How to Compare Energy Efficient Windows

Every homeowner shopping for windows is looking for energy efficient windows. I should know; I’m the guy you call. So in this article I am going to show you how you can compare windows. What do you need to look for? What questions should you ask? And what are the expectations you should have before you start shopping.

What Makes Windows Energy Efficient?

Have you ever wondered why all the glass-covered buildings in downtown Vancouver have that signature green tint? That is green colouring is multiple layers of Low-Emissions Coatings (aka: Low-E coatings) on the inside of the glass.

This photo shows Canada Place and some of the downtown buildings of Vancouver. You can see the coloured reflections in the glass showing the energy coatings.
Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay

There are three pretty important factors that contribute to how good of a thermal insulator windows can be. The frame materials plays a large role, the thickness of the glass used affects heat transfer, and the combination of Low-E coatings change the way that light bounces around. All windows have two primary ratings which I use for to compare windows: “U-Value” is the measure of how well the window passively insulates your home: the lower the number, the better the insulation rating; the “Solar Heat Gain Coefficient” (aka: SHGC) measures how much resistance the window provides to the direct sunlight heating up your rooms: what you need will be case-specific. When discussing how efficient a window is, these are the two primary ways we measure the energy properties of the window.

1.    Compare Material Types for Windows

Window glass is primarily double-glazed with a Low-E coating on the inside of the glass. Between the two layers of glass is an inert gas which is usually Argon. As windows have become more efficient, triple-glazed window have taken space in our market. We are combining different Low-E coatings within the glass to magnify their effects. The best energy efficiency ratings come from combining as much building science as we can.

Wooden Windows

We do not use wooden windows anymore, and for good reason. Wooden windows are very prone to water leakages, air filtration or drafts, and poor seals. They can also quickly deteriorate if proper care and maintenance is not provided. These windows are common in old houses and should be replaced. These are usually only single pane or uncommonly double pane.

An unkempt wooden window. Paint is peeling and the wooden facade is showing signs of water and UV wear.
Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash

Aluminum Windows

Aluminum is a conductor. That means that heat can pass easily from the outside and into your home. The window industry has invested a lot into breaking that connection from the outside. In order to make metal windows that do not directly conduct heat, we have to make expensive windows. Aluminum is ultimately limited in what efficiency rating can be provided.

Vinyl Windows

They meet you in the middle. These uPVC blends have decent structural strength and vinyl is easily reinforced. It is also an inexpensive material to mass produce. So far, vinyl windows are the best at resisting the passive transfer of heat. Vinyl is a very affordable material and is usually the best option for achieving your energy goals. Some manufacturers are able to obtain Energy-Star’s Most Efficient energy rating in vinyl.

Composite Windows

Composite systems try to be the best of both worlds. They want to be as versatile and appealing as aluminum, while being the best for energy. Some composite systems are able to obtain the Passive House Certification which is highly coveted in the premium housing market.  See our Rehau Window System to learn about the possibilities.

2.    Know Your Glass Options

Rows of sunglasses with different glass tints and different frames.
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Windows are expensive because glass is expensive. Window improvements across the board come primarily from glass-related innovations. Remember those Low-E coatings that coat the insides of the windows? That coating is silver-based. Depending on the application we may require multiple layers of these coatings. The most efficient windows usually have more glass, more coatings, and larger spaces between the glass panes. If you have three panes of glass and three layers of Low-E coatings, the costs can quickly add up. Glass options are customizable and tailored to exactly your need. Many glass options will change the SHGC of your windows which will impact how comfortable your rooms will be. There are funds available if you are looking at the best energy efficient replacement windows though rebate programs which are federally and provincially available to help you make the best choices.

3.    Look for Labels and Ratings

Luckily for you there are organizations keeping us salespeople in check. All windows in Canada are federally regulated. There is a large international organization which tries to make this as easy as possible for consumers. Ask about ENERGY STAR ratings as well as the U-Value and SHGC. Depending on where you live, different climate zones have different suggested energy star windows and they base their recommendations on the U-Value. Energy Star’s most coveted rating is the ENERGY STAR “Most Efficient Window” which few manufacturers are able to achieve. Look for these labels on manufacture websites or on the windows themselves.

4.    Know Your Dealer

I know that you can buy windows from a big box store, so you ask yourself, “Why choose A-1 Windows?” We have knowledgeable and experienced staff who make sure that you get exactly what you want and what you need. Windows have so many options that it is unreasonable for the customer to completely know what they are buying. You need to find a dealer that is reputable and experienced. You can also look into their affiliations with other companies, governing bodies, or organizations. Being local also helps ensure that they know your market and will have worked on homes exactly like your own.

5.    Lastly, Know the Installers

You need to judge the quality of installers. Who you select determines the quality of the finish. They are the ones who will be in your house and doing the work to install your windows. They are the craftsman who will seal your windows from the outside and create the final barrier that make the windows work properly. Your installers should have input on your window order. They should dictate the installation methods and the final sizing of the windows to ensure a snug fit.  Did you know that A-1 Windows has our own in-house installation teams? Well now you do!

