panels up to 1-3/8″ thick, compared with just 3/4″ thick panels on less expensive doors. Another factor to consider is whether your door will be in a protected area or shaded area. If it's in direct sunlight, or open to extreme weather, you will have more maintenance, and warping might be a problem. If you are concerned about the environment, choose a wood species that is indigenous to your area, and use a company whose products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). You may also want to be aware of the standards that the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Council (LEED) has defined for wood doors. While having your home LEED certified means focusing on the total home, there are credits to be earned in up to nine areas by using the right wood door.
Fiberglass and composite. Virtually maintenance-free, durable and energy efficient, fiberglass doors can mimic the look and feel of a solid wood door. Typically made of molded skins of fiberglass on a framework of wooden stiles and rails, fiberglass doors offer many advantages. Fiberglass itself is made from glass, making it a 'green' building product. Look for fiberglass doors that are 'Energy Star' compliant.
Steel. The cavities of most steel doors are filled with high-density foam insulation. Steel doors have an inner frame of wood or steel with a 24-guage steel skin. Premium models usually have an even thicker skin. Finishes are usually baked-on polyester, which may need periodic resealing. Premium Steel doors have a vinyl coating for improved weather resistance or sometimes even a wood veneer that can take a stain.
Steel doors are somewhat less energy efficient than wood or fiberglass; heat or cold can be conducted through to the inside surface unless a thermal break is incorporated into the door's construction.
Windows and Window Treatments
If you live in an older home, the decision to replace older windows needs to be well thought out. Studies show that replacement costs take many years to pay for themselves in energy savings – so it's not always economically practical. However, good windows will make an instant difference in how comfortable your home is and improve your family's energy consumption over time.
Insulating Value. The insulation value of typical single-pane windows is R-1 and double-pane windows is R-2 (R-Value is defined as the measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry, with R-1 being the lowest). Many manufacturers are now incorporating new technologies into their window and window frames to also help with insulation. These technologies include low-emittance (low-E) coatings and gas fills. A low-E coating is a microscopically thin, virtually invisible, metal or metallic oxide coating deposited on a glazing surface. The coating limits radiative heat flow between panes by reflecting heat back into the home during cold weather and back to the outdoors during warm weather. This effect increases the insulating value of the window. Most window manufacturers now offer windows and skylights with low-E coatings.
There are three types of energy saving window coverings:
- Energy saving window treatments that effectively reduce both heat loss and heat gain.
- Insulating window coverings that effectively halt heat loss during the fall and winter.
- Solar window coverings which are quite effective at absorbing and shading solar heat during the spring and summer.
External window shutters. If fitted tightly, shutters are almost equally as effective at both reducing heat loss and heat gain. Overall energy efficiency depends on how often these insulated window coverings are actually used.
Insulating window blinds and shades. Cellular shades and honeycomb shades can halt up to 86% of heat gain and 80% of heat loss.
Interior storm windows. These are as effective as double-paned windows, reducing winter heat loss by 50% or more.
Insulating window blinds and shades. The use of pleated fabrics will trap and insulate household heat very effectively. They also reduce chilly drafts, which will increase the comfort factor in your home.
Solar window coverings
Outdoor window shades or roller shades. These products can reflect almost 85% to 95% of solar heat during the spring and summer months. Individual energy savings will also depend on placement and how often these solar sun screens are used.
Window Awnings. These products shade windows, doors and patios like giant umbrellas. Window awnings can prevent as much as 77% of solar heat gain, significantly reducing home cooling costs.
Indoor window shutters. These are becoming more popular for their classic decorative appeal, but they are also very effective at blocking and absorbing solar heat.
Don't forget Drapes
Insulated drapes. These will save energy by keeping cold temperatures trapped outside or near windows so they don't permeate the air and lower the overall temperature of the house. Insulated drapes will be more effective if combined with energy-saving windows that use thermal-resistant coatings and other insulation materials. Insulated drapes have a thermal lining that can help reduce heating bills in the winter and save on air conditioning costs in the summer.