From the wheel to the Wii, many human endeavors have been devoted to making life easier. Without a doubt, technological innovations have brought conveniences for the home to a whole new level. But breakthroughs are found not only in the kitchen or the media room; they also are being applied to the parts of your home you may never consider, namely your windows and doors.
These days, energy-efficient and lower-maintenance materials have changed the face of homes throughout Dallas, allowing you to save money and effort while maintaining your personal style.
Improving energy efficiency has become one of the key components in fighting soaring energy costs. "In a recent article, The Dallas Morning News revealed that Dallas has the highest utility costs in the country," says Dave Traynor, founder and CEO of The Window Connection in Dallas.
In fact, the experts at the Texas Window Initiative say that 46 percent of the energy costs in Texas households go out the windows-literally.
On average, Dallas homeowners are seeing $250 monthly utility bills.
But that can change if you know where to start.
"Most people think of the attic as being the biggest source of energy loss, but the windows are actually among the most significant sources," says Randy Hoover, sales manager for the Don Young Company in Dallas. Unfortunately, because the country's building energy codes did not change until 2003, many homes--even those built less than a decade ago-have been outfitted with builder-grade single or double-pane windows that are not as energy efficient as they could be.
But today's double-pane windows, Traynor says, are as much as 4 times more energy-efficient than the builder-grade windows of the past. Plus, there are more options and features available so you can find what's best for your needs. For example, in addition to vinyl windows, which are colored throughout and produced with chemicals that stop the decay caused by UV rays, you can choose a product like aluminum thermally broken windows.
Hoover explains that these windows feature a thermal break that separates the inside metal and the outside metal with high-density catalyzed polyurethane, ensuring that both heat and cold will not conduct. And because patio doors also can be made with the thermal break, you can get the same energy-efficient protection wherever you have a significant amount of glass exposed to the exterior elements.
There are several other features and options for you to look into as you assess your window replacement needs.
Now, not only can you chop down your heating and cooling bills, but increasing energy efficiency also offers tax breaks. Recently passed legislation created a tax credit of 30 percent of the cost up to $1, 500 for installing more energy-efficient windows, doors and insulation, among other household needs.
With some products, the energy efficiency that you find in the center of the pane diminishes as you move to the edges. However, higher-end windows will have low U-values and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) values (which measure heat flow out through a window and heat gain, respectively) throughout the window's surface. Windows with Low-E reflective glass like Low-E366 will have three to 12 layers of coating and frequently are insulated with Argon gas. "Several layers of metal poured microscopically thin over freshly poured glass gives us a transparent heat shield on the glass surface itself," 'Traynor explains. The cost increases incrementally with the number of coating layers, but performance increases as well. Depending on the number of windows and energy usage, Hoover says high performance glass can save you approximately 20-30 percent on your utility bills.
Kevin Barnes, general manager of Designer Door and Window in Plano, points out the arrival of triple-pane glass on the market as one of the newest advancements in the industry. Manufactured like its double-pane counterpart, triple-pane glass provides additional airspace between the window components; with the complementary features of Low-E glass and Argon insulation, this option can be very effective for fostering an energy-efficient home interior.
Updating your home with more efficient windows and doors also gives you the opportunity to add style and decorative touches like bay, casement, bow or custom-shaped windows, as well as retractable screens and blinds built within door panes. Fiberglass entry doors come in a wide variety of styles and colors to match your exterior and can include everything from embossing to decorative and colored glass. "Today's doors offer different glass patterns, as well as different panel designs to complement the decor of one's home," Barnes says. "In addition, windows have distinctive grill patterns, as well as custom glass patterns, that also can add to the effect."
Whatever you choose, just remember that "pretty work requires some expertise," Traynor advises. "Know that the quality of a product is important, but that the quality of installation is equally critical for a good end result." And when that end result infuses your home with as much function as it does style, you'll be ready to have an open house all year long.
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