Energy Star Windows Guide
If you are like most consumers, you look for the ENERGY STAR rating when you shop for appliances. ENERGY STAR ratings are helpful for homeowners because they verify that certain products, such as windows, use 20 to 30 percent less energy than their counterparts. This, in turn, leads to significant long-term savings.
In a recent Modernize survey, 40 percent of homeowners said they are actively pursuing home improvement projects to save money on their utility and electric bills. Here is what you need to know about choosing and buying new energy-efficient windows that will cut your electricity bills and make your home more comfortable overall.
There are three factors that determine whether a window can be an Energy Star Window:
- U-factor – indicates how easily heat flows through a window. The lower the U-factor, the more insulative the window will be.
- SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient)- measures the amount of heat-causing light that can travel into a home through the window. Lower numbers here signify that less solar heat is allowed in.
- Air leakage rating (AL) – measures the amount of air allowed through the frame and joints, per square foot of window space. Windows with a lower AL rating allow less air to flow through.
The type of windows you will need depends largely on what climate you live in, which is why the ENERGY STAR rating for windows varies by region:
- In northern climates, a low U-factor and higher SGHC are necessary to receive an ENERGY STAR certificate. This allows your home to be properly insulated and take advantage of passive solar heat from the windows.
- In southern climates, the minimum U-factor rating for ENERGY STAR certification is slightly higher, but the SGHC is lower. This reduces the amount of excess solar heat in the home. That is why it is so important to buy the right ENERGY STAR windows for your location.
ENERGY STAR Windows Requirements by Region
Northern Energy Star Requirements
- U-factor= .28 and SHGC = 0.32 or greater
- U-factor= .29 and SHGC = 0.37 or greater
- U-factor= .30 and SHGC = 0.42 or greater
North Central Energy Star Requirements
- U-factor= .30 or lower with
- SHGC = .40 or lower
South Central Energy Star Requirements
- U-factor = .30 or lower with
- SHGC = .25 or lower
Southern Energy Star Requirements
- U-factor = .40 or lower with
- SHGC = .25 or lower
ENERGY STAR Skylight Windows
While all ENERGY STAR window requirements are stringent, the requirements for skylight window installations are not quite as strict as they are for other windows. The U-factor can be considerably higher, and the SGHC does not have to be as low in Southern locations. Even though the requirements are slightly more lenient, you should still pay attention to these ratings. Having a low U-factor skylight installed in a Northern home will allow a fair amount of heat to escape through the window.
Skylight ENERGY STAR Windows Requirements by Region
- Northern – U-factor = .50 or lower with any SHGC
- North Central – U-factor = .53 or lower with an SHGC of .35 or lower
- South Central – U-factor = .53 or lower with an SHGC of .28 or lower
- Southern – U-factor = .60 or lower with an SHGC of .28 or lower
Window Air Leakage Requirements
In addition to meeting the regional energy efficiency requirements, replacement double paned windows and triple paned windows must also be rated for air leakage in order to be ENERGY STAR certified. All windows, including skylights, must have an AL rating of less than 0.3 cubic feet of air for each square foot of window space.
Doing Your Energy Star Window Research
Looking for ENERGY STAR Window ratings is a smart place to start when you are shopping for new windows. That said, choosing a window just because it says ENERGY STAR is not the best strategy, because some ENERGY STAR windows are much more efficient than others. Some are much more durable and some are worth the investment while others are not. Work with a window professional to help you choose the best windows that will be a long-term investment for your home. The best replacement window brands will have plenty of options for you.