If you’ve been tagging along with us, we’ve been barreling through the world of home energy audits, helping distill what to look for and how to look for it in hopes of helping improve energy efficiency in your home or office. There is nothing like a draft to keep you cold in the winter and hot in the summer. There is also nothing like a draft to keep your wallet thin and your expenses high. We’re all about bucking that trend here, so lets move along with our study. In previous installments, we explored some techniques to discovering drafts and leaks in the home. We also touched on the importance of having quality aluminum window and vinyl windows. There should be no understating of this fact. Replacement windows alone can markedly improve home energy efficiency and reduce costs associated with high utility bills. And nobody’s got time for that! So, what else can be done to help improve home energy efficiency and reduce costs? Well, today we’re going to look at insulation and how it can work in tandem with quality replacement windows to help reduce energy expenditure and increase efficiency dramatically. Heat loss occurring through the walls and ceiling of your house can contribute to bills that don’t flatter anyone. If insulation has fallen down in the walls or has compacted and lost its insulating ability, then energy efficiency will suffer. With the energy prices of today’s market, there is great incentive to keep your home in tip-top shape and seal any existing leaks or drafts. When it comes to insulation, a good place to start is the attic. If the insulation is still in good shape in the attic, there is a good chance that the insulation in the walls will be in decent shape as well. This is not a guarantee though, and checking the insulation in the walls of a home can be a bit more difficult than sticking your head up in the attic. A good way to get a glimpse at the insulation in the walls is to take off an outlet in the wall (after you’ve cut off the electricity of course. We can’t have people electrocuting themselves on our watch). Once you’ve removed the wall outlet, you should be able to get a glimpse inside the wall. Here you’ll be able to get some kind of gauge on how well the insulation is holding up. You can also sneak a peek at the insulation if you are replacing worn aluminum windows or vinyl windows. Mid removal, you should be able to see if the insulation is looking decent. Of course, at that point, you’d want to be able to jump on changing out your insulation while you tear out the old windows too… which could turn into a pretty extensive undertaking.
If you’re the do-it-yourself type, or want to become the do-it yourself type, or even know someone who is the do-it-yourself type, then this is for you. We’ve been digging into how to run your own personal energy audit on your home of office, and today we’re going to go a little further in checking out the best ways to determine the energy efficiency of the place where you spend much of your time… and money. We’ve covered the major bases: visual inspection for leaks, reinforcing weak spots, replacing poor quality windows for energy efficient windows and aluminum replacement windows. From here, we can move on to what is known as a building pressurization test. This kind of test essentially creates a vacuum within your house to determine where the house is drawing in air. By depressurizing your house, you’ll create a pressure imbalance. This can be achieved by turning on any attic fans our outward facing exhaust or vent fans designed to draw air to the outside. Run these while standing in a room and observe the air patterns. The air will be influenced by the pressure difference and will tend toward whatever direction there is a current. By lighting incense or something similar (we’re not suggesting you relive your younger glory days, we’re just suggesting using something that smokes and is non-toxic and easily controlled to help discover which direction the air in the home wants to move and where new air is entering the home. By following the smoke, you’ll essentially be led to any drafts that my have developed in your home. Once you’ve identified these leaks or drafts, you’ll want to go and start sealing up your home to be an airtight unit, impervious to the cruel whims of nature and climate. This can be achieved by caulking, new insulation, sealing door jambs with weather stripping, installing quality aluminum windows, vinyl windows, and storm doors, the home can be restored to a state of energy efficiency. Now, we might have glossed over some of these steps, so feel free to do a little independent research, and don’t be afraid to ask for some help. There are people who do professional home energy audits and can help determine just how effective your home is at keeping out the elements. The bottom line is basically that there is always something you can do to improve your home energy efficiency, and the time is now, so grab a vinyl window, an aluminum window, or a storm door, and get to it!
