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Looking to save on energy performance upgrades? Start with your home’s shell and enjoy multiple benefits. Not only does an airtight shell help keep your heated and cooled air inside your home where it belongs, it also helps build your home’s resilience during extreme weather events and can improve the health of your home by keeping pollutants, allergens, and other contaminants out.

While your shell encompasses multiple elements that work together, including your roof, skylights, walls, foundation, and doors, we’ll start with a single one — your windows — and explore how upgrading this this important feature can have an outstanding impact on your home’s performance and value.

Improving Existing Windows

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat gain and loss through windows are responsible for 25%-30% of residential heating and cooling energy use. In other words, even if your windows are relatively new and in good condition, at least a quarter of your home’s energy use is remedying the temperature changes caused by those windows.

An energy audit is a great way to assess the air-tightness of your windows. You or your contractor can seal up leaks around your windows using caulk or weather strips. Another option includes installing energy-efficient window coverings, which can be installed internally or externally to help reduce cold drafts and keep your abode at the right temperature.

Related Post: Second Step to a High-Performing Home: Air Sealing

Replacing Your Windows

If your windows are made from traditional materials, such as single glass panes or even double-pane clear glass, you may be spending more than you should on heating and cooling costs. ENERGY STAR®-rated windows can save 7%-15% in annual energy costs compared to traditional windows, depending on location and the type of window being replaced.

Thing is, replacing your windows with ENERGY STAR-rated models not only saves you on heating and cooling costs, it also improves home comfort and adds resale value to your home. Window replacement is one of five upgrades recommended by appraiser Woody Fincham to homeowners looking to increase home value and can provide a return on investment between 60% and 70% when selling the home.

High-Performance Window Features

When shopping for new windows, there are a few metrics to look for and understand in relation to what you want your windows to accomplish for you. When certifying windows, doors, and skylights for performance and energy efficiency, Pearl looks at the following:

  • U-Factor measures how well the window insulates. The lower the U-Factor, the better the insulation.

  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SGHC) measures how much of the sun’s heat comes through a window. The lower the SHGC value, the less solar heat the window permits.

  • The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label rates windows for visible light transmittance (how much light goes through the product), air leakage (caused by cracks in the window assembly), and condensation resistance.

But metrics don’t exist in a vacuum. The arrangement of your home’s windows, the direction your home faces, and your local climate all have to be taken into consideration. This is where your contractor comes in (we’ll get to that in a second).

As far as features go, look for coatings and double and triple panes, which equip high-efficiency windows with better insulation and in turn help maximize heating efforts during colder months. Window glazes can optimize energy flow for solar heating, daylighting (bringing natural light into the home), and cooling.

Energy-efficient windows can also include warm edge spacers to reduce the heat loss at the edge of the window system. Thermally improved frames maximize overall performance, and improved weatherstripping combats unpleasant drafts. You may opt for different types of windows depending on the direction those windows face and exposure levels.

Your contractor should be able to help you optimize your window selection based on your location, exposure, layout, and local climate, but if you want to get a head start, we recommend using the NFRC's Window Selection Tool as a guide.

Windows and Weather Resilience

As extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and wildfires, increase in frequency, investing in new windows should be at the top of your priority list. 

If you live in a hurricane-prone region, consider investing in impact-resistant windows that can withstand high wind speeds. Impact-resistant windows and skylights also improve the durability and safety of your home in the face of increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Windows and skylights that are well-insulated with argon or krypton between the panes also eliminate drafts, decrease external noises, and lower monthly utility bills — talk about multiple benefits!

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to weather resiliency is the increase in wildfires. New and efficient windows can protect your lungs from inhaling toxic smoke. Some are even wildfire-resistant.

Related Post: The Climate-Resilient Home: Storm Protection

Next Steps: Find the Right Professional

To make sure your new windows meet your goals — whether that means lowering energy costs, improving your comfort and safety, and increasing your home’s value — it’s critical you partner with a contractor who understands home performance. After all, even the most energy-efficient windows will fail to deliver if the installation is sub-par.

Pearl Network Contractors are vetted ahead of time, and every project is independently certified by Pearl, giving you peace of mind about your investment. Find and connect with your local Pearl Network Contractor in our free Green Door app. Earn points toward Silver, Gold, and Platinum home certifications, create home improvement and maintenance plans, and more. Get started today.

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