Many air leaks and drafts—like those around windows and doors—are easy to find because they are easy to feel. But holes hidden in attics, basements, and crawlspaces are usually bigger problems. Sealing these leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weatherstripping will have a great impact on improving your comfort and reducing utility bills. Sealing air leaks in a home with gas appliances should be done by a professional.
Caulking & Weatherstripping
Check caulking and weatherstripping around your windows. If the caulk is cracked or the weatherstripping is flat or peeling, replace the old material. Use caulk for small holes and expanding foam for larger areas.
As the name indicates, a double-pane or “double-glazed” window features two panes of glass with a layer of air or gas in between. It’s this middle layer–either filled with air or, even better, a slow-moving, low-conductive, dense gas–that helps eliminate air movement and thermal exchange which, in turn, decreases heating and cooling costs. In addition to increasing your home’s energy efficiency and comfort, double-pane windows greatly reduce outside noise.
Solar or “reflective film,” which adheres to glass, can block up to 85% percent of incoming sunlight. In the summer, solar films can reduce heat gain, making homes more comfortable and cutting cooling costs. In the winter, window films can reduce heat loss by reflecting heat back into the home rather than letting it escape through the window.
Unlike closed drapes or blinds, reflective films work by stopping the sun’s heat outside the window before it enters the home–without blocking your view. Reflective films also reduce fading of carpets, furniture and fabrics by the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays.
Because films block sunlight year-round, it is inappropriate on south-facing windows in passive solar homes. However, it may be practical on tough-to-shade east- and west-facing windows. Because the sun is low in the sky as it rises and sets, east- and west-facing windows are best shaded with materials like solar films or screens that cover their entire surface. Films are not recommended for windows receiving partial shading because the uneven heating of the glass may cause it to break or ruin the seals between double- or triple-glazed units.
Reflective film comes in a wide range of tints–like bronze, gray and neutral tones–that are virtually invisible from the inside. They are available with scratch-resistant coatings and can be cleaned with a mild soap and water solution. When selecting reflective film, consider the U-value (thermal conductivity value); shading coefficient (percentage of solar heat passing through the glass); and the visible transmittance (percentage of visible light passing through the glass). Other factors to consider when choosing reflective film for your home are climate, structural design, building orientation and external shading. Check with manufacturers for specific product testing results and specifications.
You can improve your home’s energy performance by replacing old windows with new, energy-efficient models. But if finances are a concern, a less costly option is installing storm windows. While they do not necessarily improve how your windows function, they do help eliminate air movement and exchange, which in turn reduces heating and cooling costs. There are several types of storm windows available, ranging from single-season plastic sheets or films to higher-end models featuring laminated glass or polycarbonate plastic. They can be installed inside our outside the primary window.
A triple-pane or “triple-glazed” window features an outer, middle and inner layer of glass. Each side of the middle layer is surrounded by a slow-moving, low-conductive, dense gas that helps eliminate air movement and thermal exchange which, in turn, decreases heating and cooling costs. The extra layer of glass and gas makes these windows even more efficient–and effective–than their double-pane counterparts. In addition to increasing your home’s energy performance and comfort, triple-pane windows greatly reduce outside noise.