Considerations in Finding the Perfect Windows for Your Home
People are naturally attracted to light and space. A dark, cramped room is unappealing and depressing. However, simply putting in a window or two in the correct location can turn any room into a light, airy, attractive living space. Selecting a location requires considering the natural light at all hours of the day. In general, the larger the area covered by windows, the better- unless the view is less than inspiring or privacy is a concern. In which case, plenty of natural light can still be allowed in by placing large windows high up on the wall, above head height.
Windows can be strategically placed to maximize the view. Instead of living with a window that practically forces you to look into your neighbor's messy garage, block that area of the wall and move the window so it allows you to see your flower garden and bird-feeders instead. Sometimes re-arranging your landscaping can help maximize the view, too.
When considering window placement, also consider ventilation. Opening a window or two to let in some fresh area can definitely improve most living spaces. Think about the local prevailing winds when placing windows. If gale-force winds often blow from the south, consider placing windows for ventilation on other sides of the house.
Once you've decided to turn two entire walls of your den into windows to create a panoramic view, your next concern is probably going to be energy-efficiency. A giant wall of glass may turn the room into a lovely haven, but you don't want it to be at the expense of an incredible utility bill. Properly placed windows can sometimes help with utility bills- in the winter, allowing plenty of sunlight into the house can help heat it. And being able to maximize use of natural light reduces use of electrical lighting.
There are many new window designs that can help cut utility bills. A popular choice is argon-filled windows. These windows have two or three panes of glass with argon gas between the panes. They block the transfer of heat through the window, keeping the heat out or in, as needed. Specially coated glass that blocks the sun's radiant energy but allows the natural light in are also available. These types of windows are an excellent choice for warmer climates.
The material the frame is made of can affect the energy-efficiency of the window. Vinyl and wood are both excellent insulating materials for window frames. Wood requires more maintenance than vinyl. Aluminum is not the best insulator, but is a good choice for humid climates and coastal areas.
When choosing a window, observe the window's energy ratings and think about the local climate and where in your home the window will be placed. The U-value refers to the window's insulating abilities, and the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) refers to how much of the sun's heat makes it through the window. For both measures, a lower number is generally better, although in cold climates higher SHGC values may be preferable.
Another factor to consider is installation. A poorly installed window will let the elements seep in around the edges, negating all of its expensive energy-efficiency ratings. Take your time in designing, finding, and installing the perfect windows for your home. The correct choices will not only make a big difference in your quality of life but also improve the value of your home.
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