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Selecting Windows for Energy Efficiecy

Selecting Windows for Energy Efficiecy

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Published by: jomy_pj8106 on May 05, 2012
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What’s Newin BuildingEnergyEfficiency
Selecting Windowsfor Energy Efficiency
 New window technologies have increased energybenefits and comfort, and have provided more practicaloptions for consumers. This selection guide will helphomeowners, architects, and builders take advantage of the expanding window market. The guide contains threesections: an explanation of energy-related windowcharacteristics, a discussion of window energy performance ratings, and a convenient checklist for window selection.
electing the right window for aspecific home invariablyrequires tradeoffs between dif-ferent energy performance features,and with other non-energy issues. Anunderstanding of some basic energyconcepts is therefore essential tochoosing appropriate windows andskylights. As illustrated on the fol-lowing page, three major types of energy flow occur through windows:(1) non-solar heat losses and gains inthe form of 
; (2) solar heat gains inthe form of radiation; and (3) airflow,both intentional (ventilation) andunintentional (
). (See theWindow Energy Glossary for expla-nations of these terms.)
Insulating Value
The non-solar heat flow through awindow is a result of the temperaturedifference between the indoors andoutdoors. Windows lose heat to theoutside during the heating season andgain heat from the outside during thecooling season, adding to the energyneeds in a home. The effects of non-solar heat flow are generally greateron heating needs than on coolingneeds because indoor-outdoor tem-perature differences are greater dur-ing the heating season than duringthe cooling season in most regions of the United States. For any windowproduct, the greater the temperaturedifference from inside to out, thegreater the rate of heat flow.AU-factor is a measure of the rateof non-solar heat flow through a win-dow or skylight. (An R-value is ameasure of the resistance of a win-dow or skylight to heat flow and isthe reciprocal of a U-factor.) LowerU-factors (or higher R values), thusindicate reduced heat flow. U-factorsallow consumers to compare theinsulating properties of different win-dows and skylights.The insulating value of a single-pane window is due mainly to the
Solar Control6Window EnergyRating and Labeling 10Window Checklist13Window EnergyGlossary15
U.S. Department of Energy
thin films of still air on the interior andmoving air on the exterior glazing sur-faces. The glazing itself doesn’t offermuch resistance to heat flow.Additionalpanes markedly reduce the U-factor bycreating still air spaces, which increaseinsulating value.In addition to conventional double-panewindows, many manufacturers offer win-dows that incorporate relatively new tech-
The three major types of energy flow that occurthrough windows
(1) non-solar heat losses and gains inthe form of conduction, con-vection, and radiation; (2)solar heat gains in the form oradiation; and (3) airflow, bothintentional (ventilation) and unintentional (infiltration).
nologies aimed at decreasing U-factors.These technologies include low-emittance(low-E) coatings and gas fills.Alow-E coating is a microscopicallythin, virtually invisible, metal or metallicoxide coating deposited on a glazing sur-face. The coating may be applied to oneor more of the glazing surfaces facing anair space in a multiple-pane window, or toa thin plastic film inserted between panes.The coating limits radiative heat flowbetween panes by reflecting heat back into the home during cold weather andback to the outdoors during warm weath-er.This effect increases the insulatingvalue of the window. Most window man-ufacturers now offer windows and sky-lights with low-E coatings.The spaces between windowpanes canbe filled with gases that insulate betterthan air.Argon, krypton, sulfur hexafluo-ride, and carbon dioxide are among the
 High-performance windows make energy-efficient homes possible with greater  freedom of design than in the past.
SolarRadiationConvectionand ConductionThermalRadiationInfiltration
gases used for this purpose. Gas fills addonly a few dollars to the prices of mostwindows and skylights. They are mosteffective when used in conjunction withlow-E coatings. For these reasons, somemanufacturers have made gas fills stan-dard in their low-E windows and sky-lights.The insulating value of an entire win-dow can be very different from that of theglazing alone. The whole-window U-fac-tor includes the effects of the glazing, theframe, and, if present, the insulating glassspacer. (The spacer is the component in awindow that separates glazing panes. Itoften reduces the insulating value at theglazing edges.)Since a single-pane window with ametal frame has about the same overall U-factor as a single glass pane alone, frameand glazing edge effects were not of greatconcern before multiple-pane, low-E, andgas-filled windows and skylights werewidely used. With the recent expansion of thermally improved glazing optionsoffered by manufacturers, frame and spac-er properties now can have a more pro-nounced influence on the U-factors of windows and skylights. As a result, frameand spacer options have also multiplied asmanufacturers offer improved designs.Window frames can be made of alu-minum, steel, wood, vinyl, fiberglass, orcomposites of these materials. Wood,fiberglass, and vinyl frames are betterinsulators than metal. Some aluminumframes are designed with internal thermalbreaks, non-metal components that reduceheat flow through the frame. These ther-mally broken aluminum frames can resistheat flow considerably better than alu-minum frames without thermal breaks.Composite frames may use two or morematerials (e.g. aluminum-clad wood,vinyl-clad wood) to optimize their designand performance, and typically have insu-lating values intermediate between thoseof the materials comprising them. Framegeometry, as well as material type, alsostrongly influences thermal performanceproperties.Spacers can be made of aluminum,steel, fiberglass, foam, or combinations of these materials. Spacer thermal perfor-
Representative WindowU-Factors
e is the emittance of thelow-E coated surface.Values are for 3-foot-by-5- foot windows. U-factors varysomewhat with window size.
ASHRAE Handbook—Fundamentals,
 American Society of  Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc., Atlanta,GA, 1993.
Aluminum Frame without thermal break (with conventional spacer)Alum. Frame with thermal break (with conventional spacer)Wood or Vinyl Frame (with insulated spacer)
Single glass-----1.071.30Double glass,1/2-inch air space0.480.620.81Double glass, e = 0.20*,1/2-inch air space0.390.520.70Double glass, e = 0.10*,1/2-inch air space0.370.490.67Double glass, e = 0.10*,1/2-inch argon space0.340.460.64Triple glass, e = 0.10 on twopanes*, 1/2-inch argon spaces0.230.360.53Quadruple glass,e = 0.10 on two panes*,1/4-inch krypton spaces0.22----------

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