Your Guide to Buying Energy Efficient Windows

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Energy efficient windows can help you save money annually and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Even the smallest air leaks or inefficient panes in windows can cost you hundreds of dollars a year on wasted heating and cooling costs. Energy efficient windows are ideal in any climate, but the specific windows you choose will depend on your city’s temperature extremes as well as your budget.

Window Types and Options
There are some basic features you should look for when shopping for energy efficient windows:

  • Low-emmittance (Low-E) coating
  • Double or triple-pane glass
  • Double or triple-glaze

Low-E coating are invisible layers of metal or metal oxide that are deposited on a window to reduce the “U-factor,” or the rating of how well the window keeps heat from escaping (on a scale of .20 to 1.20). The lower this number, the more energy efficient it is. You can opt for double or triple-pane glass with double or triple-glaze. Each level of glass and glaze provides more insulation for your home and also raises the price of your windows. A double-pane, double-glaze is usually fine for most American cities.

The window frame is also important in energy efficiency. You can choose from aluminum, fiberglass, vinyl, wood or composite frames for your windows. Most experts rely on fiberglass and vinyl frames because of their longevity and ability to withstand the elements over time. Government-sponsored home restoration projects, such as those subsidized in states like Rhode Island and Iowa, require authentic wood window frames in certain historical areas.

Cost Ranges and Potential Energy Savings
High performance and super energy efficient windows will cost 10 to 15% more than standard double-glazed options. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $800 per unit for energy efficient windows (not including installation). However, your energy savings over time can offset your initial investment. Energy efficient glazing prevents you from having to turn up the heat as high in the winter months, increasing your overall savings. Some estimates state that you can save nearly 15% on your energy bills with more effective windows.

Potential Tax Benefit
In 2009, the federal government approved a 30% tax credit for homeowners who install energy efficient windows and doors. In order to receive the credit, your windows must have a U-Factor and SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) that is equal or less than 0.30. Further, the credit is only applied to the products, not the installation costs. The maximum benefit you can receive is $1,500.

At the state level, many local governments are also making it more affordable to replace leaky windows with energy efficient options. In Michigan, for example, Detroit Edison offers rebates to customers who submit their homes for an energy audit. Homeowners can receive a rebate of $250 by carrying out recommended energy updates to certain areas of the home, including to windows and doors.

Related Stories:

Home Solar Power: Cost v. Savings
A Guide to Energy Tax Credits
Daily Deduction: Energy Tax Credits

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