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All-encompassing energy-efficient windows guide

Are you sick and tired of overpaying for electricity? The problem may lie in the drafty and leaky windows close to the end of their service life. The best way to prevent energy bills from skyrocketing is to switch to green energy-saving windows qualified by Energy Star or NFRC. The advantage you will get is quite measurable. Once you replace all single-pane, shabby windows in your home and insulate the doors, you will be able to save up to $550 annually. This in-depth energy-efficiency window guide is made to provide you with a comprehensive picture of the energy-efficient windows market. We covered everything from the basics and specific characteristics to performance standards, costs, best window models, and installation peculiarities. Keep reading to learn everything you need about energy-saving windows for your home.

All-encompassing energy-efficient windows guide

Table of contents

1. What are energy-efficient windows?

2. Factors that contribute to windows’ energy efficiency

3. Labeling that indicates the highest window performance standards

3.1. NFRC performance label

3.2. ENERGY STAR performance label

4. What factors to consider when choosing energy-efficient windows?

5. What are the most energy-efficient windows available on the US market?

6. How much do energy-efficient windows cost?

7. How can proper installation contribute to window performance?

Today more and more people switch to a sustainable way of living, promoting the industries to find greener solutions to meet the growing demand for eco-friendly products. The US Windows and Doors market is not an exception. Innovative companies set their sights on developing top-quality energy-efficient windows that help to reduce electricity consumption and lower strain on heating and cooling systems. 

Replacing your old, one-pane units with modern, energy-saving windows is a surefire way to save up to 40% of the annual electricity costs. The multiple chambers structure and Low-E glass ensure secure insulation, keeping the premise cool in summer and warm in winter. With Energy Star certified windows, you don't need to use the HVAC system at a max, saving a bundle on electricity. And if you power your home with PV panels, the chances are you will pay only a few bucks for electricity monthly. 

Want to learn more on how to enjoy considerable energy savings and a comfortable temperature inside no matter the season? Read through this comprehensive guide on energy-efficient windows to learn how to pick the right one for your home. We'll dwell on the factors influencing window energy efficiency as well as primary characteristics, costs, and Energy Star labeling.

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What are energy-efficient windows?

Windows with enhanced insulation properties minimize electricity usage and take the edge off the bills. They're aimed to prevent heated or cooled air from escaping a home. Units certified by Energy Star feature a few firmly-sealed glass panes with double or triple glazing for better insulation. 

Here are the primary properties that distinguish energy-saving windows from regular ones:

  • Window frame materials. PVC, fiberglass, wood, composite, and aluminum are materials with the best insulation properties. These frames are durable and require low maintenance. They are proven to provide excellent thermal insulation and reduce outside air penetration. 
  • Glazing type. Double and triple-glazing windows are aimed at preventing heat loss. They form an insulating barrier, not allowing outside air to come inside. Triple glazing offers even better energy efficiency, creating airlocks that boost the window's thermal properties. 
  • Coatings. Modern Energy Star windows come with multiple glass panels and incorporate special coatings to prevent heat loss. These coatings are invisible yet play an incredible role in blocking ultraviolet rays.

Factors that contribute to windows’ energy efficiency

Reduced energy costs, comfortable temperature inside, improved air quality, and sound insulation - these and other factors make people switch to modern windows that possess maximum efficiency. However, not all energy-saving units are made the same way. Plus, house condition, local climate, and installation quality can make or break your new windows' performance.

Please, consider the following factors to ensure your switch to energy-efficient units will reap the rewards:

  • Proper installation

Even the most efficient windows may have poor performance if installed the wrong way. Only those contractors who have recently accomplished training courses and got an official certification are guaranteed to repair and install energy-efficient windows properly. They know how to prevent air infiltration and water damage. Consult an expert before getting Energy Star windows, as the new replacement units may become just a minor contribution to your home energy consumption optimization.

  • Energy-saving glazing

Most energy-efficient windows come with dual- and triple-pane glass that possesses two to three times better insulation than regular single-pane units. The space between panes is commonly filled with inert argon gas that minimizes thermal transfer. When researching the window market, you can come across impact-resistant, tempered, obscure, and laminated insulating glass variations. You'll be advised on the best glass option if you refer to a proven window company. 

  • Frame construction

Not only window type and features but frame material affect its overall efficiency. Specialists recommend selecting fiberglass, vinyl, and wooden frames as they have low conductivity and possess the best insulation properties. With Low-E glass, these frames will ensure the optimal temperature inside, not being exposed to climate swings. When selecting a new frame for your replacement windows, consider your house style not to ruin its curb appeal. 

