Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.
Tips On Energy Efficient Windows
Windows bring light, warmth, and beauty into buildings and give a feeling of openness and space to living areas. They can also be major sources of heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. However, when properly selected and installed, windows can help minimize a home's heating, cooling, and lighting costs. This information describes one option-- energy-efficient windows--available for reducing a home's heating and cooling energy requirements.
Controlling Air Leaks
When air leaks around windows, energy is wasted. Energy is also transferred through the centers, edges, and frames of windows.
Eliminating or reducing these paths of heat flow can greatly improve the energy efficiency of windows and, ultimately, of homes. Several options are available to reduce air leaks around windows; the least expensive options are caulking and weather stripping, followed by replacing window frames.
Caulking and Weather Stripping
Caulks are airtight compounds (usually latex or silicone) that fill cracks and holes. Before applying new caulk, old caulk or paint residue remaining around a window should be removed using a putty knife, stiff brush, or special solvent. After old caulk is removed, new caulk can then be applied to all joints in the window frame and the joint between the frame and the wall. The best time to apply caulk is during dry weather when the outdoor temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius). Low humidity is important during application to prevent cracks from swelling with moisture. Warm temperatures are also necessary so the caulk will set properly and adhere to the surface.
Weather stripping is a narrow piece of metal, vinyl, rubber, felt, or foam that seals the contact area between the fixed and movable sections of a window joint. It should be applied between the sash and the frame, but should not interfere with the operation of the window.
Replacing Window Frames
The type and quality of the window frame usually affect a window's air infiltration and heat loss characteristics. Many window frames are available--all with varying degrees of energy efficiency. Some of the more common window frames are fixed-pane, casement, double and single-hung, horizontal sliding, hopper, and awning.
When properly installed, fixed-pane windows are airtight and inexpensive and can be custom designed for a wide variety of applications. However, because they cannot be opened, fixed-pane windows are unsuitable in places where ventilation is required.
Casement, awning, and hopper windows with compression seals are moderately airtight and provide good ventilation when opened. Casement windows open sideways with hand cranks. Awning windows are similar to casement windows except that their hinges are located at the tops of the windows instead of at the sides. Hopper windows are inverted versions of awning windows with their hinges located at the bottom. Windows with compression seals allow about half as much air leakage as double-hung and horizontal sliding windows with sliding seals.
Double-hung windows have top and bottom sashes (the sliding sections of the window) and can be opened by pulling up the lower sashes or pulling down the upper sash. Although they are among the most popular type of window, double-hung windows can be inefficient because they are often leaky. Single-hung windows are somewhat better because only one sash moves. Horizontal sliding windows are like double-hung windows except that the sashes are located on the left and right edges rather than on the tops and bottoms. Horizontal sliding windows open on the side and are especially suitable for spaces that require a long, narrow view. These windows, however, usually provide minimal ventilation and, like double-hung windows, can be quite leaky.
Reducing Heat Loss and Condensation
Manufacturers usually represent the energy efficiency of windows in terms of their u-values (conductance of heat) or their r-values (resistance to heat flow). If a window's r- value is high, it will lose less heat than one with a lower r-value. Conversely, if a window's u-value is low, it will lose less heat than one with a higher u-value. In other words, u-values are the reciprocals of r-values (u-values = 1/r-value). Most window manufacturers use r-values in rating their windows.
The following five factors affect the R-Value of a window:
Types of Glazing Materials
Traditionally, clear glass has been the primary material available for window panes in homes. However, in recent years, the market for glazing--or cutting and fitting window panes into frames--has changed significantly. Now several types of special glazing are available that can help control heat loss and condensation.
Low emissivity (low-e) glass has a special surface coating to reduce heat transfer back through the window. These coatings reflect from 40% to 70% of the heat that is normally transmitted through clear glass, while allowing the full amount of light to pass through.
Heat absorbing glass contains special tints that allow it to absorb as much as 45% of the incoming solar energy, reducing heat gain. Some of the absorbed heat, however, passes through the window by conduction and re-radiation.
Reflective glass has been coated with a reflective film and is useful in controlling solar heat gain during the summer. It also reduces the passage of light all year long, and, like heat absorbing glass, it reduces solar transmittance. Plastic glazing materials--acrylic, polycarbonate, polyester, polyvinyl fluoride, and polyethylene--are also widely available. Plastics can be stronger, lighter, cheaper and easier to cut than glass. Some plastics also have higher solar transmittance than glass. However, plastics tend to be less durable and more susceptible to the effects of weather than glass.
Storm windows can increase the efficiency of single-pane windows, the least energy-efficient type of glazing. The simplest type of storm window is a plastic film taped to the inside of the window frame. These films are usually available in prepackaged kits. Although plastic films are easily installed and removed, they are easily damaged and may reduce visibility. Rigid or semi-rigid plastic sheets such as plexiglass, acrylic, polycarbonate, or fiber-reinforced polyester can be fastened directly to the window frame or mounted in channels around the frame--usually on the outside of the building. These more durable materials are also available in kits.
