Improve Your Windows, Improve Your InsulationOne 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.