How to choose energy efficient windows and doors

How to choose energy efficient windows and doors

Heating and cooling costs are a big part of household's budget. According to Energy Star, the Environmental Protection Agency's energy conservation program, the average American household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of this going to heating and cooling costs.

You can take control of those costs by using high-performance, energy-efficient windows and doors in your home. These windows and doors, which are available for both new construction and replacement use, will help cut utility bills and make your home more comfortable.

It's no wonder that high performing windows are the most common green building product used by residential remodelers, according to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers survey. Remodelers are finding homeowners are looking for windows with glass enhanced with Low-emissive (Low-E) coatings.

 "The improved availability and affordability of high-performing building products means energy-efficient features are being incorporated into more home improvement projects," said NAHB Remodelers Chair Paul Sullivan, CAPS, CGR, CGP, of Waterville Valley, N.H. "Remodeling can not only improve the overall layout and features of a home, but depending on the upgrades you choose, you can also save money on utilities, improve indoor air quality and strengthen the long-term value of your home."

The other most popular green building features in the survey of residential remodelers in the first quarter of 2014 were:

  • High efficiency HVAC systems
  • Programmable thermostats
  • ENERGY STAR appliances
  • Vinyl windows deliver affordable energy efficiency upgrades

Choose affordable, energy-efficient vinyl windows

Popular with remodelers as well as new home builders, vinyl windows from Pella Windows and Doors to help save on energy, and home maintenance.

Pella's 250 Series line is available in popular single-hung, double-hung and sliding window styles. The 250 Series line includes energy-efficient options that meet or exceed Energy Star guidelines in all 50 states.

Courtesy of Pella®Windows and Doors.

“Our new Pella 250 Series vinyl windows give builders, remodelers and homeowners more of everything they value about vinyl, designed to fit nearly any project and budget,” said Pella Product Manager Duane Putz.

In the 250 Series, advanced Low-E insulating double-pane glass comes standard, which pays off in improved performance in climates with hot and cold weather extremes. Pella 250 Series windows with advanced Low-E triple-pane glass are 54 to 77 percent more energy-efficient than single-pane windows1 and block 86 percent of the sun’s fading ultraviolet (UV) rays.

An option of three panes of glass and Advanced Low-E coatings help maximize energy efficiency while increasing comfort year-round. Another option, argon gas  can be inserted into the space between insulating glass panes for an added level of insulation capability. The Pella 250 Series offers energy-efficient options that will meet or exceed ENERGY STAR guidelines in all 50 states.

High performance doesn't mean sacrificing curb appeal. Whether a home features a modern or traditional look, vinyl windows can blend into a range of styles. Pella 250 Series windows offer popular design features and options like:

  • Low maintenance, easy-care vinyl frames
  • Full frame profile with edge detailing
  • Fade-resistant formula performance-tested for excellent weathering, durability and color retention
  • Simulated-divided-light and between-the-glass grilles
  • Color-matched hardware
  • Designed for durability, performance

These durable windows offer high-performance features to help stand up to the weather, such as triple weatherstripping on single-hung and double-hung products provides an advanced barrier from the elements and is tested to withstand wind-driven rain falling at eight inches per hour, with winds up to 55 miles per hour (mph).3

Precision welding makes a stronger, more durable window to help resist warping and twisting over time. Also, multi-chambered, fully welded sash and frame improve strength and thermal performance and reduce sound transmission.

  • Noise reduction – Optional triple-pane glass helps reduce outside noise by 77 percent.4
  • Optional AutoLock hardware to automatically lock windows when shut. Simply close the sash and confirm it latches.
  • Sashes tilt in, to make it easier to clean exterior glass from inside your home.

Tips for choosing a high performance exterior door

Exterior doors are important, and they play a big role in everything from the security of a home to the value of a home. When choosing exterior doors, the right choice can save homeowners as much as 10 percent off utility bills, and can protect a home’s residents from intruders.

Consider these tips for choosing the best exterior door your home:

1. If a homeowner wants to purchase a cost-effective and very secure door, steel is the premier option. According to a report from Remodeling Magazine, adding steel exterior doors to a home can bring an average return of as much as 85.6 percent of the cost.

2. For homeowners who live in an environment where there’s a lot of exposure to heavy rain or salt air, a steel door probably isn’t the best option. Instead, residents in these types of environments should opt for fiberglass or wood.

3. The most low-maintenance type of exterior door is fiberglass, and fiberglass doors are ideal for any type of climate because they don’t expand or contract in response to weather.

4. For homeowners seeking a high-end exterior door option, wood is probably the best choice, and it’s the most expensive type of exterior door, when compared to steel and fiberglass, and wood doors can be handcrafted and customized. Wood is a relatively high-maintenance exterior door option though, so it’s not ideal for someone seeking a low-maintenance exterior door.

5. For people seeking an energy-efficient door, the best way to determine efficiency is to seek out exterior doors with Energy Star labels. Efficiency doesn’t depend solely on what the door is made of—it’s also dependent on the framework, whether it has windows, and a number of other factors.

To give consumers a new low-maintenance choice for fiberglass entry doors, ProVia developed the Embarq Fiberglass Entry Door Systems.

Courtesy ProVia.

