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Sanctuary magazine issue 10 - Windows that work - green home feature article

Sanctuary magazine issue 10 - Windows that work - green home feature article

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Published by Sanctuary Magazine
Good windows will repay your investment. Green home feature article from www.sanctuarymagazine.org.au, sustainable house design from Australia.
Good windows will repay your investment. Green home feature article from www.sanctuarymagazine.org.au, sustainable house design from Australia.

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Published by: Sanctuary Magazine on Jan 25, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 WindoWs THAT WoRK 
Good windows will repay your investment
By Michael Green
Windows might be transparent, but they’recomplex. Good windows well placed will helpkeep your home comfortable all year round.Bad windows in the wrong place will costyou dearly.In a typical insulated house, windows causemore heat gain or loss than any other part of the building fabric. While they’re expensive upfront, they’re an investment in the resale valueand day-to-day comfort of your home.So which windows should you choose? There are hundreds of products and combi-nations to consider, from the glazing, framesand coatings, to the size, shape and location. The Window Energy Rating Scheme website(www.wers.net) lists detailed ratings of over40,000 products.Two years ago, Alan Kerlin designed hissustainable home in Canberra. Afterwards, heestablished a consultancy, Solar Flair, to helppass on what he found out. When he wasresearching windows, he found good advicehard to come by. “It’s a difcult area, but it’seasier if you understand some of the basicsbehind the science,” he says.Heat transfers in different ways – forwindows, you’ll need to consider conductionand radiation. Conduction refers to the ambientwarmth that passes through the glass and theframe. A window’s conduction is measured byits U-value. The lower the U-value, the betterits insulating qualities, and the better for yourelectricity bill.Radiation, in contrast, refers to heat trans-ferred when sunlight passes through the glass,hits something and warms it up. The visiblelight is converted into heat as it is absorbed bya thermal body and re-emitted as long-wave orinfra-red light – heat. Radiation is measured bythe window’s Solar Heat Gain Coefcient, orSHGC; the higher the SHGC, the more radiantheat it lets through.
Pssi sor dsign
 Armed with a bit of knowledge, you needto consider the weather where you live andthe design of your home. Most Austra-lians live in climates where we want to drawin extra warmth during the cold monthsand shut it out throughout the hot months.With careful consideration, your windowscan help this happen – together with otherelements of passive solar design, such asshading and orientation.In Canberra, Kerlin designed his home witha bank of glass to the north – the sun streamsin throughout winter, but eaves and shadingblock the direct rays in summer. Small windowsto the south, east and west help reduce thesolar access when the sun is low in the sky andpasses below the awnings. “But remember: itall depends on where you are living,” he says.“In northern Australia, you never want sunhitting your glass at all.”
insting gzing nits (igs)
No matter your location, there is one constant:double glazing is always preferable to single.For now, nearly every Australian home hassingle-glazed windows. “They’re like a thermalwound in the building envelope,” says GarySmith from the Australian Window Association.Double and triple glazed windows – knownas IGUs – help seal the wound. “Standarddouble glazing can reduce conducted heat
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 proong.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 bushre attack conditions. “Double glazing works really well inthe bushre 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 bushre 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 signicantly 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 signicantly 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 signicantly 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) certied 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 retrot 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 efcient 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 bushre testsbecause the insulation barrier stops the radiant heatcoming through the glass”

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