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Investing in Sweaters?

We had a short editorial in the August 4, 2013 Missoulian Home Decor section. We wanted to share it here as well, enjoy!

woman in cozy sweater

It’s no secret, Montana gets cold in the winter. If you are continually turning up the heat or wearing multiple layers while inside, there’s a good chance your windows are playing a major role in your discomfort and noticeable utility bill. While investing in sweaters does have a unique appeal, investing in modern energy efficient windows might make more sense.

No other single element of a building performs as many functions as a window. Efficient windows reduce heat loss, keep water and air out, and let light and heat in. Windows also play a critical role in the comfort and health of our indoor environments. When we work with clients, there are four common problems that plague their existing buildings:

  1. Condensation on windows happens because the window glass conducts too much heat out of their building in the winter and because cold air leaks around the window. Both problems result in a cold interior surface where moisture from the interior can collect. Condensation can damage the window by causing it to warp. In addition the wood trim or drywall can harbor mold, which can cause health problems.
  2. When our clients feel a draft around their window, it can be due to the original installation, or because their window frames are warped. Often their windows weren’t originally installed with proper air sealing. If the installation fails to drain exterior water correctly, moisture can cause the frame to warp causing additional drafts.
  3. Cold interior surface temperatures “suck” heat away, making your house “feel” cold regardless of where you set the thermostat.
  4. Some windows are supposed to open, right? Stuck windows often happen due to warping, or because a window wasn’t installed perfectly level. While wood windows can warp due to condensation, vinyl windows can warp simply due to the extreme temperature differences that are common in Montana over the course of the year.

Window replacement is often considered an energy efficiency upgrade, although the impact on the comfort and health of the interior environment can be more noticeable than the energy use reduction. Window energy performance is rated with something called “U-factor” which describes how much heat conducts through a window. Most common windows have a U-factor of U-0.33. The lower the number, the better the window. To beat all of these problems, look for a window with a U-factor of U-0.20 or lower. These windows conduct far less heat, leading to greater comfort, no condensation, and little chance of warping. Furthermore, insist that your contractor installs windows to the manufacturers specifications, fully insulates around the window, and air seals the installation gap.

Our buildings and homes are one of our longest-lived cultural legacies. Windows are one part of our buildings that will serve our children as well as they served us. Ask specific questions when speaking with your contractor, and consider better windows for your home.

*Thanks to Everything Fabulous for the photo.

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