Last week, we dove into some ideas for making your window replacement project as eco-friendly as it can be. We reviewed the meaning of some industry terms to be aware of and focused on how to make sure you’re getting the greenest options when it comes to the glass you’ll choose for your windows. Let’s look at two other factors that impact your windows’ energy efficiency today: window frames and installation.
Greening Your Windows: Frames
Each type of window frame comes with its own set of environmental pros and cons. Carefully weigh these against your budget, home architecture, and personal preferences to determine which window frame option is right for you.
Wood frames are among the most environmentally-friendly options when carefully selected. If this option appeals to you the most, be sure to look for certifications that ensure the wood has been sustainably harvested. You can even find some companies out there specializing in wood frames made from reclaimed wood! But there are some drawbacks if you cannot verify the conditions under which the wood was harvested. As this NPR piece points out, “Wood windows raise concerns about forest management because trees have to be cut down to make them. Plus, the frames require periodic painting and maintenance.” This last point is of concern because the lifespan of the window is one of the most important environmental considerations. If you are not willing to commit to the upkeep wood frames require, you take years off of that usable lifespan, thereby drastically reducing how environmentally friendly it is.
Vinyl gets good marks for energy efficiency as the material insulates well and some frame styles can even be filled with additional insulation. These factors equal a long lifespan, which lowers the chances that the material will end up in the landfill. On the other hand, when vinyl does reach the end of its usable lifespan, it cannot be recycled. Additionally, it is not a material that biodegrades. For these reasons, it is not considered a green building material.
Aluminum or Metal Frames
These materials present the consumer with the most affordable frame options, and both are recyclable. This is a a pro for those hoping to go green, but because both aluminum and metal are poor insulators, these frames will not deliver the energy efficiency that vinyl and wood frames are capable of. This renders them a poor choice for greening your home.
Greening Your Windows: Installation
While choosing the glass options and window frames that meet your green standards is important, it’s only half the battle. We cannot stress how important quality installation is to the performance of your new windows. If windows are not properly installed, all of the time and money that you put into choosing eco-friendly options will be negated by windows that do not appropriately insulate your home. Poorly functioning windows mean higher utility bills, yes, but also much higher carbon emissions as your HVAC system works to compensate for the air infiltration your home will experience. Seek professional installation to be assured that your new windows are properly installed and sealed to protect your home and your green investment!