How Much Do Energy-Efficient Windows Save? Enough to Offset Sacramento’s PG&E 2018 Rate Increase

Here in Sacramento, we live in one of the sunniest cities in California. In fact, with 3,608 hours of sun each year, Sacramento is America’s third sunniest town, behind only Phoenix and Las Vegas according to weather research. Simply put, there aren’t many vitamin D deficiencies here. But with that sun comes heat. Summers in Sacramento are hot, and we have to run our air conditioners—a lot.

This year, unfortunately, residents of sunny Sacramento are feeling the cost of that AC more than usual. PG&E, the utility company serving more than 1.3 million customers in the region, is restructuring rates from three tiers down to two, a move that is raising the price of power in Sacramento. In fact, PG&E has estimated that the average residential customer’s bill increased from $145.36 in July 2016 to $165.10 in March 2017. And it’s going to get worse, as more increases are slated for later this year, and in 2018 and 2019 as well.

Now, homeowners can’t lower energy rates. However, residents can control the amount of power they use, especially with their AC. One way to reduce air conditioner use is to just sweat in the heat. For obvious reasons, I don’t recommend that. Instead, I suggest customers look into upgrading their windows, which can improve insulation and keep homes cooler, even amid all of that Sacramento sun. You might just be amazed at how much money new energy-efficient window technology can save you on your future power bills.

Improve Your Windows, Improve Your Insulation

sacramento window efficiencyOne of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to walk around Midtown Sacramento, especially F and G Streets where you find some of the most interesting and eclectic houses in Northern California. One thing all these different homes share, however, are prominent, large windows. This, of course, makes sense. With all the sun we get in Sacramento, architects want to take advantage of natural light. But big, beautiful windows can be both a blessing and a curse.

Older, single-pane windows don’t have much curb appeal and also let air pass easily through the glass, as well as the seals around their edges. In fact, the US Department of Energy reports that upgrading windows can shrink energy bills by an average of 12 percent. An even larger decrease can be achieved when homeowners go from thin, single-pane windows to energy efficient double or triple-pane ones. These stats show homeowners in our area with single-pane windows can lower energy bills by an average of 31 percent with an upgrade, a fantastic counterbalance for the PG&E hikes. This is important in Sacramento, too, because many of the windows I see on older houses are single-pane.

Okay, Tell Me More about Upgrading My Windows…

I’m going to assume the 31 percent utility bill decrease mentioned above is something you’re interested in. Who wouldn’t be? The decision to upgrade is often an easy one for residents of older homes that have aging single-pane windows. What’s not easy is picking the specific type of new windows to buy. The choices are many and, believe it or not, there are actually windows out there that can increase the amount of natural light your home gets while simultaneously reducing the amount of heat they let in and cool air they let out.

Let’s look at common questions when upgrading:

What type of frame should I choose? Improving the thermal resistance of a window frame is a simple way to improve its insulation. Here are three common options:

  • Aluminum or metal frames: I recommend staying away from these. They’re strong and light, which is nice, but when hit by direct sunlight, they rapidly conduct heat into your home, raising the temperature and making your AC run longer, bad news in sunny Sacramento where power rates are rising.
  • Wood frames: These provide much better insulation than metal ones, as they don’t conduct heat inside well. They are, however, high maintenance because they tend to expand and contract with the outside temperature. These frequent changes in size can lead to breaks in the seal, the frame, or the glass itself, all of which needs to be immediately repaired.
  • Fiberglass frames: These get my strongest recommendation for residents of Sacramento. Fiberglass makes for a stable frame with an air cavity that can be filled with insulation material similar to that found in your walls so your cool air stays inside and the hot air stays out.

Should I get double or triple-pane windows? Let’s ignore single-pane windows, as we’ve already been over their deficiencies. I’ve talked about double versus triple-pane windows in the past, but it bears repeating in this context. Triple-pane windows provide better insulation, but they are costlier. They also reduce natural light, which may hurt the ambiance of your home and also cause you to use power by turning on lamps more often. Consulting with a knowledgeable window installation expert is really the best way to figure out which of these choices is right for your home.

What other features should I consider? The list of other features that can improve insulation in your home and reduce your power bill includes gas fills, heat-absorbing tints, and coatings. Again, a good window expert will help you navigate these options.

When Should I Upgrade My Windows?

There really isn’t a bad time to upgrade your windows; improving your home’s insulation can reduce your heating bill in the winter and your power bill in the summer. However, with the hot weather coming and the cost of power rising in Sacramento, I’m encouraging anyone who has been delaying a window purchase to go through with it now.

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, though, I think late spring and early summer is a great time to buy new windows. Windows are the eyes of the home, and sprucing them up can really increase your curb appeal. Why not make the upgrade now so you can show your house off to all the joggers, bikers, and walkers that fill up the streets during the sunny summer in Sacramento?

So, yes, power rates in our area are going up. It’s not ideal, but investing in new windows can taper the monthly expense, possibly to the point you won’t even notice it. You do, of course, have to select the right windows with the proper attributes to improve the insulation in your specific house. That’s where a knowledgeable window professional comes in.

A good window installation expert will help you navigate choices about panes, frames, and other special features. Whether any or all of these options are right for you depends on many factors, including what direction your home faces, how much direct sunlight you get, and what time of day you generally run your AC. Don’t try to answer these questions yourself. Just like with the power rate increases, control what you can control—and get help to find the perfect windows to insulate your home from the heat and the sun.

Don’t despair over PG&E’s power rate increase. Contact Bell Brothers today. Our experienced window installation experts will be happy to help you improve the insulation of your home.

Image courtesy Unsplash user Colin Maynard