We’re going to round things out when it comes to our home energy audit and get down to the nitty gritty with our leak and draft detection. There are a lot of major issues that can be identified with a simple visual inspection; looking in the major trouble spots for any sign of wear, cracking, leakage and other weak points in the sealed nature of the home or office. There are, however, places where even the most scrupulous eye isn’t enough to detect home energy efficiency issues. Once a thorough visual inspection has been made, and all exterior corners, outdoor water faucets, areas where siding and chimneys meet, and areas where the foundation of the home and siding or exterior brick meet have been checked for leak points, you should move on to the next stage of leak detection. This next step is about as important as installing quality aluminum windows and vinyl windows in your home. A leaky structure is a recipe for high energy costs. You’ll also want to visually inspect all electrical outlets, switch plates, door and window frames, baseboards, gas and electrical service entrances, doors and the weather stripping around them, fireplace dampers, hatches to attics, wall and window mounted air conditioners, phone lines and cable lines running into the home, dryer vents and other vents and fans coming out of the house. All of these places are trouble spots that a solid visual inspection should be made of. You’ll also want to look around foundation seals, any pipes or wires running in or out of the home, mail slots. Check for any missing or damaged weather stripping, and make sure all windows and doorframes are thoroughly caulked and lined. Replacing old and defective aluminum windows or vinyl windows with energy efficient quality replacement windows can be a very important part of the picture and can help in the overall improvement of the energy efficiency of the home. There are other places to check as well, but these are the major hot spots. Once all of the “hot spots” are checked for air leakage, the next step is to do a pressurization test to identify any elusive leaks that could be causing trouble. This test is to help identify those invisible leaks that could be undetectable to the eye but still allow heated or cooled air to escape… which, if you’ve been following along, is a bad thing.
To recap last week, we looked at how fixing drafts and air leaks in your home or office can result in energy savings ranging anywhere from 5% to 30% a year. We all know that heating and cooling aren’t inexpensive things, so any improvements to the integrity of your home energy system can have substantial results. Several weeks ago we began looking at how to single out and find any leaks and drafts that might be hiding in your home. Remember, a draft is a gap or crack where outside air gets inside. Some common places to look for leaks and drafts are cracks or gaps surrounding faucets, pipes, electrical outlets, and wiring coming in and out of rooms or floorboards. Outdoors, pay special attention to any cracks in the mortar or siding of your home, as well as the foundations and any crack that could’ve formed over time. This is especially important in places where ground settling occurs, or homes built in places susceptible to ground saturation or flooding. This is also an important place to check in homes built in climates that experience a lot of freezing and thawing. The process of weathering on a house is more extreme in these particular climates as water can seep into small cracks in the foundation and then expand as it freezes, causing cracking and splitting in the foundation itself. This kind of weathering can also take place along rooflines where icicles form. Minor cracks in the foundation can be repaired with caulking and plugging. More severe cracks, however, should be inspected by a professional and addressed appropriately. If you’re in doubt about any of these steps, call a professional and have your home checked out for energy efficiency. If there is one thing here in the window manufacturing industry that is paramount above most other things, it is the idea that energy efficiency is one of the most critical things about a home. By installing quality replacement windows and adding storm windows or storm doors, energy costs can be reduced dramatically. If you’re in the beginning stages of building a home, then make sure you get the right vinyl windows and aluminum windows in your home to best protect against the elements and provide a more cost effective and energy efficient home for you and your family. If you need help along the way, check out all our resources on energy efficiency and vinyl windows, aluminum windows, patio doors, storm doors and storm windows.
We’re going to get our hands dirty today as we walk through our home energy audit and address energy concerns in the homes and workplaces that we spend our time in and our money on. As window manufacturers, we know that there is no beating around the bush, poor energy efficiency in a home or work environment can mean sky-high bills for utilities. Just by addressing drafts and air leaks, potential energy savings in an average home could range anywhere from 5% to 30% a year. Replacement windows are also an important component to add to the equation. Heating and cooling doesn’t come cheap, and any gap in your home energy defense system can have pretty dramatic monetary consequences. So, we’ve already walked through our home and identified leaks and drafts. A draft is any place where outside air movement can be detected coming into the home. Once you’ve made a list of all the potential air leaks and drafts, you’ll need to identify the actual source of the leak. Sometimes these leaks will be obvious and will easily identified, like a gap between the window frame and the wall, or an ill-fitting door. Often, however, these leaks and drafts will be more difficult to pinpoint visually. In these cases, you’ll need to feel out the leak. Here, you’ll actually need to use your sense of touch to feel and follow drafts to pinpoint the source. If the issue is stemming from a visible leak, such as in the joining of two walls, a ceiling and a wall, a poorly sealed crawlspace, floorboards and baseboards, or other cracks or gaps in the continuity of the walls and ceiling of the home, you can use caulk to fill the cracks and gaps and help seal the home. You’ll also want to follow the same process outside the home as well. There could be telling gaps or cracks in the exterior of your home that can lead to dramatic energy losses. Places where two different building materials meet can be good places to start your search. Make a list of these trouble spots, and if they can easily be addressed and sealed with caulking, then seal them up. Some other common trouble spots (aside from the need for quality replacement windows or new aluminum windows or vinyl windows) could be cracks or holes around pipes, faucets, electrical outlets, and other wiring. Cracks in mortar, siding and foundations can also lead to energy efficiency problems that will need to be address.
