Clear­ing up the pic­ture on shop­ping for win­dows

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Jane Mar­shall

WE hu­mans, like the plants and an­i­mals we share the planet with, need light. And in our homes, this light comes through the win­dows. It el­e­vates our mood, con­nects us to the out­doors and cre­ates a sense of space.

But in many Cana­dian cities, ex­treme tem­per­a­ture changes mean win­dow de­sign in­volves care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.

Wher­ever a win­dow is cut into a wall, heat can be lost, so win­dow place­ment is ex­tremely im­por­tant in our ever-fluc­tu­at­ing north­ern cli­mate. And, of course, they have to look good, too. In­te­rior and ex­te­rior cladding, coat­ings, win­dow place­ment and style are just a few of many con­sid­er­a­tions.

Whether you’re con­tem­plat­ing a ren­o­va­tion or de­sign­ing a new home, win­dows are a crit­i­cal el­e­ment of style, func­tion and, ul­ti­mately, how you feel in­side. First comes func­tion. There are sev­eral op­tions in win­dow op­er­a­tion, says Aaron La­timer, spokesman for All Weather Win­dows. A slid­ing win­dow is the most cost-ef­fec­tive, but a case­ment win­dow, one that cranks open and shut, is the most en­ergy-ef­fi­cient.

An­drew Thomp­son, mar­ket­ing man­ager for Ply Gem Canada, says, “We are see­ing that to­day’s home­own­ers want an en­ergy-ef­fi­cient, low­main­te­nance win­dow.”

Case­ment and awning are great choices, as these win­dows gen­er­ally have su­pe­rior per­for­mance rat­ings and pro­vide a great deal of de­sign flex­i­bil­ity.

Next comes con­struc­tion. There are ben­e­fits to both wood and PVC (polyvinyl chlo­ride). PVC win­dows are durable and cor­ro­sion-and wa­ter­re­sis­tant, where wood win­dows are warm and lovely. To en­sure weather­proof­ing, all-wood win­dows are clad on the ex­te­rior with metal to form a bar­rier, La­timer says.

Wood win­dows are more ex­pen­sive, but cre­ate a time­less look and al­low cus­tomiz­ing of the ex­te­rior cladding in a range of colours, as op­posed to white-only PVC. So whether it’s a ren­o­va­tion or a new home, wood win­dows can be­come quite cus­tom­ized.

La­timer points out that All Weather Win­dows now pro­vides an op­tion for PVC win­dows that al­lows cus­tomers to use metal cladding on the ex­te­rior. It’s a hy­brid be­tween the wood win­dow op­tion and the white PVC, he says. This is a real main­te­nance­free choice, but cus­tomers still get the ben­e­fit of choos­ing an al­ter­na­tive ex­te­rior colour. And then comes the glass. Ar­gon and low-E are in­dus­try terms re­fer­ring to en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency, and buy­ers must un­der­stand them.

As Cana­di­ans, we spend about 56 per cent of our to­tal en­ergy bill on heat­ing our homes and only two per cent on cool­ing, La­timer says. So with win­dows, con­ser­va­tion of heat is im­por­tant.

He rec­om­mends choos­ing win­dow glass that has a high so­lar-heat gain co­ef­fi­cient. SHGC in­di­cates the amount of so­lar gain through a pane of glass, so in our cli­mate, the higher the num­ber, the bet­ter.

Low-E refers to low emis­siv­ity, the ca­pa­bil­ity of a sur­face to emit heat ra­di­a­tion. In the case of win­dows, this refers to when in­te­rior heat, for which we pay dearly dur­ing the win­ter months, gets re­flected back from the win­dow sur­face rather than ex­it­ing to the icy out­doors. In this case, the lower the num­ber, the bet­ter.

Thomp­son points out that coat­ings do af­fect the colour and clar­ity of glass to some de­gree, but they’ve evolved dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent years.

Ar­gon is the gas be­tween glass panes that cre­ates a layer of in­su­la­tion. Thomp­son says the gas helps re­tain heat in win­ter and block sun in sum­mer, ul­ti­mately re­duc­ing en­ergy bills year-round. Both dou­ble-and triple-pane win­dows al­low for gas fills to fur­ther in­crease ef­fi­ciency.

In our cooler cli­mate, it’s also im­por­tant to think about win­dow place­ment. Putting the largest num­ber of win­dows on the south or south­west side of the home lets in heat and light. This is known as pas­sive so­lar. If the home is well-in­su­lated, nat­u­ral sun­light helps main­tain some heat in the home.

In ad­di­tion, any heat gained by the win­dows needs to be con­served through proper home in­su­la­tion. Of course, this is rec­om­mended for our north­ern cli­mate.

And fi­nally the fun part: win­dow styles.

There are lots of op­tions avail­able, says La­timer. In­ter­nal grilles, colours and brick moulds all add ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign el­e­ments to the home.

A vast ar­ray of these el­e­ments is avail­able, so have a good idea of your style, whether it’s Crafts­man, tra­di­tional or mod­ern, for ex­am­ple. Win­dows can then play off the home’s over­all feel­ing to make it co­he­sive and at­trac­tive.

Those in­ter­ested in ren­o­vat­ing or build­ing should be aware of up­com­ing En­ergy Star pro­gram changes, which will re­sult in stricter guide­lines for win­dow ef­fi­ciency. To learn more, check out en­ergy star.gov. Check out all-weather win­dows. Tran­soms add an­other, in­ex­pen­sive el­e­ment. There are no ex­pen­sive op­er­at­ing de­vices, just a solid, im­mov­able, light-giv­ing pane. Tran­soms can be lin­ear, arched, or peaked.

Ren­o­va­tions re­quire dif­fer­ent con­sid­er­a­tions, La­timer points out. It’s about im­prov­ing the view.

Older homes typ­i­cally have smaller win­dows, so cre­at­ing larger win­dows is key. Trees may have ma­tured to pro­vide more pri­vacy, so win­dows might be placed in ar­eas that wouldn’t have been ap­pro­pri­ate in the home’s ear­lier days.

Bay win­dows are an­other op­tion, as they use the orig­i­nal open­ing, but are pushed out to add space and light to an ex­ist­ing win­dow frame.

Brick moulds are an­other op­tion. These are ex­te­rior frames that make the win­dow ap­pear larger from the out­side.

Most ren­o­va­tions have ex­te­rior brick moulds, La­timer says.

— Canwest News Ser­vice

Win­dows can make a dra­matic state­ment in a room. Con­sider win­dow di­rec­tion

to max­i­mize win­ter heat gain.

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