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Open the window to energy savings

Post Time:Mar 04,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:272

Windows are an important architectural aspect of a home. They let light and beauty in and, unfortunately, can also let energy out.
Windows are "the orientation of our human lives to what's going on outside," said Leon Armantrout of Armantrout Architects.

He said windows allow people inside buildings to be connected to the outside world, whether it's enjoying nature, watching what is happening outside or just knowing what the weather is outside.

"They also enhance one's sense of the use of architecture from the outside looking to the inside," Armantrout said.

The ESRI Caf off New York Street at ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) is one example of the use of windows to show off the natural environment and to save energy.

"It was built on a site where there had been trees already," said Armantrout, the architect for the caf .

The supports around the building were built to avoid tree roots, allowing the trees to be kept as close to the caf as possible, he said.

Armantrout said the all-steel structure with frameless glass on three sides of the dining area was meant "to take advantage of the shade of the trees."

The large sycamores and other trees around the area provide shade in the summer. In the winter, the trees lose their leaves and allow more light to reach the building.

The low-emissivity glass, tinted a light shade of green, also helps keep the climate inside the building comfortable for diners and guests. The US.S. Department of energy describes low-e glass as coated with a metal or metallic layer that reduces the infrared radiation.
"There's a minimal transmission of energy through," Armantrout said.

He said the glass also contributes to the good acoustics in the caf .

Caf manager Liz Montes said she has heard from regular customers and visitors that the feel the caf is airy and open, and that it is a natural environment because of the view of the trees.

A couple years ago, caf visitors were treated to a nest of hummingbirds right outside a glass wall.

There are often wedding receptions and charity events in the cafe, too.

"What I've heard from them is this caf is not like any other reception hall," said Montes, who said the caf feels so comfortable because of the natural views.

The low-e windows also let enough light in to save on artificial lighting. Small lamps hang from the ceiling, which also features two skylights.

"We do save energy," Montes said about the natural light's benefits.

Windows, with all their energy-saving benefits from allowing natural light to enter a building, can also allow a lot of energy to be lost through the thin glass panes.

Claudia Mitchell, office manager of W.I.T. Windows and Doors in Redlands, said energy-efficient windows, such as low-emissivity-teated glass and Energy Star-rated products help in reducing energy costs.

"It reflects the heat out," she said of an energy-efficient window, "and in the winter it reflects the heat back in."

She said double-paned windows filled with a gas such as argon, a non-toxic, non-reactive, odorless gas, help to keep thermal transmissions low.

"If you just have two pieces of glass, it doesn't provide anything," she said.

Mitchell said low-e-coated glass can also reduce the amount of ultraviolet light that comes into a home.

"The UV can fade your carpet, and your furniture and your drapes," she said.

She recommended that older windows be replaced to improve energy efficiency.

"Anything older than 20 years needs to be replaced," Mitchell said.

"If it's single-paned, your money is basically flowing out the window."

She also said windows framed with aluminum contribute to energy loss, too, because aluminum conducts heat and cold.

Mitchell said her customers who buy dual-paned windows with argon gas inside also say they are benefiting from the reduction of noise from outside as well.

"That's not only the dual panes, but the argon gas that helps as well," she said.

Mitchell said there are tax credits for people buying energy-efficient windows if they buy certain levels of products.

"If they make the certain criteria, (they) are eligible for a $1,500 tax credit," she said.

For window with a U factor (the rate at which a window conducts non-solar heat flow) and an SHGC factor (the fraction of solar radiation allowed through a window and released as as heat inside a home) that are both less than .30, the windows will qualify for a tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500, she said.

Other ways to help reduce the amount of energy loss from windows is to check for leaks in the windows.

The Department of Energy suggests shining a flashlight over potential gaps while someone looks from outside the house.

Also, shut a piece of paper in a window and try to pull the paper out. If the paper can be pulled out without tearing it, the window needs to be fixed.

Also, windows should be checked to see if they need to be re-caulked or weatherstripped.

Drapes, curtains or blinds can also be used to help control the amount of energy used in a home. Opening up the windows to let warm sunshine in and keeping blinds closed in the summer to keep the house cool are two ways to save energy. The Department of Energy recommends draperies be hung as close as possible to the windows to help save energy.

Source: redlandsdailyfacts.comAuthor: shangyi

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