Layers Of Glass and Air Spaces
Standard single-pane glass has very little insulating value (approximately r-1). It provides only a thin barrier to the outside and can account for considerable heat loss and gain. Traditionally, the approach to improve a window's energy efficiency has been to increase the number of glass panes in the unit, because multiple layers of glass increase the window's ability to resist heat flow.
Double-pane windows are usually more efficient than single- pane or storm windows. Double or triple-pane windows have insulating air or gas filled spaces between each pane. Each layer of glass and the air spaces resist heat flow. The width of the air spaces between the panes is important, because air spaces that are too wide (more than 5/8 inch or 1.6 centimeters) have lower r-values (i.e., they allow too much heat transfer). Advanced, multipane windows are now manufactured with inert gases (argon or krypton) in the spaces between the panes because these gases transfer less heat than does air. Multipane windows are considerably more expensive than single-pane windows and limit framing options because of their increased weight.
Frame and Spacer Materials
Window frames are available in a variety of materials including aluminum, wood, vinyl, and fiberglass. Frames may be primarily composed of one material, or they may be a combination of different materials such as wood and vinyl. Each frame material has its advantages and disadvantages. Though ideal for customized window design, aluminum frames cause conductive heat loss (i.e., they have low r-values) and condensation. However, thermal breaks made of insulating plastic strips placed between the inside and outside of the frame and sash greatly improve the thermal resistance of aluminum frames.
Wood frames have higher r-values, are unaffected by temperature extremes, and are less prone to condensation, but they require considerable maintenance in the form of periodic painting. If wood frames are not properly protected from moisture, they can warp, crack, and stick.
Vinyl window frames, which are made primarily from polyvinyl chloride (pvc), offer many advantages. They are available in a wide range of styles and shapes, have moderate to high r-values, are easily customized, are competitively priced, require low maintenance, and mold easily into almost any shape. But vinyl frames are not strong or rigid, which limits the weight of glass that can be used. In addition, vinyl frames can soften, warp, twist, and bow.
Fiberglass frames are relatively new and are not yet widely available. They have the highest r-values of all frames; thus, they are excellent for insulating and will not warp, shrink, swell, rot, or corrode. Fiberglass frames can be made in a variety of colors and can hold large expanses of glass. Some fiberglass frames are hollow; others are filled with fiberglass insulation.
Spacers are used to separate multiple panes of glass within the windows. Although metal (usually aluminum) spacers are commonly installed to separate glass in multipane windows, they conduct heat. During cold weather, the thermal resistance around the edge of a window is lower than that in the center; thus, heat can escape, and condensation can occur along the edges.
Many types of windows and window films are available that serve different purposes. To alleviate these problems, one manufacturer has developed a mulitipane window using a 1/8-inch-wide (0.32 centimeters- wide) PVC foam separator place along the edges of the frame. Like other multipane windows, these use metal spacers for support, but because the foam separator is secured on top of the spacer between the panes, heat loss and condensation are reduced. Several window manufacturers now sandwich foam separators, nylon spacers, and insulation materials such as polystyrene and rock wool between the glass inside their windows.
Additional Options For Reducing Heat Loss
Movable insulation, such as insulating shades, shutters, and drapes, can be applied on the inside of windows to reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. Shading devices, such as awnings, exterior shutters, or screens, can be used to reduce unwanted heat gain in the summer. In most cases, these window treatments are more cost effective than energy efficient window replacements and should be considered first.
Reducing heat loss or gain in homes often includes either improving existing windows or replacing them. Low cost options available for improvement are caulking, weather stripping, retrofit window films, and window treatments. Replacing windows will involve the purchase of new materials, which should adhere to certain energy efficiency standards. Different combinations of frame style, frame material, and glazing can yield very different results when weighing energy efficiency and cost. For example, a fixed-pane window is the most airtight and the least expensive; a window with a wood frame is likely to have less conductive heat loss than one with an aluminum frame; double-pane, low-e window units are just as efficient as triple-pane untreated window's, but cost and weigh less.
No one window is suitable for every application. Many types of windows and window films are available that serve different purposes. Moreover, you may discover that you need two types of windows for your home because of the directions that your windows face and your local climate. To make wise purchases, first examine your heating and cooling needs and prioritize desired features such as day lighting, solar heating, shading, ventilation, and aesthetic value.
13 Extra Costs to be Aware of Before Buying a Home
"The last thing you need are unbudgeted financial obligations cropping up hours before you take possession of your new home."
