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We’ve talked about lighting efficiencies and energy audits and upgrade incentives, but what about windows?

According to some energy efficiency gurus, windows are not at the top of the list of things to replace to improve your home’s efficiency. However, we’ve found that new, perfectly-fitting, well-insulated windows add to the comfort and efficiency of a space by keeping drafts down, reducing cold transfer from the outside (a problem with aluminum windows), reducing outdoor noise, and have the ability to transform the look of a space.

In our empirical experience, they make houses more comfortable, plus reduce condensation and the growth of mold, making your home more healthy as well.

How do you pick the right window? There are a lot of choices out there, and prices vary widely. Double pane, low-e windows are a must. You will usually have options for upgrades to extra glazing, a finer-mesh screen that is almost invisible from the inside of the home, and triple-pane windows. While these upgrades are often unnecessary for most windows in your home, the extra glazing can be beneficial for rooms with high exposure to the elements, while the fine-mesh screen is great for rooms with an amazing view.

Unless you are living with a lot of outdoor noise (near a highway or under a flight path), we don’t recommend triple-pane. They are perfect for extreme climates, but in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t have enough heat or cold to make them beneficial. In fact, they can keep out our winter sun, actually making your home cooler in the winter.

One of our favorite windows is the Anderson 100 series. Similar in price to a high-end vinyl, the 100 series is made from wood waste and recycled polymers from the Anderson plant. It has a higher-quality look than vinyl, with mitered corners, and is paintable inside and out.

The windows are beautiful and we feel good about the company. Since their founding, the Andersen headquarters have been located on the banks of Minnesota’s scenic St. Croix River. Their location has influenced their decision to choose green practices and have built the “reduce-reuse-recycle” mantra into their manufacturing process. You can read more about their practices here.

However, not all windows are great for all homes. Because of their styling, the Anderson 100 series is not the best fit for craftsman homes. Also, they generally take 4-6 weeks for arrival, so they aren’t great if you are on a short timeline. If you need suggestions on windows for a craftsman home or if you are on a short timeline, contact us for suggestions.

If you’ve been thinking about replacing your windows and have an all electric home, there are some incentives from Community Power Works to help cut the costs.

Finally, if you don’t have the ability or desire to replace your windows, there are still some things you can do to improve their efficiency and the health of your family.

Make sure windows are well-caulked as a lot of air can escape through the tiny cracks between your window and wall. Make sure bedrooms are well heated and well ventilated, with good air circulation. And finally, consider rolling up a towel to put on your window sill to catch excess condensation and reduce moisture that would otherwise sit on the sill or soak into the wall.