Building An Addition: A Homeowner's Guide

Climate-Specific Window Upgrades To Help Increase Your Windows' Efficiency

by Toni Richards

Your home's windows and the type of glass in them protect your home and family from the weather's extreme heat, cold, and winds. Some types of window glass can protect your home's interior environment more efficiently than others. Here are some different types of window upgrades for your home that can keep out these three types of weather.

Climates Prone to High Winds

Tornadoes and hurricanes occur throughout the United States in different areas. Hurricanes are most common in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the beaches along the Atlantic Coast. Tornadoes are more common in the Midwestern states, including Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you live in these areas, it is a good idea to upgrade your home's windows to an impact-resistant glass. Impact-resistant glass is manufactured by layering glass with polyvinyl butyral, then heating it in an autoclave to increase the glass' resistance. 

Impact resistant windows can withstand up to Category five winds, up to 157 mph or higher, and the debris that comes with it. The purpose of impact resistant winds during a tornado or a hurricane is to keep your home's integrity during the storm. As soon as the winds have broken out a window in your home, the pressure from the storm inside your home will cause your home to explode. Impact-resistant windows prevent this from happening.

Hot Climate Temperatures

In a hot climate your goal is to keep the heat outside your home and your home's cool air-conditioned air inside your home as much as possible. And having the right type of glass in your windows can help do this, especially when you live in a climate where you spend more for air conditioning than for home heat. 

When you live in a hot climate, windows coated with a thin layer of low-emissivity (low-e) metallic oxide coating reduce the amount of heat that passes through the window glass into your home. This will help reduce the need to use your air conditioner to cool your home, because the low-solar-gain coatings block the sun's energy from coming in your home to heat it up. An investment in new windows coated with low-e coating can cost 10% to 15% more than regular windows, but they can reduce your home's energy loss by as much as 30% to 50%.

A spectrally selective low-e coating on your windows can filter out 40% to 70% of the heat from the sun, but allowing the sun's full amount of light transmission into your home. Tests on this type of window coating have been shown to reduce a home's electric space cooling requirements in hot climates by more than 40%.

If you can't afford to replace all your windows right now, you can add a low-e coating to your windows. This type of do-it-yourself window film can last for 10 to 15 years without bubbling and help to keep solar heat gain out of your house.

Cold Climate Temperatures

Triple pane windows are an efficient window if you live in a cold, northern climate as it prevents your home's heat from escaping through the window glass. Triple pane windows are made up of three panes of glass and are sealed in place with an inert gas, either krypton or argon, between the three glass panes. These gasses are slow thermal conductors of heat, so your home's heat will pass through the glass much less.

Low-e coatings can be tailored for use in both hot and cold climates. Just as low-e coated windows work in a hot climate, a variation of this window coating works in the cold to help you benefit from solar heat gain in your home. In a cold, northern climate, the low-e layer applied to your window glass is adjusted to let the sun's heat into your home. This can help you reduce the amount you use your furnace or other heating source to heat your home.

This can help you choose your home's window glass according to your climate and weather. For more information on replacing your windows with one of these upgrades, contact your local window contractor.