Energy Adviser: It may be time to replace windows



My home’s windows are single paned and we use storm windows in winter. I’m really tired of dealing with them and I’m sure there are more efficient windows on the market. Will replacement windows save me a lot?

We can understand that you want to save energy and eliminate the tedious chore of putting up and taking down storm windows. With the current financial incentives available, it may be a good time to upgrade. However, unless your house is weatherized, you’ll not see significant energy savings solely because of upgrading windows.

“Customers will see a faster payback on windows if they insulate and seal the house first,” said Sam Williams, owner of Four Seasons Contracting of Vancouver. “If a homeowner has a choice, I’d weatherize first.”

Assuming your home is weatherized, here are some things to consider when shopping for replacement windows:

• Energy Star and U-factor

Double-paned windows that are labeled Energy Star save between 7 and 15 percent more on energy bills compared with non-Energy Star products.

These windows will have .30 U-factor or less. The U-factor is the rate of heat loss through the window — the lower the number, the better.

Triple-paned windows are also available, but they may not be cost-effective in our moderate climate due to higher prices. The U-factor is a more important consideration than the number of panes. Triple-pane technology is just one way to improve the U-factor.

• Framing the glass

Remember in winter when single-paned windows’ aluminum frames were as icy cold as outdoors? Today’s frames are made of wood, composite, vinyl, fiberglass or cladded wood that minimize this transfer of cold. “Vinyl is the most popular and ideal for replacement windows because it can be easily adapted to fit existing frames,” Williams said.

• Between the panes

Williams typically installs argon-filled windows with a low-emissivity (low-E) coating on the inside of the glass to increase energy efficiency and help reduce the effects of harmful ultraviolet rays. Inert gases, such as argon or krypton, between the two panes insulate better than air.

• Financial incentives

Homeowners can receive a federal tax credit of up to $1,500 on qualifying windows if installed by Dec. 31. Clark Public Utilities also is offering up to $500 back on qualifying windows when added to an electrically heated home by an authorized contractor.

• Selecting a contractor

“Ask friends and neighbors for referrals to find a contractor,” Williams said. “Get educated and ask a lot of questions. Make sure the company is licensed, bonded and insured. Go online and check with the Better Business Bureau, too, for complaints.”

Make sure your contractor is certified to safely deal with lead-based paint. A new law that took effect in April targets structures built before 1978.

The Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities energy counselors, who provide conservation and energy use information to utility customers. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, in care of Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA. 98668. Past topics are available at