Green building, or green construction, is gaining a lot of traction in the building industry, and windows and doors have played a big role in that traction.
Green building seeks to achieve many goals, including energy efficiency, protecting occupant well-being, and reducing impact on the environment. Believe it or not, windows and doors can help with all three. Here is how you can be “green” when selecting your next replacement windows.
Older, less efficient windows of the past didn’t do a great job of blocking out the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer, which resulted in higher heating and cooling costs. But over the years, window manufacturers—and the makers of the many components used in the window—have greatly improved the performance of their products.
Many components of the window contribute to this.
Double-pane glass is now commonly used in windows, as the second piece of glass essentially serves as an added layer of insulation to the outside. The spacer system, which sits between the two panes of glass, has been continually improved to create a better seal and further enhance the window’s efficiency.
These double-glazed units are often now filled with gases such as Argon, which provides additional insulation for the window. Improvements to framing systems, such as insulation within a vinyl frame, also have helped.
Even the glass itself plays a major role. In recent decades, glass manufacturers have developed different types of coatings, such as low-emissivity (or low-E) coatings. The low-E coating is a metallic oxide layer added to the surface of the glass that helps control heat transfer.
Reflective and heat-absorbing tints are also applied to window glass to help with this.
Two other things to keep in mind:
- When you’re letting in light through your windows during the day, you have less of a need to turn lights on inside. This can reduce lighting costs during the day.
- Selecting a window that can be opened and closed allows you to let in the heat or cold when the temperature is “just right” outside. During these days, you may not have a use for your heating or cooling system at all.
All of these characteristics, paired with a proper installation, can provide major improvements to the energy efficiency of your home, and thereby making it “greener.”
A growing trend in the green building community is a focus on occupant health and well-being. One key to this is daylighting and the occupant’s connection to the outside.
Recent studies have suggested that daylight instead of artificial light, and views to the outdoors in place of a wall, have a positive impact on a building or home’s occupants. Benefits include improved mood, stress reduction, increased productivity and even expedited recovery rates in healthcare settings.
This can be achieved with windows, which provide that influx of daylight and views to nature.
While not every homeowner can realistically add to their home a skylight or new opening in an exterior wall, you can still keep this in mind when shopping for replacement windows and doors. These products can be optimized to maximize the amount of glass used and reduce the framing to allow for as much daylight and views as possible.
The operability of a window also allows for ventilation and the inflow of fresh air, which can further improve air quality in the home.
Another way to be “green” when choosing your replacement windows and doors is to seek out companies that practice corporate responsibility.
As with many other industries, manufacturers in the window and door industry try to set themselves apart with green practices of their own.
When doing your research on windows, check out window companies’ websites and find out what they’re doing to be green. For some, it may mean leaner manufacturing practices to improve the energy efficiency at their facilities, and for others, it may mean using more recyclable materials in their products.
Without naming names in fairness to the many green-practicing manufacturers out there, one company even harvests its own wood to be used in its windows and converts its scrap wood into electricity at a biomass-fueled power plant. This is an example of the innovative ways window-makers are being green.
Many companies are also developing “Environmental Product Declarations” and “Health Product Declarations,” which are relatively new to the building materials industry and essentially serve as a nutrition label for building products. Manufacturers are publishing these to demonstrate their green practices.
If being green is important to you, browse around until you find a company you’re comfortable with from a corporate responsibility standpoint.