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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Close the Window on High Energy Bills
submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator

This article appeared in the September 15 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Is cooling your home in the summertime and heating it in the winter costly for you? If so, windows may be part of the problem. Almost half of United States homes have single-pane windows. Homeowners with single-pane windows should consider replacing them with new double-pane windows with high-performance glass.

In cooling-dominated climates, select gas-filled windows with low-emissivity coatings on the glass to reduce heat loss. For heating-dominated climates, select windows with spectrally selective coatings to reduce heat gain. Parts of Nebraska are in the northern, or heating-dominated, climate area. The majority of the state is in the central, or both a heating and cooling, climate.

If homeowners decide not to replace windows, there are other ways to improve the windows' performance. In cold weather, close curtains and shades at night, and open them during the day. In warm weather, install white window coverings to reflect heat away from the house and close south- and west-facing curtains during the day. Installing storm windows also can reduce heat loss by as much as 50 percent.

The uniform National Fenestration Rating Council label may be found on windows made by participating manufacturers. The label can be used to compare energy rating including the U-value or thermal transmittance, solar heat gain coefficient and visible light transmittance.

Installing new windows means paying attention to correct installation requirements for the particular window style. Incorrect installation may lead to water moving into the inner wall cavity and damaging wood and siding below the window as the water moves downward. Be sure correct flashing procedures are used and any weep hopes to allow moisture drainage are not plugged. Some newer windows are meant to allow any moisture that does get in to escape. If in doubt about the installation methods, contact the manufacturer.

To meet the EnergyStar compliant designation for windows, the U-value for areas in the northern region must be 0.35 or lower. In the central region, the requirements are a U-value of 0.40 or lower and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.55 or lower. EnergyStar windows must be NFRC rated.

Approximate characteristics of glass in windows:

-- Single glass- U-value: 1.1; R-value: 0.9; solar transmittance: 84 percent; visible transmittance: 90 percent

-- Single glass with storm window- U-value: 0.50; R-value: 1.5-2; solar transmittance: 70 percent; visible transmittance: 81 percent

-- Insulated glass- U-value: 0.56-0.50; R-value: 1.6-2; solar transmittance: 70 percent; visible transmittance: 81 percent

-- Low-e insulated glass- U-value: 0.40-0.29; R-value: 2.5-3.5; solar transmittance: 58 percent; visible transmittance: 76 percent

-- Low-e insulated glass with Argon- U-value: 0.34-0.23; R-value: 2.9-4.4; solar transmittance: 58 percent; visible transmittance: 76 percent

-- Insulated glass with suspended film- U-value: 0.23; R-value: 4.1-8.1; solar transmittance: 41 percent, visible transmittance: 71 percent

For more energy saving tips on windows, visit

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