Ok, to get things rolling today, we’re going to play a little game. It’s called, “Name That Song,” and it’s pretty simple; we’ll give you a lyric and then you name the song. Here it goes! “I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in, and stops my mind from wondering where it will go ooh ohhh.” Any guesses? If you guessed, “Fixing A Hole” by the Beatles, then you’d be right! If you really need to ask, we’ll tell you why we chose this song for our little game. The reason is pretty simple, so don’t think too deep here. We’ve been looking at energy efficiency and home energy audits, and if there is one takeaway lesson to be learned from all our discovery and exploration, it’s that fixing a hole can be the best thing you can do to improve energy efficiency in a home or office… or even a home office! Now, these “holes” might not be literal holes, but rather gaping weaknesses in the home’s defense against the elements. Poor insulation and poorly sealed windows and doors can lead to massive energy expenses in the way of heating and cooling costs. As a window manufacturer, we are more than aware of the importance of a quality replacement window. Whether we’re talking aluminum windows, vinyl windows, patio doors or storm doors, the value of an energy efficient replacement window is something that can't be overstated. There is no shortage of inferior products in homes across the nation contributing to high energy costs and low indoor home efficiency. If you really boil down the window manufacturing industry, and drive to the core of what should propel a quality window manufacturer, time and time again you’ll arrive at the fact that the entire window manufacturing industry is based upon one simple concept… and that concept is the idea that a home or work place should maintain energy efficiency. If you can’t control the atmosphere within your dwelling place, then costs can be dramatic, and no one around here is looking for any excess drama, I’m sure. In the coming weeks as we look further into the key components of a good home energy audit, we’ll explore the idea of energy efficiency and how it relates to window manufacturers. Until then, keep your eye out for “holes” in the energy efficiency of your home, and most importantly, above all else, keep on keeping on!
Last week we started our own home energy audit. We began by taking a look at drafts and leaks in the continuity of the home. These are bad. Period. A leaky home is bad because the essence of energy efficiency is based on the premise that the house is a sealed environment whose internal climate can be effectively controlled. Now, I suppose some of the sticklers in the crowd are saying, “come on, get your terminology right. The word climate refers to a larger pattern of weather, not an air conditioned building.” To you we say, “touché.” You’d be right in saying that climate refers to large-scale patterns of weather. The definition of climate, according to Merriam-Webster, of course, is “the average course or condition of the weather at a place usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation.” But wait, there is more. They also define weather as, “the prevailing set of conditions (as of temperature and humidity) indoors.” So, although the traditional usage of the term does, in fact, imply large-scale weather behavior, there are grounds for jumping on the bandwagon and referring to heating and air conditioning as climate control. So, with that little clarification out of the way, let’s move along with our home energy audit (we sincerely apologize to anyone who may have noticed our flippant use of the word climate only to be insulted by the implication that they might be sticklers for noticing word usage issues… if it is any consolation, we noticed it too). Picking up roughly where we left off, we took a good look around our home and places of business to identify any potential leaks in the continuity of the structure. Wherever you find drafts present, you can be confident that there is excess energy being spent in order to maintain the desired temperature in your home or place of business. A leaky sieve might be good for a lot of things, but holding water isn’t one of them. In the same way, a leaky home is no good for energy efficiency. Energy efficiency requires a sealed home environment to maintain the most efficient and stable climate. Insulation can make a major impact on a lot heat loss and heat gain, but even a well-insulated house, if it is drafty, will be an energy swamp. Energy swamp might be a term we just made up, so to clarify, it means it will be a mess when it comes to energy.
