Looking at Your Home’s Windows and Doors as Energy Saving Devices

Published on: November 16, 2014
Family looking at bills | AC Southeast®

Doors and windows are frequently the weakest point in your home’s insulation. You can’t simply fill them with fiberglass batts or polyurethane foam like you would a wall, and you may not be in a position to replace outdated fixtures with energy efficient windows and doors. The good news is that even those older windows and doors can be turned into energy-saving devices with a few relatively low-cost improvements. Once the modifications are done, they can significantly reduce both heating and cooling bills.

Sealing Air Leaks

The first priority in making your windows and doors more energy efficient is to seal up any areas that allow air to flow through. As a rule of thumb, any window or door that rattles probably also leaks air. If you can see daylight where surfaces meet, then you can be certain that it’s leaking substantially. A complete or near-complete seal can be achieved with the following steps:

  • Caulking – A silicone-based caulk provides a rubbery seal that’s impervious to the elements. Once cured, it can last for years without additional maintenance. Apply caulking around the frames of windows and doors, as well as around the edges of windows that aren’t designed to open. Pay particular attention to any area that has visible cracks.
  • Weatherstripping – There are several types of fairly inexpensive weatherstripping available, but all are designed to provide an airtight seal without fixing the sealed surfaces in place. You can buy soft foam interior weatherstrips in a variety of sizes and with self-adhesive backs. These seal gaps from about 1/8 inch to about an inch, depending on the thickness of the strip, in minutes. Exterior weatherstripping may be made out of hard rubber or waterproof material and can be used in addition to foam strips for a little extra wind protection.
  • Draft busters – The gap beneath a door is typically much larger than any other space you’ll encounter, and it also subjects weatherstripping to a lot of wear and tear. Instead of foam strips, this surface should have a weatherizing component that can stand rubbing against the floor every time the door opens or closes. A solid rubber strip that meets the floor, and/or a dense, sturdy brush strip make excellent permanent draft busters.

Bear in mind that any caulking or adhesives should be applied when the weather is over 50 degrees, so it’s important to address these tasks quickly if you live in an area that drops below freezing.

Interior Window Treatments

Black-out curtains aren’t just for keeping a room dark. They’re also quite useful for reducing heat gain in warm weather and loss in cold weather. These thick, insulated panels provide a buffer between window glass and interior rooms, preventing drafts and allowing for better temperature equalization throughout the room. Even regular curtains or slat blinds do provide some efficiency benefits over completely uncovered windows.

Exterior Treatments

Placing awnings or overhangs above doors and windows helps cut down on wind, protects the windows from direct contact with precipitation, and helps deflect direct sunlight that can cause unwanted heat gain. Storm windows can improve energy efficiency year-round on single-pane windows. Reflective film also helps block out extra heat by deflecting the sun’s rays, though it may darken your home’s interior. Shutters or insulating foam boards that can be clipped into place as needed can also significantly improve efficiency.

Replacement Considerations

Especially if your home’s fixtures are several years old or older, they may be too inefficient to justify keeping them. Advances in efficiency often allow new energy efficient windows and doors to pay for themselves in a surprisingly short amount of time. Insulated exterior doors with well-sealed frames can be at least as efficient as exterior walls. Double-paned windows can become part of a passive solar heating system, reducing your need for a furnace, boiler, or heat pump.

Investing in energy efficient windows and doors can not only cut utility bills, but it can also improve indoor air quality at the same time. Furnaces are a potential source for carbon monoxide, which is extremely toxic to humans and pets. Air leaks also bring in allergens such as pollen and mold spores, as well as any pollution that’s in the unfiltered outside air.

For additional information on finding a contractor in your area who can advise you on energy efficient windows and doors for your Southeast U.S. home, contact us at AirConditioningSouthEast.com today.