Choosing the Right Glass for Your Windows

When your home’s windows just aren’t doing their job anymore, it’s time to consider what you really want in a replacement.  While you ordinarily wouldn’t spend that much time contemplating glass, it can be a big investment in your real estate value.  Not to mention a determining factor for your energy efficiency.  So, what do you need to worry about when making your decision?  These are the key features to consider:

1. U-Value

Today, you have a lot of options to choose from!  And no, “clear” isn’t one of them.  When you really get down into it, there’s a variety of models all assigned different scores based on the government-regulated rating system.  In an effort to create a more sustainable economy, look for windows with the Energy Star symbol.This indicates that these options meet the minimum standard for U-value

U-value describes how effective the window is as retaining heat and/or preventing heat loss.  This number usually falls somewhere between 0 and 1, with scores closer to zero equaling better energy efficiency.  If you live in a hot climate, for example, you’ll probably want to stay between 0.17 and 0.30.  For colder environments, you can go a little higher, but preferably not above 0.39.  While these numbers seem rather small and insignificant, they can make a big difference in your average energy bill.


2. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)


While the U-value evaluates your windows’ ability to keep heat in, this unit of measure focuses on how much heat the glass lets inside in the first place.  This plays into the greenhouse effect that causes rooms with direct sunlight during key points of the day to grow hotter than the rest of the property.

Again, it’s usually indicated by a number between 0 and 1, with lower scores indicating better control. You can have some wiggle room on this measurement, depending on your climate or even their location on your house. If you’re trying to heat your home naturally, you can go all the way up to .65.  But, in warmer locations, you probably want to stick down around .25.

Unfortunately, it’s usually a tradeoff between this and your U-value.  If you want to let more natural warmth in, you’re going to lose some heat retention—and vice versa.  Fortunately, you can often choose different values for different rooms in your house without any visible variations.  It all just depends on how customized you want your window replacements to be!


3. Low-E Coatings


As you’re shopping for windows, you’ll likely see this term come up.  Typically, it refers to a microscopic film that’s placed over the glass to minimize the amount of UV and infrared rays that come into your home. These forms of light are often harmful to your family, as well as your interior.  Apart from the known link to skin damage, they also causing fading or wear on your fabrics, furniture, and even your paint colors.

Ultimately, this influences both your U-value and SHGC by reflecting harmful rays from entering through the glass, as well as reflecting back heat as it’s trying to escape.  Many people use the thermos analogy to explain how it works.  Ideally, it adjusts to both warmer and colder temperatures, but try not to get carried away with too many coatings.  This can affect the look of natural light through your windows, causing a grayish tint to color your views.

4. Panes


Most windows come in single-, double-, or triple-pane varieties.  Essentially, the pane is just the sheet of glass, so with a double-pane option, you’ve got two sheets as opposed to one.  This is how many modern models come, since it enhances your energy efficiency.  Older homes are more likely to have single-paned ones, which may also have “storm” windows to mitigate the energy loss.

With double-paned options, there’s usually a small gap between the 2 sheets.  If you opt to fill this with argon gas, it helps with both insulation and durability.  Triple-paned windows are available too, but they’re a more expensive replacement that may not affect your energy efficiency as much as you think.

If you still have questions after reading our quick guide to window glass, then just give us a call!  Our experienced technicians can give you advice on all aspects related to window replacement, in addition to an accurate quote for your home. When it’s time for you to upgrade your exterior, think of Schaefer!


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