See the clear perspective on windows

Posted on Feb 23 2024 in Energy
Woman and baby sitting in window sil

By Jake Eslinger

Many people grumble in the winter that their windows make frigid frozen air feel at home in their house. Some may think that replacements are the answer to energy savings. Yet it’s important to see the complete picture.

The moving truth

In most circumstances, upgrading windows will not automatically rush in energy cost savings — especially when factoring in the price of new windows. Windows, even the very best, will never prevent as much heat transfer as a well-built wall. The confusion arises because of how heat moves within a house. Heat moves to areas of lesser heat. The natural heat movement in a house gives the impression that the windows are leaking simply because they pull the warmed air their way. Even a triple-pane window doesn’t have the insulation value to stop that movement completely. 

Typical windows get about an R-3 rating. The greater the R-value, the greater the power to keep heat where you want it. For comparison, an average insulated wall has an R-11 rating, while an energy-efficient home would have an R-19 to R-40 rating.

Of course, there may be a time when your windows need to be replaced or repaired. Here are some common warning signs:

• Faulty window operation

• Excessive condensation between windowpanes

• Decay and water damage on window frames

• Severe storm damage

Improve your windows’ efficiency

Before considering a major upgrade, there are steps you can take that can help improve your home’s windows. 

Hang heavy curtains over the windows and shut them when the sun isn’t shining. Closing curtains will help minimize air and heat loss. Be sure to open curtains during the day to take advantage of sunlight.

If air leaks around the window edges, seal it with caulk or non-expanding foam. Gaps can lead to significant air loss. Be sure to seal around the window to prevent your treated air from escaping. 

Consider adding storm windows to single-pane windows. The Department of Energy reports that adding properly rated low emissivity (low-e) storm windows can produce energy savings comparable to adding double-pane windows, but at about one-third of the total cost. Research your options to ensure the best match for your home. 

You can contact your local electric co-op’s energy advisor for more information about windows and your home’s energy use. Get a clear idea about how to improve your home’s comfort.

JAKE ESLINGER is the energy advisor at Parke County REMC in Rockville, Indiana