ProVia calls the Embarq doors the most energy-efficient entry door available in the U.S. market. Embarq’s performance was independently tested by Architectural Testing, Inc. (ATI), a leading building products testing and certification laboratory in North America.

The new doors is the first product in ProVia's new philosophy of “EnVision” to create unrivaled efficiency in home building products.

Key Features of Embarq Fiberglass Entry Doors

  • Embarq doors provide a U-factor of 0.10 (U-value is a measure of resistance to heat conduction – the lower the better).
  • To enhance efficiency and accommodate more insulation, the Embarq fiberglass entry door is two and a half inches thick, which is 43 percent thicker than standard exterior doors.
  • An integrated channel in the side rails and header of the door allows for even more energy-efficient foam.
  • A dual perimeter seal to create a nearly impenetrable barrier against drafts and energy leaks.
  • A custom-designed sweep, which accommodates the door’s added thickness and keeps out unwanted elements and uncomfortable temperatures.
  • Available in six popular door styles and three wood grain species: Cherry, Mahogany or Oak.
  • ProVia’s patented process allows a different series, style and finish to be used on each side of the door.

“As a company, ProVia has always emphasized energy efficiency and pursued continuous improvements with high energy-performing products,” says Brian Miller, President of ProVia. “With the introduction of Embarq and our new EnVision program, we are strengthening our commitment to leadership in energy efficiency.”

Choose high performance windows

Selecting windows can be an intimidating task. There are many different types of designs, finishes and glass coatings, not to mention different styles and colors. A high-performance window is one that provides a high level of insulation and air sealing to control the flow of light and heating in the home.

The worn out windows in an older home are a good example of bad windows. The single pane of glass does not provide much insulation, and may become covered in condensation in the winter. The worn out frame and sash may allow air to leak through even when the window is closed.

Even in a home that’s 20 or 30 years old, window technology and building science has advanced so much that those windows should be replaced with new ones. In a new home, the windows can play an important role in its design and performance.


Look for new windows that bear the Energy Star label, which ensure they are better than average in performance. Windows today can far exceed Energy Star requirements that make the a great fit for homes designed to meet a green building standard such as LEED or Passive House or National Association of Homebuilders ICC700 National Green Building Standard.

First, visit to determine your home’s Energy Star Climate Zone. Then, find a retailer or manufacturer of Energy Star qualified windows, doors or skylights at the Energy Star website or by looking up information directly on a company’s website.

Be sure to ask for Energy Star qualified windows when placing your order. Whether you’re in a showroom or meeting with an individual window installer, make sure you request ENERGY STAR qualified products for your home.

For windows, doors and skylights, the Energy Star program makes sure each product is independently certified to perform at levels that meet or exceed energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) provides the certification for windows, doors and skylights for Energy Star. NFRC is a non-profit organization that administers an independent rating and labeling system for the energy performance of windows, doors and skylights. This program helps homeowners compare different products and make informed purchasing decisions.

The majority of windows and doors manufactured have an NFRC label. This label will not tell you which window to purchase, but it can be a valuable tool (much like the miles-per-gallon sticker on a new car).

The NFRC Label is the only window label that provides certified energy- related performance ratings that are acquired through independent testing of the product.

Courtesy of Ply Gem.


Compare the full-frame R- value of windows to find the choices with the best insulation capabilities. R-value is a measure of thermal resistance used to compare insulating values through any partition. The higher the R-value of a material, the better the insulating properties.

An average insulated wall is approximately R-13, while Energy Star- rated windows are approximately R-2 to R-3 (varies according to climate zone).

Now many window manufacturers, including Ply Gem, offer windows with an R-5 or above rating. These windows offer significant energy savings compared to the R-3. The DOE reports that increasing the R-value from 3 to 5 reduces average heat loss through the windows by 30 percent.

Frame Material

Window frames come in a variety of materials, including wood, aluminum, composite, fiberglass, and wood clad. These materials have different insulation characteristics.

Ply Gem’s windows incorporate advanced technology for better performance

Warm Edge technology:The windows incorporate a spacer system that reduces heat transfer around the glass perimeter by using a U-shaped channel. The channel is a continuous piece that separates glass panes to interrupt the natural flow of heat to cold.

R-CORE® Insulation" Ply Gem uses a patented high-density solid polyurethane insulation similar to that found in many refrigerator/freezer doors. Depending on the package, R-Core can be used in the frame and sash.

Glass Coating: Low-E glass: Low-E (low emissivity) glass has a secondary, very thin metallic dual layer coating. Heat and light from the sun pass through the insulating glass, but also reflects radiant heat back toward its source. Low-E coatings help keep your home warmer in the winter by trapping radiant heat and cooler in the summer by blocking it from your home. 

Argon gas fill: A colorless, odorless non- toxic gas, argon provides insulation between panes of glass. It's about 40 percent more dense than air, blocking the flow of heat and cold.

If you’re building a home or looking to remodel your current residence, high performance windows are a good investment in energy saving and comfort.

Read more about energy-efficient windows and doors.

Topics: Doors, Energy Star, Exteriors, Home Design & Plans, Maintenance & Repair, Remodeling, Siding, Windows

Companies: Pella Corporation, ProVia

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