Last week we explored the idea of an energy footprint. We are going to look little deeper at this idea today in hopes of better understanding the importance of an energy efficient home, office, or building. We touched on the idea of energy audits previously, so now we’re going to dig a little deeper (as we seem so inclined to do around here). An energy audit is essentially a big picture view (a ten thousand foot view, if you will) of the overall energy footprint of your residence or business. There are a lot of different companies out there offering a gamut of different levels of detail and expertise. Even if you’re not an expert, you can still get a better idea of your home’s energy efficiency and energy footprint by taking a peek under the hood… of your home. If you have any experience in this arena, you already know the importance of quality vinyl windows or aluminum windows. If you don’t already have quality vinyl windows, some good replacement windows (vinyl replacement windows or aluminum replacement windows) should be on the top of your list. This is a good place to start looking, but let’s dig a little further down. To start your own home energy audit, you should start by locating any air leaks you can find. Start with the obvious drafts in your home and make a list of them. Don’t be alarmed as you see the list climb, most homes are older and develop leaks and drafts as the house settles and shifts its way into maturity. Even newer homes built to less-than-quality standards are prone to leaking and draftiness, so dig in and see what you come up with. This is a great place to start, and, for all intents and purposes, one of the easiest issues to address. In the coming installments, we are going to look at how to fix the problems or at least get the improvement ball rolling. We are also going to continue on through our do-it-yourself home energy audit to help you get a better idea of just how well your home handles the heat or cold and how well it maintains energy efficiency. You might already have a good idea given the sizable bills some have been unfortunate enough to have to pay this winter. A drafty, inefficient home can mean a big hit when extreme temperatures hit. Like a leaking sieve, an inefficient home can be just plain leaky!
Last week we started looking at the Model Energy Code and its impact on national policy and the standards that are now in place for residential energy efficiency targets. While the Model Energy Code itself is somewhat lesser known than more recent and more substantial energy policy rulings and standards, it was an important forerunner that helped establish a lot of the standards we in the industry (any industry remotely dealing with the energy efficiency of a home for the most part) and those of us outside of the industry (again, any industry dealing with energy efficiency in some way, shape, or form) are impacted by on a daily basis. Rather than exploring in too great of detail what the Model Energy Code was exactly, we are going to look a little more in depth at some of the later energy policy changes that would affect the window manufacturing industry. As you are all very aware, vinyl windows, aluminum windows, patio doors, and any other shape, size or variety of vinyl window have at their center the concern for energy efficiency. Beyond this simple fact, I don’t think we need much more of a reason to explore some of these policies with a little more intensity. So, lets look at one of the first policy changes to evolve from the model energy code. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 is a good place to start. The act was made up of twenty-seven separate titles which each detailed ways by which the country could decrease its dependence on imported energy. One of these areas of focus was the conservation of energy in buildings. If you’re paying attention because you think we are about to talk about window manufacturers, then you are right! The standards to which window manufacturers make their products were greatly impacted by this part of the policy. The standards were initially, in part, intended to be applied to governmental buildings in order to reduce the government’s energy consumption footprint. If the concept of an energy footprint is new to you, then tune in because we’re about to dish out some information. An energy footprint is essentially a way of talking about the mark your life, building, business, or organization leaves on the environment or the supply of energy (foreign or domestic). There are organizations and agencies exclusively dedicated to helping companies and individual assess their footprint in order to increase productivity, environmental sustainability, and profit.
Last week we talked about the often-overlooked existence of the mil. Many of us have been unaware of its presence even as it sat right beneath our noses. Mil’s are everywhere! Just take a look around. You see that pen sitting on your desk, or that mouse you just clicked? Take a glance toward the door, or even think back to the shampoo bottle in the shower this morning. Everywhere you look, there are things; and these things are measurable. And if it is measurable, it can be measured with a mil... although chances are a mil wasn’t used in the measurement of said object. That is why we are going to stop talking about the mil and move on to even more obscure things. Carrying on with our relentless march through the back coves, the high peaks and the slurping swamps of the window manufacturing industry, we are going to take a slight jog toward slightly more familiar terrain as we explore the Model Energy Code (MEC for short… but as you all know, there are no shortcuts taken around here, so you’re going to get the full, unadulterated goodness of long form when it comes to the Model Energy Code). Since the Model Energy Code is directly dealing with energy efficiency and the residential energy coding, it is something that we take pretty seriously. Energy efficiency is the primary goal of any patio door, aluminum window, or vinyl window. If energy efficiency weren’t an issue and weren’t the number one objective behind any good natured window or door, we’d all just leave gaping holes in our homes, letting in all the fresh air. We don’t do that though. We like our homes sealed up and atmospherically controlled. There is no doubt that everyone likes a little fresh air, but let’s face it, we have windows for a reason – to keep the outside air outside, and the inside air inside. So, with that fundamental fact out of the way, lets get on to bigger and better fish to fry. We are looking at the Model Energy Code today, so a definition is probably in order. The MEC (sorry, it just started to get a little redundant spelling it out every time) is a code that was cited in the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) signed in 1992. The MEC establish a baseline for residential energy codes is the United States.
