Along the ridge beauty by Sineath Construction

Green Windows Work Hard to Reduce Energy Consumption

We often say the HVAC system is one of the hardest working systems in your home, as it is responsible for heating and cooling your home, as well as maintaining a relative humidity that prevents mold growth. You can give your HVAC system a leg up (and save on energy costs) when you install energy efficient windows in your home.

Protecting your home from external temperatures

As we know, green building can be centered on using sustainable, small footprint products or centered on building techniques that result in energy efficiency and improved indoor air quality. For most people building a custom home, their comfort zone is a combination of green building considerations.

The types of windows you use are a big consideration when building a green home. Energy efficient windows transmit less heat than conventional windows, and as a result, they help your home consume less energy. They also help protect your home from climate swings caused by external weather and extreme temperatures.

Built to conserve energy over time

Some green windows are more sustainably built than others, yet they all can positively impact your energy bills. Overall, aluminum ranks highest as the most sustainable construction material for windows. Wood follows closely behind, and then versatile vinyl ranks third.

  • Aluminum. An infinitely recyclable material, aluminum windows are more sustainable than wood-framed windows because some 75% of all aluminum ever made is still in use today. Aluminum has an average lifespan of 45 years. Its unique corrosion-resistant properties provide strength and stability over its lifetime.
  • Wood. Also called timber windows, wooden window frames are made from a natural, renewable resource. Many manufacturers source wood from responsibly and sustainably managed forests. That said, the energy required to cut and transport timber is much higher than recycling aluminum. The downside to wood is it requires upkeep, like sealing and painting, to prevent rot.
  • Vinyl. A strong and lightweight building material, vinyl’s low maintenance and 35+ year lifespan are two of its most prized sustainable features. Vinyl is also one of the best insulation materials as it can reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by 40% when compared to wooden window frames. Contrary to popular belief, today’s vinyl windows can be recycled and repurposed up to 10 times with no loss of quality or performance.

So which is better, aluminum windows or vinyl windows? It comes down to which is more important, aesthetics or sustainability. From our perspective, aluminum windows just look better than vinyl windows. However, if sustainability and energy efficiency are at the top of the list, vinyl is the way to go.

A study by an internationally respected lifecycle analysis firm showed vinyl window frames used three times less energy to manufacture than aluminum window frames. And that same study says vinyl window frames save the United States nearly 2 trillion BTUs of energy per year — enough to meet the yearly electrical needs of 18,000 single-family homes. As you can see, it depends on your green comfort zone.

What glass is best for green building?

Here in the U.S., double-paned glass is the standard in green windows. The coating blocks the heat produced by the sun’s rays. There are three types you can consider when selecting your windows.

  • Insulated Glass. Windows with insulated glass have two pieces of glass with an air space (which creates insulation) between them. The results are better thermal performance during the heating and cooling cycles and reduced condensation than non-insulated windows.
  • Low-E. Low-E glass is coated with a practically invisible layer of silver that reflects radiant solar energy while permitting visible light to pass through the glass.
  • Argon Gas. Added inside an insulated panel with Low-E Glass, Argon gas is an invisible, insulating blanket that replaces most of the air during the manufacturing process. With Low-E reflecting heat away, Argon gas buffers thermal transfer to enhance the performance of the whole glass panel. Argon gas puts the win-win in windows.

Wait? Are big windows sustainable?

Yes! They can absolutely be sustainable. In fact, it’s a common misconception that larger windows lose or gain more heat than smaller windows. Modern double-pane aluminum or vinyl windows that use Low-E glass or Argon gas can protect energy efficiency and insulate homes just as well as a more traditional size.

Given where we live, large windows to frame the mountain views are a must! They can easily be incorporated into an energy efficiency plan for your green home.

Want to learn more about green building? We have an entire section on our blog dedicated to green building. When you’re ready to build your green home, we’d love to talk.