  • Glass coating

Low-emissivity glass coated with metallic oxide boosts windows' energy efficiency, ensuring better thermal protection and temperature regulation inside the house. It reflects UV light and does not let cold air get inside. The low-emissivity coating makes windows a good energy-saving source as they're selectively reflective, allowing the light of a specific wavelength and frequency to pass through the glass.

  • Geographic location 

It's wise to select glass options considering the local climate pattern. This way, you will ensure optimal energy savings, not spending extra on costly window units that might be inefficient for your region. Refer to a few window suppliers to decide on the best energy-efficient units for your home.

Before you start making any drastic decisions about getting new replacement units, check whether your current ones can be improved for better energy efficiency. First, inspect them for drafts and leakages. You can do it yourself or call out for a professional inspection with a further repair. Most times, windows can be additionally sealed for better insulation. Further steps should include adding window coverings, storm windows, solar panel control film, or exterior shadings like overhangs or blinds. Installing thermal-resistant frames can also contribute to your window energy performance. 

Labeling that indicates the highest window performance standards

One of the simplest ways to distinguish quality energy-efficient windows is to check their labeling. Logos that indicate great energy-saving potential are ENERGY STAR and NFRC. Home windows that were honored to get these badges went through multiple tests so that you can rest assured of their ultimate performance.

NFRC performance label

NFRC stands for the National Fenestration Ratings Council. This nonprofit organization created an energy rating system that evaluates the performance of the whole window unit. NFRC serves to help customers compare available units side-by-side, indicating their exact U-Factor level and the solar heat gain coefficient. 

The U-Factor indicator measures how much heat flows out of the window hourly. The best-insulated window units possess the lowest U-Factor number ranging from 0.20 to 1.20.
The SHGC indicator measures the amount of sunlight penetrating through a window as heat. Units with the best thermal properties have the lowest Solar Heat Gain Coefficient.

ENERGY STAR performance label

The US Environmental Protection Agency launched the Energy Star labeling to mark products with the highest energy efficiency. The EPA organization promotes environmental protection and encourages people to switch to energy-saving products, including doors and windows. If a window is labeled with the Energy Star mark, it meets rigid government standards for energy performance. 

Have a look below to find out how you can benefit from installing energy-efficient windows:

  • The highest insulation level 

The Energy Star labeled windows come with double or triple panes of glass with argon gas between them to prevent unwanted air and heat flow into or out of the house. On top of that, windows that meet Energy Star standards feature improved frame materials that add to the overall insulation properties. 

  • UV light reflection 

The Energy Star qualified windows are covered with special coating, making them low emissivity. It means that glass panes installed in these windows can perfectly reflect heat energy, ensuring better insulation and reducing possible UV light harm. 

  • Heat flow reduction

Thanks to the spacers that secure glass panes at the proper distance, windows don't pass excessive heat and prevent condensation. This feature contributes to adequate temperature regulation, keeping the premises cool in summer and warm in winter.

Please note that once you replace your old single- or double-pane windows with modern energy-saving ones that meet the highest American and international quality standards, you will be able to cut your annual electricity bills by 12%-14% on average.

What factors to consider when choosing energy-efficient windows?

When you're in the market for windows with the highest energy performance, you should follow a few simple steps to make a well-thought-out purchasing decision.

  1. Look for the Energy Star or NFRC performance labeling 
  2. Point your attention to the label showing the climate zones where a window is better to use
  3. Check the U-Factor and SGHC characteristics (the lower these numbers, the more efficient windows are on offer)
  4. Determine U-Factor and SHGC standards based on the climate in your area
  5. Consider the house side where new windows should be installed 
  6. Check if there're any Energy Star incentives in your area by inputting your location into the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder
Please note that new energy-efficient windows can become a considerable investment with an extended payback period. Thus, you can return about 78% of the cost when reselling your property. 

What are the most energy-efficient windows available on the US market?

All windows certified by Energy Star are worth the investment as they're durable and have excellent insulation and water-resistant properties. 

Here are some of the best windows for energy saving:

  • Andersen® Windows with the EcoExcel™

Andersen Corporation is an American-origin international window and door manufacturing company that sells windows with the EcoExcel™ energy performance package. These windows have excellent energy efficiency properties and meet the tax credit criteria, which means you can cut almost half of the upfront payment. 

  • Integrity Windows® Ultrex® fiberglass sliders

Another example of long-lasting and energy-saving windows is sliding units by Ultrex. While made of fiberglass material, these windows outperform vinyl and aluminum in durability and performance. Integrity windows come with tempered glass for better shatter resistance. 