We’ve been looking lately at some measurements that are forcing us to get some perspective on the whole idea of precision. There is a degree to which measurements can be made that is baffling to the normal person. Lucky for you and for us, we aren’t normal people. We’re window manufacturers and precision is the name of the game. In the world of vinyl windows, aluminum windows, and storm doors, we think it is part of what helps set apart the excellent from the average. Continuing on in the name of precision, this week we’re going to look at another measure of minutia. If you remember, last week looked at the term is micron. Simply put, a micron is one millionth of a metric meter. It’s an extremely exact measurement. Period. No ands, ifs or buts about it. There are a few also(s) though… which, I suppose if you think about undercuts the whole, “no ands, ifs, or buts” thing, given that “also” is basically “and.” So, to be exacting and precise about it, since that is what we’re all about at the moment, a micron is tiny, no ifs or buts about it. So how about that “also”? Well, a micron is small, but it doesn’t stand alone - which brings us to our next glossary term, mil. A mil is a unit of measure, slightly larger than a micron, that is also used for exact measurements. A mil is one thousandth of an inch, or 0.0254 millimeter. That is small, but not that small. So there you have it, a measurement smaller than a millimeter and larger than a micron exists! Now all your measuring inconveniences can finally be solved. No more having to use microns for a mils job! Now, chances are you’ve never heard of a mil, and chances are if you want to measure something really small, you’re probably going to reach for a micrometer before you go hunting down some newfangled mil-o-contraption. If you haven’t heard of a mil before, you’re probably not alone. It lives in the shadow of its more precise neighbor, the micron, and its more convenient neighbor, the millimeter. A shadowed existence if ever there was one. Before you go feeling to sorry for it though, here are a few of the places you might run into a mil. More common in the engineering and manufacturing world (no surprise to you since you’re learning about it from the mouth of a window manufacturer), you’re likely to see a mil being used to measure the thickness of paper, film, wire, foil, paint coatings, and sheeting. In the world of aluminum windows ad vinyl windows, you might even bump into them once in a while.
Sometimes in life it is all about perspective. So, I’ll give you three options as to what we’ll be talking about today, and you pick your best guess. Whoever wins gets a cross-internet pat on the back. Here are your options: 1) The importance of energy efficiency on both the large scale and smaller individual scale 2) The precision with which a quality aluminum window, vinyl window or storm door should be built in order to ensure the right fit and energy efficiency across the board 3)The undying love we have around here for windows and doors of all shapes, sizes, and colors. So, take 30 seconds, think through your options, write them on a piece of paper, fold the paper, read the following correct answer, unfold the paper and see if you guessed right, and celebrate or lament your choice. Here we go! Thirty seconds starts… now. Ok, stop. Thirty seconds is up. Fold your papers and get ready. The correct answer is… all three! If you guessed the first, second, or third option (or any combination of the three choices) then you were correct! If you thought the game was silly and didn’t write anything down, or if you thought the game was trivial, then you were also correct! Everyone gets a pat on the back! Great work! As I’ve always said, we’ve got a sharp group around here. So, let’s get to the topic of our discussion today. Remember our three topics from earlier; the importance of energy efficiency across the entire spectrum of window manufacturing; the precision with which a quality aluminum window, vinyl window or storm door must be built to make sure efficiency and fit is achieved; and the unyielding love for windows that we find hard to escape. The third point should be evident and present in everything we do around here and needs no further emphasis… plus, you might think we’re a little weird if we keep on that idea too much longer. The other two points can be seen at work in the concept behind our glossary term of the day. The term is micron. Quite simply, a micron is on millionth of a metric meter. It’s a pretty exact measurement, and that is the whole point. Precision measurement helps ensure energy efficiency in windows, and energy efficiency is what it’s all about.