That’s All, Folks!

You are now well equipped to start shopping for windows. We have taught you that there are trade-offs when selecting a material and you know the basics of how we make windows more energy efficient. I have spilled the beans! Now, you know how I would approach finding a window supplier and how I would determine if their products were a good fit for my project.

What Window Rebates Are Available, and How Do the Windows Qualify

What Are the Window Rebates?

Window rebates are your ticket to the market for renos with high-efficiency products. These are funds set aside by our government to incentivize you to make long-term energy decisions about your home. Canada has committed funding to a greener future. When making decisions about your home cost is often a primary factor in making decisions. Our government wants to make the choice to be more energy efficient much easier. They are doing that by paying you to purchase qualified products from specialist installers. Rebates reimburse the expected difference between normal windows and high-efficiency windows.

Who Pays for Greener Energy?

Technically: you and I do. The savings that are available in British Columbia come from two sources:

Provincial Rebates – BC Hydro Rebates

The Provincial government provides rebates through the cleanBC program. This program is a joint effort between BC Hydro, FortisBC, and the Provincial and Federal governments. The stated aim is to reduce our energy usage in our homes. They want to pay you to save money on your bills. That’s a double-good deal!

You can read more here: https://betterhomesbc.ca/

Federal Grants – Canada Greener Homes Grant

The Canada Greener Homes Grant program is offered by Natural Resources Canada (AKA: NRCan). NRCan regulates the energy industry and ensures that windows, doors, and more meet rigorous standards. These guys keep our industry honest and competitive by setting the minimum standards. It is NRCan’s mission to have Canada maximize the worth of our natural resources. We share the belief that high-efficiency windows are the future. They are willing to bet on it.

See what they have to say here: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/homes/canada-greener-homes-grant/23441

Why Should I Buy High-Efficiency Windows?

Use Green Energy, Lower Utility Costs

Windows are historically the weakest link in your building’s insulation layer. That means that on your home, a large portion of the money you spend on heating and cooling literally goes out the window. New windows which are funded by these programs allow us to plug those holes and make your home better sealed. BC will pay you to use green energy technology.

Get Paid to Improve Your Investment

Windows are an investment in your present and your future. The improved insulation and seal that the window provides equates to a better the long-term value. Buyers often consider updated warranties, modern aesthetics, and energy conscious decisions that you make now. Windows are sexy; they are sleek; they are more affordable than ever. Trust me: you can’t buy a house without them.

If I have convinced you already, click here to start the quote process:

Applying For Window Rebates

Application to these reimbursement programs involves some bureaucracy but it is made easy for the consumer.

The provincial program only requires that your house qualifies, the products qualify, and the installers are certified. If you tick all of those boxes with your purchase, congratulations! You have earned your window rebate. You just need to fill out an online form to complete the application.

The Canada Greener Homes Grant has a few more steps to ensure that you are getting the best value for your money. The first step is having your home undergo an energy evaluation. There are many companies who can provide this regulated service. They will provide you with an energy report for your home which details exactly how energy is used and lost in your home. They will then recommend a number of different products tailored to your situation. In our experience, windows are nearly always recommended.

See this page to find an evaluator near you: https://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/home-improvement/service/contact-advisors.cfm

Multiple people are gathered around a table looking at and pointing at a fruit-branded laptop. The subtext to this image is that they are looking at their Energy Report that qualifies them for their BC Energy Efficient Rebate Windows Window Rebate.
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Next, we install the high-efficiency windows in your home and provide you will all the details you will need to process your application. Afterwards, another evaluation is required to be completed by the same company that provided your initial energy evaluation. They will again provide you with an energy report that will detail exactly how the installed upgrades have improved your quality of life. Congratulations! It’s now time for paperwork! Now, you must complete an online form to claim the grant.

Government Rebates for Windows can Total Up To $7000

The cleanBC program offers up to $2000 and the federal program offers up to $5000. We combine the two programs for a total of $7000. Here are two tables which breakdown the savings:

Provincal*

Upgrade (Insulation Rating)Rebate Available
U-Factor 1.40 – 1.23 (W/m2-K)$50 per Window
U-Factor 1.22 (W/m2-K) or less$100 per Window
*Unfortunately, The City of Vancouver plays by different rules and is exempt from some provincial rebates

Federal

Upgrade (Insulation Rating)Rebate Available
U-Factor 1.22 – 1.06 (W/m2-K)$125 per Window
U-Factor 1.06 (W/m2-K) or less$250 per Window

How Long Does this Take?

The answer is: maximum six months. Once you have started the process of qualifying your home for the green energy rebates the clock starts ticking. Therefore, before that six month timer elapses you must have completed your online applications. Once the applications are submitted it takes 2 weeks to a month for the cheque to arrive. The provincial program starts counting after the install, but you might as well do both forms at once, right?