Whether you're looking to buy your first home, or trading up to a larger one, there are many costs - on top of the purchase price - that you must figure into your calculation of affordability. These extra fees, such as taxes and other additional costs, could surprise you with an unwanted financial nightmare on closing day if you're not informed and prepared.
Some of these costs are one-time fixed payments, while others represent an ongoing monthly or yearly commitment. Not all of these costs will apply in every situation, however it's better to know about them ahead of time so you can budget properly.
Remember, buying a home is a major milestone. Whether it's your first, second or tenth home, there are many important details to address, during the process. The last thing you need are unbudgeted financial obligations cropping up hours before you take possession of your new home.
Read through the following checklist to make sure you're budgeting properly for your next move.
1. Appraisal Fee
Your lending institution may request an appraisal of the property which would be your responsibility to pay for. Appraisals can vary in price from approximately $175 -$ 300.
2. Property Taxes
Depending on your down payment, your lending institution may decide to include your property taxes in your monthly mortgage payments. If your property taxes are not added to your monthly payments, your lending institution may require annual proof that your taxes have been paid.
3. Survey Fee
When the home you purchase is a resale (vs. a new home), your lending institution may ask for an updated property survey. The cost for this survey can vary between $700- $1,000.
4. Property Insurance
Home insurance covers the replacement value of your home (structure and contents). Your lending institution will request proof that you are insured as it protects their investment on the loan.
5. Service Charges
Any new utility that services your hook up, such as telephone or cable, may require an installation fee.
6. Legal Fees
Even the simplest of home purchases should have a lawyer involved to review all paperwork. Shop around, as rates vary greatly depending on the complexity of the issues and the experience of the lawyer.
7. Mortgage Loan Insurance Fee
Depending upon the equity in your home, some mortgages require mortgage loan insurance. This type of insurance will cost you between 0.5% -3.5% of the total amount of the mortgage. Usually payments are made monthly in addition to your mortgage and tax payment.
8. Mortgage Brokers Fee
A mortgage broker is entitled to charge you a fee in order to source a lender and organize the financing. However, it pays to shop around because many mortgage brokers will provide their services free to you by having the lending institution absorb the cost.
9. Moving Costs
The cost for a professional mover can cost you in the range of:
10. Maintenance Fees
Condos charge monthly fees for common area maintenance such as grounds keeping and carpet cleaning in hallways. Costs will vary depending on the building.
11. Water Quality and Quantity Certification
If the home you purchased is serviced by a well, you should consider having your water checked by your local experts. Depending upon where you live, determines whether or not a fee is charged, to certify the quantity and quality of the water.
12. Local Improvements
If the town you live in has made local improvements (such as the addition of sewers or sidewalks), this could impact a propertyâs taxes by thousands of dollars.
13. Land Transfer Tax
This tax is applied whenever property changes hands and the amount that is applied can vary.
Get An Extra Hour Out Of Every Day
How can you get an extra hour from each day? This is a basic challenge for all of us. We've come up with many practical ways to secure one more precious hour from each day. (Remember that each of these tips is probably adaptable to your particular situation.) Here they are...
1. Make up and follow a detailed, daily schedule.
2. Get up earlier.
3. Do less passive reading, TV watching and the like.
4. Avoid allowing others to waste your time.
5. If you commute to work, use the time to study or plan.
6. Organize your work; do it systematically.
7. Make creative use of lunchtime.
8. Delegate authority if possible.
9. Spend less time on unimportant phone calls.
10. Think first; then do the job.
11. Do instead of dream.
12. Work hardest when you're mentally most alert.
13. Eliminate activities which make little contribution to the best results for your life.
14. Always do the toughest jobs first.
15. Before each major act, ask: Is this REALLY necessary?
16. Choose interesting and constructive literature for spare-moment reading.
17. Learn how to sleep. Sleep soundly, then work refreshed.
18. Skip desserts.
19. Stop smoking.
20. Write notes or letters while waiting for others.
21. Always carry an envelope with paper in it, stamps and a few postcards.
22. Combine tasks which are done in the same area.
23. Be prompt for all appointments.
24. Lay out your clothes the night before.
25. Relax. Ready yourself for the important jobs in life.
26. Concentrate on the specific task you're doing.
27. Make constructive use of those five or ten-minute waiting periods. Carry with you magazine article clippings on helpful subjects.
28. Always carry a pencil and paper to capture important-to-you ideas.
29. Learn to do other "unnecessary things" while watching TV or listening to the radio.
30. Call on specialists to accomplish work you cannot do efficiently.
31. Learn to read more rapidly.
32. Nap an hour after dinner. Then take a shower. Begin the evening hours relaxed and refreshed.
33. Avoid making a "production" out of small tasks.
34. Avoid interruptions.
35. Tackle only one job at a time.
36. Search out job shortcuts.
37. Know your limitations.
38. Work to your top capacity.