We’ve been trudging through the woes of weather and exploring the delights of storm windows and good old-fashioned storm doors. We’ve looked at the role storm windows and storm doors can play in improving the energy efficiency of a home or workplace and the way that energy efficiency improvements can dramatically impact the comfort of the home environment. The cost savings associated with storm windows are also substantial, largely because of the protection they afford the aluminum window and vinyl windows in the home, but also because of the impact they can have on the cost savings of a home. By creating another layer of protection, one more barrier between the home and the outer air environing it. (Sorry, I know the word environ feels a bit clunky here, but I’ve been looking for a way to use it for longer than I can remember… and this was the opportunity. The word environing essentially means encircling. So, whenever you’re really looking to impress, maybe just hold off on this word. No matter how you use it, it sounds like you either don’t know what you’re talking about, or you are just trying to hard. Either way, it’s not too impressive to most normal folks out there. Just a little trivial word-knowledge and a word of advice wrapped up in one nice little package. So now, lets get back to the real world.) In our slight foray into the world of storm windows, we started to lose the scent of our glossary term expedition, but fear not, we’re going to dive back in right where we left off. We are looking at the term metal-clad windows today and I think we’re all in for a treat! A metal clad window is essentially a window whose outermost exterior parts are covered with aluminum (extruded aluminum if you want to get technical… which we do) or other varieties of metal, with a finish that is applied at the factory. What’s the point? The point goes hand in hand with our storm window explorations, and that point is protection against the elements. It all boils down to energy efficiency. You know it, I know it, we all know it, so lets go for it! Energy efficiency is the bottom line and if you want to play, now you know the rules of the game. So lets get it together and when you’re making your next window decision, think protection from the elements and you’ll be on the right track.
If you live in southern Mississippi, last week’s blog entry was eerily close to the truth as a major storm system hit the area with a serious tornado causing extensive damage and a lot of devastation. Not only did a tornado pass through some heavily populated areas in this region, but with the storms came heavy rain for days upon days. Like we pointed out previously, there isn’t much that a storm window can do to protect a home against some of the more damaging winds and hail that nature can dish up. Our sympathy goes out to those who have lost their homes or sustained major damage in these storms. For those who were spared direct damage, storm windows could’ve, in fact, greatly improved how their homes performed in the storms. Driven rain and heavy winds have a lot more to compete with when they are confronted with a vinyl window or aluminum window protected by a storm window. There is no doubt that the added barrier between the elements and the actual windows themselves can really change the outcome of a major storm and its effect on a home. Remember, an aluminum window, vinyl window, patio door or skylight, even the sturdiest, most securely built of them, are still the weakest points in the weather-tightness of a building. The seals and seams in any structure are the first places to be tested under extreme stress, and storms definitely offer the highest form of stress homes will encounter. So, with that recap and debriefing out of the way, we’re going to move on to our normal order of things, and get down to the nitty gritty of the window manufacturing industry. The next area of focus for us will be the term Meeting rail. A meeting rail is the place where a sliding glass door, a hung window, or a sliding window meets its other half. Essentially, it is any place where two panels meet and seal to create a movable weather barrier. This idea is what makes movable windows work. If an opening window were not sealable at its meeting point, there would a major weak point in a home where energy efficiency would be lost or severely compromised. Thanks to weather sealing meeting rails, the world is a little more prepared to handle weather and still maintain usability and comfort in windows and homes.
There’s a storm a’brewing, are you ready? No, this isn’t an apocalyptic warning, or even an informed meteorological prediction; it is just a way to get us talking about the issues - the things that we are all thinking but no one is really saying. Today we are going to look at storm windows and the ways they impact our daily lives. If you’ve been around, you probably know a thing or two about storm windows. We are going to go ahead and put it all out on the table. We’ll start with what exactly a storm widow does. As the name implies, the element of weather has a lot to do with the existence of storm windows. If it weren’t for ravaging winds and violent rains, we might only know skylights, bay windows, breeze windows, sunrooms and screen doors… but that isn’t the world we live in. The reality of our world is that it can be a pretty turbulent place, filled with thunder and hail and storm and gale. So, with that basic premise established, a storm window just kind of makes sense. A quality vinyl window or aluminum window is often enough protection for your average weather pattern, but when the big bad weather wolf comes to blow the house down, storm windows can make a dramatic difference in home energy efficiency, weather sealing, and the protection of existing windows, frames, and other minute nooks and crannies where driven rain can infiltrate and cause damage. By further protecting weaknesses (although windows in and of themselves are a major protection against the elements, they are the weakest link when it comes to entry points in a home… after all, no matter how good the installation, a window is still a joint or joining of materials, a break in the continuity of an otherwise solid and relatively impenetrable wall) storm windows and storm doors can change they way your home weathers a storm. Skylights are less likely to leak, windows are less likely to be damaged by hail, broken wind driven tree limbs, and gusts that can cause leaking and damage. As an added bonus, talking about storm windows can make you feel a bit like a salty old sailor getting ready to weather a nasty nor’easter miles out from some rocky and desolate shore… and who doesn’t love that? So, next time you check the weather forecast, just know that it is storming somewhere.
