Thursday, July 16, 2009

Money in the Window

Before insulating our house we want to replace our 30 year-old windows and doors with Energy-Star high performance equivalents.

I tell you, those windows and doors ain’t cheap.

Gator Windows, a family run business in Scarborough, came highly recommended by someone in the business so we asked them to provide an estimate for 11 windows and two doors. As we waited for the cost Jane and I played The Price is Right, a guessing game on how much the price would be. Jane’s guess of $12,000 was completely outrageous, I thought, until she turned out to be right. She really needs to be a contestant on that show. She’d make a bundle.

I asked Harold Schaffrath from Gator to reduce the price without compromising quality. He managed to shave it down somewhat.

It’s a tough call because based on the potential rating improvement, installing windows and doors will not be the biggest bang for our buck, unlike the high efficiency furnace and attic and wall insulation. Nevertheless, they will improve our home's efficiency and last for decades so we decided to go ahead and have them installed.

High Performance - High Demand
The demand for high performance windows and doors has jumped quite significantly since Harold started installing them earlier this decade, thanks to the increase in energy audits. One of the first companies to install high performance windows and doors, Gator is now so swamped that Jane and I can expect a delay of six to eight weeks before we can have our new doors and windows.

Despite the delay, I am thrilled Gator is doing so well. We can thank the EcoEnergy program for that.

High Performance Windows
High performance means Low-E Coating on the windows. Low-E is a thin, invisible metallic layer applied to the glazing surface. It allows the suns energy in, but doesn’t allow the heat to escape – a big bonus during the winter. It also blocks the heat radiated from warm objects from entering the house – helpful during the summer. Of course, during the summer you will want to shield your home from the sun’s rays with blinds.

Other benefits to Low-E Windows

• Double-glazed windows with Low-E have the same insulating value as standard triple glaze. This means less weight and consequently less wear and tear on the window’s hinges.
• Fewer UV rays in the house means less faded carpets and fabric.
• Greater home comfort.
• Lower heating bills.
• Lower carbon pounds. More carbon slimming!

Framing is very important when it comes to windows, and doors for that matter. The frame should minimize conductive heat loss.

The Ministry of Natural Resources Canada recommends looking for insulated (non-metal) spaces and thermally broken, low-profile frames. It suggests fiberglass. Gator windows uses North Star vinyl windows. I’m not crazy about vinyl, a non-recyclable plastic with a nasty off-gassing habit. Harold informs me that fiberglass framing is hardly used and he isn’t sold on whether it’s a better material at this point in time. He also informs me that even if we choose fiberglass, vinyl will still be used. What’s a eco-warrior supposed to do?

High Performance Doors
When it comes to doors, we are looking at the following:

• Energy Star, Climate Zone B.
• Minimum of double glazing with a 12mm or greater air space.
• Materials with high insulating values
• Low leakage rates (pre-hung door systems).

More on our Energy Audit to come. In the meantime, check out, a site that chronicles the eco-home renovations of a Toronto couple.

In the News

The planet's future: Climate change 'will cause civilisation to collapse'

Ontario pushes electric cars as auto-sector boost

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