During the harsh summers in the desert, there’s very little you won’t do to keep the sun and heat at bay. If you’re building a new home or simply looking to upgrade the old one, where you place your windows and the type of windows you use will make a huge difference to your summer comfort level — after all, it’s much easier to keep the heat out than it is to cool it down again with your already overworked air conditioner.
You’re probably familiar with the concept of single, double and triple pane windows, but have you ever really given any thought to how much they can influence your utility bills? Older homes with single-pane windows can actually provide significant savings when those single-pane windows are replaced with double pane windows, but even homes that have older double panes may find that the extra expense of upgrading to a triple pane window is well worth the price.
Although single-pane windows do a great job of keeping the wind and rain out of your home, they’re not as good at keeping the heat at bay. This is because they have almost no insulating qualities and no way to filter out bright sunlight and ultraviolet rays that radiate heat into your home. Fitting a single pane window with a storm window can help in the short term, but these windows aren’t nearly as efficient as a multi-pane window and require a great deal more yearly maintenance to stay in good shape.
Multi-pane windows are special because they’re built with a pocket of gas inside to act as an insulating layer. Instead of a single layer of glass, you get two (or three!) with a separator between each to prevent them from accidentally conducting heat or cold across the window. The gas, typically argon in a double pane window, slows the transmission of outdoor heat in much the same way as your attic insulation. Air is a terrible conductor, so by the time the heat passes all the way through the window, it has mostly dissipated.
In addition to this great gas pocket, many multi-pane windows offer the option of a low-emittance coating (known as Low-E). Low-e coatings are made up of microscopic metal oxide particles that are applied in a very thin layer so that the window can still allow the outdoor light’s short wavelengths, which tend to be cooler, to pass through the window, while reflecting the longer, hotter wavelengths away.
Once you understand how double and triple pane windows work, you’ll see that the energy you save during the air conditioning season can be substantial. Many factors go into just how much money you’ll save on electricity, including how many windows are on what sides of your home and the options you choose for your windows. But typically, double pane windows are 50 percent more efficient than single-pane windows, and triple-pane windows are up to 90 percent more efficient than single-pane windows. Considering that your air conditioner represents between 10 and 25 percent of your energy costs each month, that can translate into substantial savings.
When shopping for new windows, you’ll save the most money on air conditioning if you choose triple-pane windows that have a Low-E coating. These windows allow the sun in, but virtually no heat — they’re perfect for enjoying the beauty of the desert without having to actually experience the heat outside. Of course, these windows are also the most expensive, but if you plan to stay in your home for a decade or more, most contractors agree that they will pay for themselves in air conditioning and other utility savings.
While you’re shopping for windows, we can help you find the other places in your home where you’re losing money on air conditioning with our Home Performance Services. Just give us a call at 602-349-6922 to set up your appointment and we’ll help you seal your home up nice and tight long before the heat of the summer returns.
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