Energy efficiency is king in the winter and in the summer. No matter where you go or who you know, energy efficiency matters. Unless you live in those rare climes where the temperature never departs from ideal, you probably know of and are concerned with energy efficiency. We are going to explore energy efficiency through looking a little more closely at low-emittance coatings. Known as Low-E coatings for short, these are microscopically thin metal or metallic oxide layers which are adhered to the glazing of a window or skylight. A Low-E coating is essentially used for reducing the U-factor of a window by blocking or suppressing radiated heat flow. This kind of coating is not visibly seen and is also essentially “invisible” to visible light and shortwave infrared radiation (meaning it won't block your view or alter the amount of light that is allowed to enter the room). It does, however, block or reflect long-wave infrared radiation. This is an important tool in the arsenal of methods for increasing and improving home energy efficiency. By blocking heat gain from occurring through windows, the overall impact on energy efficiency can be great. Because energy efficiency is such an important topic right now, it serves us well to look at these things a little more in-depth in hopes of better fortifying our homes and places of business, reducing our overall energy costs, and making everything just a little bit more efficient. To further define a few of the terms we’ve used today, we should look at what emissivity means. This term defines the quality of a surface that radiates small amounts of energy (thermal energy). Reflectivity is essentially the opposite of emissivity. Where one term describes the passage of heat energy through a material, the other describes the reflection of heat energy off of a material. These are critical terms to have straightened out in the window manufacturing industry. There is a lot that goes into vinyl window and aluminum window design that deals with either emissivity or reflectivity. So, in the name of energy efficiency, go apply your newfound knowledge and enjoy! In the meantime, keep an eye peeled at hardware stores, lumber yards, and other aluminum window, vinyl window, storm window, patio door, and storm door dealers for emissivity ratings. You are now armed with the knowledge to make a slightly more informed decision when you are faced with emissivity ratings. For more information, check out some of the details about Low-E ratings.
Window efficiency is everything if home or business energy efficiency means anything to you. Chances it does. So lets take a look at some methods used to control and improve energy efficiency. We are going to turn our focus now to low-conductance spacers. What is a low-conductance spacer? It is an assembly of spacing materials intended to reduce the amount of heat that can transfer through a window. These spacers are placed between the panes of glass in multiple-paned windows. The material serves as a buffer and prevents passive heat loss or gain. In the past, these spacers were made from aluminum due to its superior structural properties. As it was soon realized, because of aluminum’s equally good conduction of heat, the use of aluminum spacers was not an energy efficient solution. It essentially short-circuited any benefit provided by the multi-paned glass. Eventually, multi-paned aluminum windows began to be fitted with new materials that were better insulated and better insulating. Other metals like stainless steel are less conductive and solve the problem of the energy efficiency short-circuit that was prone to happen in double paned aluminum windows. Other materials are also occasionally used depending on the design and structure of the window. Foams, and other insulating materials can be used to encase the panes of glass where they meet the frame of the window itself. There are a variety of other techniques used to stop the transfer of heat through a window as well. Some of these techniques are quite technical, but the general idea behind them is the concept of a thermal break. A thermal break is basically a change in material or structural design that breaks the continuity of the heat’s path of escape or entry. To visualize the concept of a thermal break, imagine trying to drive across Arizona. Things are going great, the kids are quite and well behaved, then suddenly you are stopped by the impassible Grand Canyon. The only way past it is to drive hours out of the way. The kids start pulling out each other’s hair, the dog has to go the bathroom, and your plans of driving straight across the state in a day are foiled. This is how heat would feel, if heat could feel, when it is met with a thermal break. Its plans of destroying the energy efficiency of your home are put on hold and your wallet breathes a deep sigh of relief.
Smart glass is something that few of us have actually had the pleasure of encountering face to face. This might have you wondering, why me? Why haven’t I been privileged enough to see one of the eight wonders of the world? Well, you are not alone. The technology employed in smart glass makes it difficult to use for many reasons. The cost of installation for this kind of window can make it difficult to find. Also, the durability of the optical component of the technology is still in need of improvement. All in all, the glass is a wonderful feat of human engineering; however, it does have its drawbacks and downfalls. Hopefully will one day these kinks will be worked out and the glass will become more practical for everyday use.
