How to Choose Energy Efficient Windows

How to Choose Energy Efficient Windows
  • Opening Intro -

    Easily, new windows throughout your home can cost thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars.

    You’ll want to be thorough in your research and confident in your decision once you are ready to move forward with one of the biggest home improvement projects you’ll ever undertake.


If you’re in the market to replace your home’s windows, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that new windows are affordable and they can also be highly energy efficient. No, you won’t recoup the cost of new windows within a few years, but given time your investment will pay off in the form of lower utility bills and a possible higher market value for your home.

If you’re planning to install new, energy efficient windows at any time during 2011, there is some good news: as part of President Obama’s “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010,” homeowners may receive a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the product cost for windows and skylights — installation costs may not be included. New energy efficient doors are eligible for a tax credit; your total tax credit cannot exceed $500. Still, if your windows cost $6,000, then you’ll enjoy the tax credit. Furthermore, your local utility company may offer an additional incentive to swap out your windows — contact your service provider for details.

Energy Efficiency

Now back to energy efficient windows. The definition as set forth by the U.S. Department of Energy is quite clear: windows must be manufactured by an Energy Star partner; independently tested and certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council; and meet NFRC energy efficient guidelines. Meet these criteria and you’ll enjoy a tax credit. Even without the credit, you’ll have a home that is much more energy efficient and likely looks better.

The replacement windows market is big business especially as homes built 20 years ago or earlier are in need of an update. And that is a lot of homes.

Popular brands include Andersen, Marvin Windows and Pella, but there are some local or smaller name window manufacturers who are in the market as well. The big retailers including The Home Depot, Sears and Lowe’s are in the replacement windows business, but there are also local installers and window replacement companies who can do the work as well. As always, do your research on windows and get references from customers who have used a service provider.

Window Choices

When looking for new windows, you’ll be shown clad-wood and fiberglass windows, the most expensive and efficient according to Consumer Reports. For the best bang for the buck, vinyl windows may do. They’re not as energy efficient, but they cost about half the price as choice number one. When you’re talking about replacing 10, 12 or more windows, it isn’t difficult to see where the savings need to come in if budget is an important consideration.

One drawback about vinyl is that it cannot be painted or stained. However, your window installer can put in maintenance-free cladding, to give your home a distinct look. Relatively maintenance-free, vinyl windows are easy to clean and to replace if broken.

Energy Ratings

One major point to consider when shopping for windows are the energy ratings. Remember when we discussed the NFRC? Well, every window carries a U-Factor which measures a window’s ability to conduct heat. Working in tandem with an R-Value which measures insulating ability, these two factors help you determine how well your home is kept warm in the winter or how cool it is in the summer. A lower U-Factor and higher R-Value means you’re getting the best windows possible. Just one note: advertisers routinely share the U-Factor number, but not the R-Value, so ask your window supplier for that information before making your purchase decision.

Choosing the right windows for your home also depends on where you live. The DOE divides the country into four temperature zones: northern, north-central, south-central and southern. Homes in the northern zone need windows that can handle the worst that winter throws your way. Homes in the southern zone need windows that can handle the hottest summers.

In the great middle ground are areas of varying seasonal differences. Arizona, for example, is the only state with all four zones present. You’ll want to work with someone who really understands your local weather conditions and how those temperature variations can be handled with the right kinds of windows.

Shop Wisely

Easily, new windows throughout your home can cost thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. You’ll want to be thorough in your research and confident in your decision once you are ready to move forward with one of the biggest home improvement projects you’ll ever undertake.


National Fenestration Rating Council: Home

Energy Star: Residential Windows, Doors and Skylights

See Also — Visit our section on doors and windows to discover design options and tips.

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Categories: Doors and Windows

About Author

Krayton M Davis

Executive Manager: LetsRenovate Team