Windows are one of the most important features of a home. They contribute to exterior curb appeal, let in light, provide a view and enhance interior ambiance. However, older windows are notorious for losing heat, causing drafts, allowing in noise and having condensation problems throughout the winter. Fortunately, you have the choice of many features that can save on your heating and air-conditioning bills while keeping your home more comfortable.
Frame material and window type are often among the first considerations when choosing new windows. Window frames are typically wood, vinyl or fiberglass and each has a range of benefits. Some hollow core frames contain foam insulation to boost energy performance. The way a window opens also affects its energy performance. Fixed windows — ones that do not open — can have the best energy performance as they have no moving parts that leak air. Casement windows that open and close like doors can be closed and firmly latched providing a relatively airtight seal.
Consider triple pane windows instead of the more conventional double panes. They tend to be more common in some of the colder areas of Canada. Their R-value is significantly higher than standard double panes.
Buy windows that use insulating spacers between the panes. Spacers provide an insulating air space between the glass panes in multi-pane windows. If your window has a conductive spacer, such as aluminum, the glass near the spacer will not only lose more heat during the winter, it will more likely have condensation problems that can lead to moisture damage on and around the window and mold growth. Fortunately, insulating spacers are readily available that can cut heat losses around the edge of the windows dramatically.
Windows can also perform as solar collectors. By allowing solar energy from the sun into the house during the winter, windows can offset a large part of your home heating bill. The location and size of windows also affects the amount of solar gains your home can capture. More windows on the south side and fewer on the north is the general rule but too many south facing windows can overheat rooms — even in winter. If you are building a new home, consult with a designer knowledgeable in passive solar design strategies.
In Canada, it makes sense to choose windows with a high “solar heat gain coefficient” (SHGC) to maximize solar gains. However, if your house has a good deal of west or east facing windows that cause troublesome high heat gains year round, it may make sense to use windows with low SHGC glass in these locations. An alternative is to provide better exterior shading options such as awnings or shade trees.
As windows are a long-term investment, it can make sense to buy windows with the highest thermal and solar heat gain performance you can afford. This will help protect you against rising home heating and cooling costs over time.
High performance windows are one of the main cornerstones of achieving energy efficient housing. By applying different features and design strategies, varying levels of energy efficiency can be achieved to suite any need or budget.
Protect your largest investment
Building or purchasing a new home is often the biggest investment one can make. But despite the importance of this single purchase, many new homebuyers focus on the location, aesthetic appeal, cost and convenience rather than the reputation of the builder.
“New home warranty is an important step,” says Pat Mulcahy, chief executive officer of Atlantic Home Warranty. “But new homeowners need to understand that protecting that investment starts with doing their homework and finding the right builder.
Since 1976, Atlantic Home Warranty has been providing peace of mind for homebuyers in all four Atlantic Provinces. The home warranty programs not only strengthen the credibility and confidence in builders – they protect the homebuyer and their investment from structural defects, materials or workmanship provided by the builder after possession of the home.
After years of working with builders and home owners, Mulcahy believes that if the homebuyer and builder form a working relationship from the beginning, any issues that arise after possession of the home will be resolved between the buyer and the builder.
“Most of the issues we mediate involve the breakdown of a relationship between the builder and the new homeowner,” says Mulcahy. “Find the right builder and it’s unlikely that homeowners will need to call on Atlantic Home Warranty.”
Like purchasing health insurance, home warranty coverage is a protection plan against possible problems that may arise in the future. Once the builder hands over the keys, if there is no relationship between the builder and purchaser, a warranty plan is the easiest way a homeowner can seek compensation or resolution.
Mulcahy also stresses the importance of the homebuyer taking the time to do the necessary research before committing to a project and a builder. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is another important resource for homebuyers who wish to investigate any previous complaints or legal issues relating to specific builders or development companies. The BBB also offers accreditation for companies who meet the standards in customer service, complaint resolution and business ethics.
“Homebuyers should do the research, take a visit to previous developments of potential builders and chat with existing homeowners,” suggests Mulcahy. “Knock on a few doors, casually approach neighbours and ask them about their relationship with the builder, the overall experience and if any problems that arose were resolved.”
Over 700 builders are qualified members of Atlantic Home Warranty and must complete mandatory training and abide by strict standards. Homeowners can visit the Atlantic Home Warranty website at www.ahwp.org for a complete list of member builders.