Moving on from our current glass-freak geek out, we are going to look at some more window manufacturing terminology that will go a long way to helping us better understand the industry and the components involved. The next term in our window manufacturing glossary is long-wave infrared radiation. If it sounds technical, that’s because it kind of is. We are going to do our best to share some of what is actually going on with this term, and demystify some of the misty waters. Long-wave infrared radiation is an invisible kind of radiation that trails up on the electromagnetic spectrum (the measurement tool, so to speak, of light types and varieties) past red light. Red light is the highest wavelength of light on the visible spectrum. After that light, or energy, passes into the realm of the invisible (at least to the naked eye). Long-wave infrared radiation is a variety of energy that is generally emitted by warm surfaces. This particular form of radiation is a common way that energy is lost from a home or room. Heat lost through walls or windows would be said to have escaped in the form of long-wave infrared radiation. This is where particularly good insulation and well-insulated windows can pay huge dividends in the maintenance of home temperatures and the maintaining of an energy efficient home or work environment. To ease the pocketbooks this winter, stomp out long-wave infrared radiation! It’s so simple! Replacement windows and quality vinyl windows and aluminum windows can be a great investment if energy efficiency is a concern, or if you just don’t like the sound of long-wave infrared radiation heat loss.
If any of you out there reading this are into science fiction or enjoy a good thrill, then read on. We are about to bridge the gap between the world of the expected and the conventional and leap into the world of fantasy and science fiction… only this is no fiction we’re describing here, this is real life. There is a certain degree of innovation that is almost too far flung to accept as reality. We’re straddling that line today, and we hope you can hang on. We are going to look at liquid crystal glazing today. Liquid crystal glazing is basically glass that employs a thin layer of liquid crystals whose optical properties change depending on the amount of current run through the glazing. The addition of a light current thought the glazing causes the crystals to shift from a clear optical state to a diffused optical state. This kind of glass can essentially be used as privacy glass at the flick of a switch. High-end hotels and conference rooms occasionally make use of this technology to shock and awe simpletons like me. This technology goes by many names including smart glass, switchable glass, or even magic glass. There are varieties of smart glass that allow the user to change the amount of light allowed to transfer through the glass as they change the current being sent into the glass itself. This technology also can be used to improve energy efficiency by altering the amount of sunlight that can pass through skylights or other windows. By properly using smart glass, optimal temperatures can be maintained much more easily within a residence or business. Although there are numerous applications for this kind of window, privacy remains one of the most ubiquitous uses of the technology. If you’re ready to go and outfit your home with smart glass, you might want to consider a few things. There are a few major barriers to this technology becoming commonplace. One of the issues is that smart glass is expensive. Installation requires technical experience and expertise, as the technology is proprietary and not as common as the rest of the technology available in the window manufacturing industry. While the technology can be used for energy efficiency purposes, it does use electricity to change the optical properties of the glass; therefore, the net benefit in terms of energy efficiency is hard to calculate and difficult to determine.
The idea of a vinyl window or aluminum window seems simple enough, but there is actually a lot that goes into the whole thing. Not only is the manufacturing side of the industry quite extensive, with so many nooks and crannies and ins and outs that you could get lost without the right map, the infrastructure surrounding the aluminum window of vinyl window itself is quite extensive. In this instance, I’m not talking about the infrastructure of shipping trucks, supply chains, highways, wholesale window dealers, replacements window dealers and any of the other members of the extensive window manufacturing chain of supply, although that deserves due attention and credit. At the moment, however, I want to look at the infrastructure within a building surrounding the actual vinyl window, aluminum window, or even patio door that makes the whole thing work. It isn’t just about a window standing on its own, it is about the whole package, the wall, the window, the trim, and all the components that make a window a critical part of the home or workplace as a whole. We are going to address the lentil a little more in depth because this component of the window housing assembly is an excellent way to illustrate the point that the strength of a window comes from those parts surrounding it as well as its own assets and attributes. A lentil is a beam-like member positioned above a window or door and above its respective frame as well. The lintel supports the rest of the structure above the window and makes for a more stable wall. When a wall is built to include a window, extra measures must be taken to ensure that the wall is as strong and stable as the surrounding walls. The reason for this is that when a wall is built to include a window, the underlying structure of studs within the wall is interrupted, to bear the load of the wall above the window, extra reinforcement must be added. This is done through a variety of framing (technical-speak for wall and house building) techniques that enable the compromised wall to maintain its integrity. Without such extra measures, we might have windows, but our homes would be weaker for having them. Because a window is ultimately a part of a larger unit (the home), the members surrounding it (in this case, the lentil above it) are incredibly important and invaluable.