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A Short Guide to Saving on Heating Costs

Did you know a typical US household spends more than $2,000 per year on energy bills? In fact, research conducted by the Department of Energy revealed that heating and cooling make up 51% of total energy use. This means that heating and cooling is the largest energy expense for most US homes. Yet as utility prices continue to rise and household budgets face pressure, the great news is there are simple things you can do around your home to stay warm and comfortable in your home this winter – and save money at the same time. 

There are many factors that affect your heating costs, with windows and insulation playing the most important part. Windows are an essential part of every home, providing light, warmth and ventilation. But they also play a major part in a home’s energy efficiency. Insulation is also essential to a comfortable and energy-efficient home and without the right insulation, you will certainly notice the difference in your heating bill. 

In this guide, we will be revealing everything you need to know about using energy-efficient windows and the right insulation for your home to keep your household warm and comfortable during winter, while also ensuring your heating bills do not break the bank. 

 

Installing Energy Efficient Windows

The reality is older style windows are often single pane, which becomes a vehicle for temperature transfer (the exchange of thermal energy between environments). If you do have single pane windows, you probably find yourself constantly turning up the thermostat, or throwing another log on the fire to stay warm. Thankfully, in recent years the technology behind windows and window frames has become much more sophisticated, including double and triple pane windows. Double and triple pane glass offers unprecedented energy savings, while high-tech finishes and coatings prevent temperature transfer and when properly selected, energy-efficient windows can greatly reduce your heating costs. However, not all windows are created equal. House design and window orientation play a big part in determining which product offers you the most energy efficiency. Here are some things to consider when replacing your windows:

  • The energy performance rating of different windows
  • The climate of where you live
  • The orientation of your home in relation to the sun
  • The placement of windows around your home

Different Types of Glass

  • Triple Pane windows: windows with two or more panes of glass. Triple pane windows have become a staple on the market and offer the greatest energy savings.
  • Heat absorbing tints: Special glazes that absorb solar radiation.
  • Gas fills: Used between panes of glass of double or triple pane windows. Agon or krypton are most typically used as they are more resistant to temperature transfer than air. 
  • Reflecting coatings: Reduce the transmission of solar radiation, blocking more light than heat.
  • Spectrally selective coatings: Filter out up to 70% of heat, without blocking any light.
  • Low-emissivity coatings: Are applied to windows to reduce heat transfer. This finish typically costs about 10-15% more than a window without it, but has been shown to reduce energy loss by up to 50%. 

The Frame is Also Important!

While double and triple pane glass is essential for an energy-efficient home, the window frame itself plays a vital role in regulating internal temperature, working in conjunction with the glass to prevent heat transfer. Frames come in a variety of materials, including aluminum, vinyl, fiberglass and metal. Each of these materials has different energy efficiency ratings, and performance is best achieved when the window frame matches your selected window and its finishing.

 

Reducing Air Leakage Around Existing Windows

If you notice air leakage around your existing windows, there are several things you can do to repair them. Air sealing, caulking and weather stripping are all useful tools in reducing air leaking around your existing windows. 

Air Sealing

Most homes experience a phenomenon called ‘air leakage.’ This occurs when outside air enters, and conditioned air exits your home. Reducing that leakage is a cost-effective way to reduce the heating and cooling costs of your home. But there are benefits beyond energy efficiency as well. Air leaks can lead to elevated indoor humidity, especially in attics and basements. This can lead to mold deposits and cause the structural elements of your home to warp and rot. Most air sealing techniques provide a return on investment in as little as one year. 

 

Air Sealing and Insulation eBook

 

Caulking

Caulking is a multipurpose substance that seals air leaks created by gaps, cracks and joints. Ideal for sealing cracks less than 1/4 inch wide, it’s a common product found at every hardware store and is quick and easy to apply.

Weather stripping

This is the process of sealing the openings around doors and windows to prevent air from entering and escaping. This can include any material that helps block air flow, including foam, vinyl, felt and tape. 

 

How to Know if You Have an Air Leak Problem?

Most of us know where the drafts and cold spots are in our homes, but there are simple things you can do to detect those mystery air leaks that are costing you money.

Building pressurization test

A simple test that closes your known air exit points such as air doors, windows and flues. It builds internal pressure, revealing the leaks where air is escaping.

Ask the experts

Bring in a qualified Windows on Washington technician to complete a detailed energy assessment of your home, including a ‘blower door test.’ We will be able to identify and eliminate the air leaks around your home.

Visual Inspection

On the outside of your house, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including:

  • Exterior corners
  • Water faucets
  • Siding and chimneys
  • Foundation and bottom layer of bricks or siding

On the interior, inspect:

  • Electrical outlets
  • Door and window frames
  • Attic hatches
  • Cable TV and phone lines
  • Electrical outlets 

 

When to Replace Your Windows

Sometimes simply repairing your windows is not enough and it is better to replace them altogether. Here are some signs you need to replace your windows. 

Foggy windows: Foggy windows are caused by water condensing inside of your window's double-pane or triple-pane insulated glass unit (IGU). While foggy windows can technically be fixed, it is not a common thing to do and it is better to replace the window. 

Structural issues: When the outer structure of the window is failing, this is a definite time to replace your window. 

Water leakage: While minor water leakage can sometimes be fixed, major water leakage often means your exterior window casing is failing and the whole window needs replacing. 

 

How Insulation Reduces Heating Costs

Insulation works to inhibit the transfer of heat. In winter, it prevents cold air from outdoors penetrating the inside of your house. Conversely, during summer, insulation helps trap cool, conditioned air inside the home while resisting the heat from outdoors. It is one of the most important features of any energy efficient home.

There are four standard types of insulation used in residential buildings:

  • Blanket insulation: Filled with mineral fibers, including rockwool and fiberglass
  • Polyurethane and polyisocyanurate foam insulation: Sprayed into the crevices and cavities of a home by a professional installer
  • Loose fill insulation: Consisting of cellulose, rockwool and/or fiberglass, contained in pellets or fibers and installed with pneumatic tools
  • Rigid insulation: Typically packaged in boards or pipe fittings and is typically used to insulate wall sheaths and foundations 

 

Where to Install Insulation

Different types of insulation will be installed in different areas of the home. The most common places to install insulation include: 

  • Under the roofing material to reduce radiant heat gain.
  • In the ceiling to reduce heat gain and loss. Typically, ceiling insulation is installed between the joists.
  • In the external walls.
  • Internal walls, including between the house and any attached buildings.
  • Under the floor of the house in homes built up off the ground.
  • Around plumbing pipes.

We hope this guide has been helpful in explaining how to save on heating costs this winter and well into the future. If your windows or insulation need replacing, please get in touch with the WoW team for a free quote. 

 

Replacement Windows Buyer's Guide

 

Topics: Replacement Windows, Insulation