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Ward off High Energy Costs by Replacing Windows and Doors

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U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has predicted tight supplies of natural gas and therefore higher energy prices well into 2004. This is news we’ve heard before, yet it still sends many Americans scrambling for new ways to conserve energy to help save on their utility bills.

The substantial increase in gas prices -- more than double what they were last year --“has put significant segments of the North American gas-using industry in a weakened competitive position against industries overseas,” according to Greenspan. Natural gas supplies have been categorized as extremely short.

Consumers concerned about energy costs don’t have to simply hunker down and wait for their escalating utility bills to arrive in the mail. There are a variety of proactive steps one can take to conserve energy; it’s up to the consumer to do some research, product comparisons and make adjustments in their home to realize any potential savings.

Utility companies have created incentives that will motivate people to take energy-saving steps to help reduce consumption, as well as cost. Standard rebates on new furnaces or air conditioners have become more inclusive by adding windows and doors to the list of items meeting rebate qualifications.

Replacing windows or doors leaking air or causing drafts can help improve the home’s overall energy efficiency, and comfort level for the occupants. For maximum energy savings, it’s critical to have a window that has a good design, fits tightly in its frame and has low air infiltration levels.

Here are some additional window and door energy saving ideas:

• Look for window and door products that meet or exceed the Department of Energy’s Energy Star standards and have the Energy Star label.

• Carefully read the label provided on all windows by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) to evaluate a window’s potential for energy efficiency.

• Solid wood construction offers superior insulating qualities -- wood provides 1,100 times the insulating value of aluminum.

• Double and triple-paned glazing options on glass are available for maximum energy efficiency.

• Optional Low-E glass coatings help reduce heat and ultraviolet (UV) rays that can fade carpet, walls and furniture.

• Even weatherstripping impacts energy efficiency. Choose a quality product with a backing that will retain its seal, even in extreme temperatures, and not degrade when exposed to sunlight. Choose one that is flexible enough so it’s easy to use.

• Keep window blinds and shades closed during hot weather to conserve energy, and open on sunny days during cold months to allow in solar heat.

It all sounds good, but what is Energy Star? And why worry about an NFRC label and who can explain Low-E glass? These are valid questions consumers need to answer before making decisions about replacing windows and doors. Energy Star is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. It was started by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992 and began as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Energy Star label is now featured on energy-efficient windows, doors, major appliances, office equipment, lighting and home electronics. The EPA also has extended the program to include new homes and commercial and industrial buildings. Some windows feature Argon gas between panes of glass to help improve energy efficiency. Others are designed to earn the Energy Star rating without the need for added Argon gas.

An NFRC energy-performance label is designed to help consumers decide how well a product will perform in terms of keeping a building cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and offering protection against wind and resist condensation.

By using this information, builders and consumers can reliably compare one product against another and make educated decisions about product performance when buying windows, doors or skylights.
This glossary from the NFRC explains all the ratings listed on its label:

U-Factor: U-factor measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping. The rate of heat loss is indicated in terms of the U-factor (U-value) of a window assembly. U-factor ratings are usually between 0.20 and 1.20. The lower the U-value, the better. A low U-factor means the greater a window’s resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value.

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): This measures how well a product blocks heat caused by sunlight. SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The lower this level is for a window, the less solar heat it transmits.

Visible Transmittance (VT): VT measures how much light comes through a product. It is an optical property that indicates the amount of visible light transmitted. This rating is also between 0 and 1. The higher the VT rating the more light is transmitted.

Air Leakage* (AL): Air leakage is indicated by an air leakage rating expressed as the equivalent cubic feet of air passing through a square foot of a window area. Heat loss and gain occur by infiltration through cracks in the window assembly. The lower the AL the less air will pass through cracks in the window assembly.

Condensation Resistance* (CR): This measures the ability of a product to resist the formation of condensation on the interior surface of that product. While the rating cannot predict condensation, it can provide a credible method of comparing the potential of various products for condensation formation. The higher the CR rating the better. CR is a rating between 0 and 100.

Low-E insulating glass stands for low-emissivity. Emissivity is a measure of how much a glass surface transfers radiant heat. The less radiant heat is transferred, the better. Low-E is generally an upgrade option on glass for windows or doors, but a wise investment to cut energy costs, keep heat out in the summer and filter out damaging sun rays.

With winter fast approaching, now is the ideal time to look for energy-saving opportunities in the home. Replacing windows and doors will increase energy efficiency and provide a good long-term investment for homeowners. For additional tips on how to conserve energy, visit the Department of Energy Web site at www.energystar.gov. To find the Pella Window & Door Store nearest you call (888) 84-PELLA or visit www.pella.com.

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