  • The R-5 Windows by Ply Gem®

The North American company Ply Gem sells R-5 windows with excellent energy efficiency and longevity. These highly-insulating units are best to install under new home construction. They will keep your property secured from external factors like the elements, temperature swings, and noise. 

Among the window glass options with excellent insulation properties, we can distinguish the following ones:

  • Double-pane Low-E window glass. This glass ensures unmatched energy efficiency and UV protection thanks to the low-E silver oxide coating and excellent fade protection. If you seek to cut your electricity bills and maintain a comfortable temperature inside your home all year round, this glass is your choice. 
  • Ultimate triple-pane glass. This energy-efficient glass option is universal for all country regions as it easily withstands extreme temperatures. The triple-pane Low-E glass system coated with silver oxide ensures unparalleled thermal performance blocking UV rays. The Krypton gas that fills the space between glass panes helps to reduce heat transfer and provides better energy efficiency.
  • Ultra triple-pane energy-efficient window glass. This insulating Low-E glass features impressive thermal properties that save almost 35% on annual electricity bills. The silver oxide coating blocks up to 90% of the UV rays, preventing furniture and flooring from fading. The Argon gas that fills the space between panes eliminates heat transfer that boosts the overall energy efficiency. 

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Consider replacing your windows to ensure better home insulation and reduce utility cost

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How much do energy-efficient windows cost?

If you're about to replace the existing windows with new energy-saving ones, expect to spend anywhere between $400 to $1300 per window, including labor. Yes, there's a huge price gap, and it can be explained by the range of factors from window brand and type to frame material and energy-saving features. In any case, don't let that initial cost discourage you from getting them installed. Over the years, you'll be saving a lot more than you've invested. 

The required budget for energy-efficient windows may vary on the following factors:

  • Service quality. The cost of updating to energy-saving windows may depend on the contractor's specifications and skills. If you call out a certified installer, you can rest assured that the project will be accomplished professionally. However, the price will be higher than the market average. If you have a restricted budget, you can always refer to an individual specialist without vast expertise. The choice is always yours.
  • Window location. Another factor that can alter the cost is where your new energy-saving windows will be placed. Thus, the Energy Star double-pane windows for the bedroom and living room usually cost $400-$750 each, while the same window for the basement may cost up to $1.000 per unit. All custom-made windows have a 30% higher price.
  • Frame material. Energy-efficient windows come with frames made of different materials, from wood and aluminum to vinyl and fiberglass. If you seek the best price-quality ratio, we recommend setting your sights on PVC. Standard-sized double-pane windows made of vinyl cost $450–$650, while triple-pane ones are $550–$850.
  • Time restrictions. If you have a limited time installing or replacing windows in your house, the regular contractor's rate per hour will be 1.5 - 2 times higher. The same goes for labor-intensive services like installing energy-saving egress or skylight windows. 
  • Insulation type. Most manufacturers use Argon to fill the space between panes. This gas is a cheaper alternative to Krypton, yet it does not offer the same insulation properties, especially for windows with a small distance between the panes. The choice between Argon and Krypton should be made based on the local climate, the size of the existing windows, and the value you're going to get out of the investment. 

How can proper installation contribute to window performance?

Unfortunately, even the top-rated energy-saving windows can perform poorly if not installed properly. That is why it's not advisable to make any installation work yourself. Only a licensed technician who is an expert in handling the type of windows you want on your home can ensure a smooth and efficient installation avoiding costly mistakes. We believe it's better to invest more in professional installation than deal with further issues like drafts, leaks, and condensation.

To find a reputable contractor with the required certification and know-how, you should research local companies, read their reviews, and compare offers. It's better to get a few estimates to make an informed choice. 

With HomeQuote, you can easily find local technicians, match their quotations, and plan your budget for energy-efficient windows installation with confidence. We consider all your requirements and project details to ensure the selected window contractors fit the bill. Our platform serves on a pro-bono basis, so all it takes to get lucrative offers from local window pros is to fill out the request form on our site

Switching to advanced windows for energy savings is not only reasonable and cost-efficient but simple, especially if you have a free contractor-matching platform at your fingertips. Here at HomeQuote, we have collected hundreds of pre-screened pros from all over the country. We cooperate with companies and individual window technicians who have proven their expertise and reliability. 

Leave your request on HomeQuote to receive comprehensive support from our specialists and get any type of energy-efficient windows installed in a matter of days. 

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