A-1 Windows Get You Your Window Rebates

Our excellent sales consultants are knowledgeable and experienced with these processes. You can find us in southern Burnaby. Our local, in-house installation teams assure you that you won’t be dealing with anyone but A-1 Windows. We are very experienced at qualifying our customers for their BC Hydro and Federal window rebates.

Our showroom is open for visits and we have sales consultants on-site to demonstrate all of our products and features. We can answer any questions you have about your windows today.

FAQs

Do All Windows Qualify?

As long as the windows meet the insulation ratings required then the windows will qualify. That said, only triple-glazed windows will qualify for the full $7000 of reimbursement. The important issue is whether your house qualifies. Usually if you have lived in that house as your primary resident for over a year you will qualify.

Can Bathroom Windows Qualify?

Absolutely they do! As long as the requirements for energy ratings are met, the windows with safety glass and obscure glass will qualify for the window rebates.

Are Window Upgrades My Best Option for Energy Efficiency?

In the vast majority of cases windows are the primary method of heat exchange with the exterior. The inspection for the federal program will highlight the exact best course of action. Even then, in our experience, rarely is there something more beneficial to upgrade than your windows.

How Do I Know How Efficient Your Windows Are?

Don’t take our word. Trust the third-party verifiers and testers that NRCan requires us to use. For our testing we use QAI one of Canada’s top independent testing laboratories. Energy Star, an international body, indicates that we produce windows with the coveted “Most Efficient” label. Industry regulators, and our customers, have every faith in our windows.

Do New Homes Qualify for Rebates?

In general, no they do not. If by “new” you mean that you have only been living in it for just over a year? Then it may qualify.

Replacing the Windows in Your Home Can be a Daunting Task

Replacing the windows in your home can be an expensive and daunting task, so how do you go about the selection process in choosing a window company to manufacture and install your windows?

Firstly, find out how long has the manufacturer been supplying windows and patio doors to the particular market that you are a part of, and have they been successful?Always

Secondly, ask for references and examples of their work.

Reference and examples
Many companies employ a strategy of attempting to be all things to all people, while the goal of others is to provide specialization and expertise in their specifically chosen market.

Here is what we do:

A1

At A1 windows, our choice of markets is that of single family dwellings and multi-family projects for the Factory Direct supply and Installation of replacement windows and patio doors.

We have a well-established 23 year history of replacing both Vinyl and Thermally Broken Aluminum framed windows for Single Family Homes as well as larger Multi-Family High and Low-Rise projects. We handle these projects from start to finish beginning with a quotation, and winding up with a professional installation by our A1 crews.

Your next step is to haveA1 Blog a close up look at the components which make up the product.

For example, if you are looking at Vinyl-framed windows, pay some attention to the frames, as they have to be strong enough to support the great majority of the weight of the window, which happens to be the glass. The City of Vancouver, through their Jan 1, 2015 Energy Bylaw have mandated performance criteria which can bring triple glazing into the equation, further increasing the glass weight by 50%, so frame strength is vital.

Unlike aluminum, where the strength is inherent in the metal itself, PVC is soft by comparison, and must acquire its strength through design. So here’s how to compare one PVC frame against another. Ask to see a cross/corner section of the windows from competing manufacturers and count up the number of separate internal chambers (webbing) and then compare it to ours. The window with more chambers, equates to a stronger frame. This is a basic engineering principle, which can be seen everywhere, from the cross bracing in bridge construction to open web steel joists.frame

Should you then decide that A1 Windows is your choice among competing manufacturers; the next phase is to arrange a meeting with one of our consultants. They are all fully conversant with building code requirements for both the City of Vancouver as well as the rest of B.C., and would be only too happy to provide you with explanations and/or the reasons for a specific requirement.

They are also well informed of the ways in which the most recent glass technologies can customize the living conditions in your home to suit your personal preferences. More importantly, they can utilize our new portable measurement devices to be able to clearly demonstrate how the existing windows in your home perform versus what you can expect from your new windows in areas of Enhanced Sound Abatement, Security, Unwanted Heat Gain in Summer, Heat Loss in Winter, and the reduction of damaging U.V. light (Ultraviolet) which is the root cause of fabric/flooring fading.

Energy Star HS BOA 2021 Logo

blog3

At A1 Windows, we respect the fact that if you pay a dollar for a product or service, you should expect at least a dollar’s worth in return. We would welcome an opportunity to demonstrate that value, answer any questions which you might have, and review your window requirements with you at a mutually convenient time. Once we have determined your needs, we can then assemble a no obligation quotation for windows and/or patio doors, personally customized to your specifications.

How to preserve that heritage window look

When replacing heritage windows homeowners often find modern windows lack the features and styling that is found in heritage homes.  Preserving character and complementing the existing architecture can be a challenge.

Heritage BC offers a few suggestions (http://www.heritagebc.ca/resources/guides-tips-1/upgrading-windows) to preserve the heritage styling through regular maintenance and repairs of existing frames and sashes. Eventually however,  homeowners often consider full-on replacement. Continue reading