Eco-Friendly Window Options to Save Energy

March 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Consumption

In the popular trend to ‘go green,’ everyone wants to live in a way that is environmentally responsible, by saving energy and reducing waste. One of the biggest expenditure of home energy in most U.S. homes goes toward heating and cooling it. One of the most overlooked ways to save energy and money on utility bills is to pay attention to the efficiency of your windows.

Large traditional windows might be attractive, but they can be the biggest culprits of home heating loss for your whole house. There’s no use going through all the trouble of living a green lifestyle and saving energy elsewhere if you have the wrong windows that escort your home’s heat out. Glass is actually a very good conductor, quickly moving energy from one window side to the other instead of keeping it in. The result is that heat is lost in winter, and cool air is lost in summer, causing air conditioning or furnaces to work harder. Sealing gaps to reduce air leaks around windows is a start, but the best way to prevent significant heat loss is to improve the efficiency of existing windows or install energy efficient models.

Green Window Treatments

One of the most economical ways to increase your windows’ efficiency is to use retractable drapes or blinds with insulating design properties and linings to help keep heat where it needs to be. Retractable styles will give you the flexibility to shade the windows when you need to and allow sunlight in for light and warmth. Appropriate use of this feature can greatly improve the efficiency of your home windows

Storm Windows

Although storm windows don’t increase the insulative properties of traditional windows, they can reduce air movement in and out of them, and can therefore increase energy efficiency and help to reduce energy bills for heating and cooling. Storm windows are available to fit most types of windows and can be installed on the window’s exterior or interior, but should fit square on the primary window and be sealed to the opening. They should also be easy to remove for ventilation and cleaning.

Low-E Windows

If it’s at all a possibility, investing in more energy efficient windows is always the best way to go. Look for low-emissivity coated, or Low-E windows. These have a microscopically thin coating that suppresses radiant heat flow. Low-E windows are also double glazed, which lowers the heat flow even more. Higher end double glazed windows have gases between the panes such as argon or krypton. Though invisible, the gases become an insulating layer to keep heat where it needs to be. Energy saving windows increase your home’s insulative ability and can really tighten up your home’s thermal envelope, similar to the working of a greenhouse.

If you want to improve the efficiency of your air conditioning and furnace and save money on energy bills all year round, energy saving windows are the best option. For older traditional windows, seal all cracks, use energy efficient window treatments to your advantage, and install storm windows. But when circumstances allow, upgrade inefficient windows to higher efficiency low-E glass multiple glazed models. The investment will reap rewards immediately for your green home.

Green Building Design–How to Incorporate Daylighting

March 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Consumption

Let the light shine in. It’s a great way to protect the environment, reduce utility bills, and lighten and brighten your living environment by maximizing light and heat from the sun. Daylighting is the practice of designing a structure to use as much sunlight for illumination as possible. Natural light is the best light possible, as it makes minds and bodies healthier, helps to relieve seasonal depression, and requires no burning of fossil fuels for energy consumption.

Most homes are not built to use sunlight efficiently despite all of the known benefits of natural light. Traditional design has resulted in homes that are too cold and dark in winter and too bright and warm in summer. We’ve had to compensate for the lack of daylighting by relying on heating and air conditioning as well as electric lights, all of which increase our carbon footprint and consume energy paid for in higher utility bills.

Passive solar design uses the sun’s natural light to regulate temperatures in a home, helping to keep it warmer in cold weather and cooler in hot weather. The best part is that it requires no mechanical systems or extra energy. Passive solar design methods to incorporate daylighting have become much more efficient and advanced in recent years than more awkward earlier versions.

If your home is already built, it’s not too late to utilize daylighting. By strategically planting deciduous trees to shade your home in summer and allow more light in winter, you can get better utilization of natural light. Trellises with vines can be used the same way. Another helpful tool is the installation of a retractable awning or interior blinds. Although these are not completely efficient, any daylighting efforts make a difference.

When passive solar design is planned for new construction, it should be effective for every season. Examples of daylighting design techniques include having most windows placed on the home’s south side, as well as including an overhang to shade excessive sun in the summer.

Window placement, size, and orientation are important no matter where your home is located. Efficiency can be lost just by using too many or too few windows or by putting them in the wrong place. The right window planning can help to keep a home at a comfortable temperature with an optimal amount of natural light all year round. There are many options to compliment any décor and work in almost any climate. Strategic planning of window placement can even prevent overheating and cut down on glare.

Thermal mass is also used for heating and cooling in passive solar design. Thermal mass materials can store heat or cold and distribute it when needed due to temperature fluctuations. Thermal mass can be built into partition walls, ceilings, and masonry fireplaces.

Darker homes can improve light exposure by using solar tubes or skylights. The right skylight can even keep excess heat from building up or escaping and prevent leaks. For commercial buildings, solar lighting can channel sunlight into the structure through optical fibers.

Daylighting is a principal element in passive solar design. Whether through window placement planning, thermal mass, or solar lighting, any method of incorporating more natural light into your built environment is better for the planet, your health, and comfortable green living.