Best Insulating Windows for Your Climate

Close-up of person holding a handheld infrared thermal camera outside of a residential home.

If you live in an older home and have decided to change your windows, congratulations are in order! Replacing windows is a great way to better insulate your home during the summer and winter months. The trouble is – windows aren’t a one-size-fits-all purchase. There are different types of glass panes and frames – many of which are designed to work best in certain climates. Rest assured, we have all the details you need so that you can choose the right windows for your home.

Glass Attributes

You may hear the term U-Factor and SHGC (solar heat gains coefficient) used when describing different glass panes. A window’s ‘U-Factor’ measures how well the window insulates. SHGC determines how well the window reflects the sun and reduces glare (which is one way to insulate windows to keep heat out). These measuring tools are important to use to determine what windows will work well depending on your climate.

Understanding the U-Factor

The best windows have a U-factor rating of .30 or lower, which means they are extremely energy efficient. So, when choosing a window replacement, it is important to know if the glass meets or exceeds a specific U-factor rating. If the U-factor rating of the replacement window is lower than your current windows, consider replacing them with another, more energy efficient option.

High SHGC (solar heat gains coefficient)

In colder areas, air conditioning may not be a concern, but keeping your home warmer throughout the year may be more important. So, if you live in a colder region, a window with a high SHGC level may be the best option since the solar heat gained through the window can be used to keep your home at a more comfortable temperature. Therefore, finding a window with a SHGC range of .30 to .60 can be helpful when it comes to window insulation.

Frame Options

There are many different window frames to choose from. Many residential homes commonly use fiberglass windows frames, strong composite frames, vinyl, or vinyl-clad wood frames. There are differences in cost, functionality, and purpose when choosing these frames – with some performing better than others depending on the region you live in.

Fiberglass: Fiberglass frames have excellent thermal performance and are sturdy enough to withstand a storm. They are also strong enough to stand up to high winds, which could be essential to have if you live in an area with extreme weather. Fiberglass frame replacement windows are also an option if you need to have your window repaired since fiberglass is stronger and harder than vinyl. They also resist fading and cracking which makes them more durable and relatively easy to maintain. However, fiberglass is more expensive than vinyl and does require some maintenance.

Composite: Composite window frames are usually made using a combination of aluminum and wood or vinyl and wood. A strong composite frame will also do well with stormy weather, high winds, and extreme conditions. Composite frames are energy efficient and great in regions that experience frequent temperature swings because they don’t expand or contract when temperatures change. Composite window frames are more expensive, so depending on your budget they may or may not be a viable option.

Vinyl: A vinyl window frame insulates well in the summer and can handle ice and snow in the winter. It is very low maintenance and does not need to be painted (compared to, say, a wood frame). Vinyl is also ideal in sunny locations because the frame stabilizes UV rays. However, when it comes to fiberglass vs. vinyl windows, fiberglass windows are up to eight times stronger. Vinyl window frames are a popular choice because of their affordability and the minimal amount of maintenance required to keep them looking good.

Vinyl-Clad: A vinyl-clad window frame will also insulate your home well throughout the year. Like vinyl, it is very low maintenance and does not need to be painted. Vinyl-clad frames also hold up well in sunny locations. These frames are also a popular choice because of their affordability and the minimal amount of maintenance required to keep them looking good.

Aluminum: Aluminum window frames are both durable and low maintenance. Their light weight makes them easy to work with but does not detract from their overall strength. The one drawback to aluminum frame windows (and it’s a big one) is they are not the most energy efficient. They conduct heat rapidly and are not a good insulator against cold weather. So, if you live in a climate that has both extreme hot and/or cold weather throughout the year, aluminum frame windows are not the best choice. In addition, these windows typically cost more than both vinyl and fiberglass but are less expensive than wood frames.

Upgrade to Triple Panes

While double-pane windows have many benefits (the air pocket used between the two panes of glass is excellent for insulation), triple-pane windows may also be an option (in some parts of the country). Triple plane windows have three panes of glass and two air pockets, creating a greater level of soundproofing and insulation than double-pane windows provide. There are, however, some pros and cons to triple pane windows. Better insulation is a positive, but the higher cost associated with producing them may not make them as practical for large-scale window replacement projects. Also, when it comes to triple pane vs. laminate windows, laminate windows provide better soundproofing quality.

Ideal Climate for Triple Pane Windows: Climates that experience periods of extreme hot or cold weather for an extended period.

Get Professional Advice

When it comes to choosing the best windows for your climate your local glass experts at Glass Doctor can help. We can provide you with all the information you need to make the right choice for your home. Whether you need customized window shapes, sizes, thickness, or help choosing the right window insulation material for your home, we can handle everything from installation to repairs. To get started schedule an appointment online or give us a call at (833) 974-0209 today!