transfer by about half,” Smith says. Triple glazingis common in Europe and North America, butrare here. The window units weigh and costmore, but provide extremely low U-values andexcellent sound proong.Within an IGU’s frame, the panes of glassare held apart by a spacer. A wider gap givesbetter insulation – 12mm is regarded as thebest. Likewise, an IGU will prevent even moreheat transfer if the cavity is lled with an inertgas, such as argon, rather than air. “Withargon, you get about a 15 per cent improve-ment in U-value,” Smith says.IGUs also perform strongly in bushre attack conditions. “Double glazing works really well inthe bushre tests because the insulation barrierstops the radiant heat coming through theglass,” he says. This year, all states and territo-ries will introduce a new standard for windowsand doors in bushre prone areas. So far, fewproducts have been tested to the top levels.Smith says the extra cost between singleand double glazing can be between 50 and100 per cent, depending on the company andthe product. Householders can spend from afew thousand, to tens of thousands of dollarsextra. “There’s a huge variance. The best betis to shop around – there are good deals andreally good products out there.”
Glass is no longer just plain old glass. It nowcomes in a dazzling range of coatings and tintsthat will help keep your energy bills down.Low emissivity (low-e) glass has a trans-parent metallic coating that reduces the pane’sU-value. “Low-e glass can signicantly reducethe amount of heat that travels through yourwindows, keeping your house more comfort-able in both summer and winter,” says JamieRice, vice-president of the Australian Glass andGlazing Association. It can also curtail UV lightand reduce fading in furnishings.Single-glazed low-e coated glass is a goodoption for people who want a step up fromstandard glass but can’t stretch their budgetsto double glazing. However, it’s far moreeffective when placed inside an IGU – it canreduce the U-value of a double glazed windowby half again.Tinted glass cuts the heat transmitted intothe home from direct sunlight. Available ina range of colours, tints are especially suitedto west-facing windows that receive direct,summer afternoon sun. “The problem withstandard tints has been that to improve theperformance you end up cutting out light,” saysRice. “But there’s now a more sophisticatedproduct, called spectrally selective tinted glass,which signicantly increases solar control andonly slightly decreases light transmission.”Low-e coatings and tints can be used incombination. Together, they reduce both theU-value and the SHGC, making for a windowthat’s ideal for keeping out the heat.
Most window frames in Australia are madefrom aluminium. They’re cheap and versatile,but conduct heat very easily, which means theyslice the insulating performance by up to 30per cent. Thermally broken aluminium orcomposite frames offer better insulation, butthey’re much more costly and, for the timebeing, not widely available.Timber frames have signicantly lowerU-values than aluminium. Edith Paarhammer,from Victorian window manufacturer Paar-hammer, argues that although timber is moreexpensive, it performs better than any otherframing material.She recommends that eco-consciousbuyers choose products made from eitherplantation timber or Forest Stewardship Council(FSC) certied timber. “It’s also very importantthat the frames are substantial, not imsy,”she says. Another high performing frame is uPVC.Only recently introduced into Australia, it hasa comparable thermal performance to timber,but is cheaper. Warren Miles from Ecovue saysa double glazed uPVC window can cost just25 per cent more than equivalent single glazedaluminium.Miles says it’s crucial that buyers look forframes that minimise air leakage. “You needa complete seal between the window and theframe, and also between the frame and thestructure of the building. If you can’t achievethat you may as well not worry so much aboutthe glazing.”Few businesses are specialist windowinstallers, although some manufacturers can dothe job. You can nd them listed on the Austra-lian Window Association website (www.awa.org.au).
If you’re in an existing house and want toimprove your windows, you have severaloptions. The most effective and expensive wayis to remove and replace the entire windowunits. In some systems you can replace theglass alone.It’s also possible to retrot double glazing,either with secondary glass window systemsor cheaper acrylic panes that attach to yourwindow frame using magnets. Cheaper still (butless effective) is Clear Comfort, a membranethat you tape to the window frame and maketaut by shrinking with a hairdryer (a 10-metre kitcosts only $180).Films are an efcient way to cut solar heatgain on existing windows. They range fromalmost transparent to dark grey and costbetween $60 and $100 per square metre,installed. They also come with low-e coatings.
“Double glazing works really well in the bushre testsbecause the insulation barrier stops the radiant heatcoming through the glass”