Tips for Choosing Efficient Windows

Learn more about choosing energy efficient windows for your home.
Vibrant Green Living Room

Vibrant Green Living Room

Photo courtesy of Marvin Windows

Photo courtesy of Marvin Windows
By: Peter Walsh

Chances are that the main reason you are replacing your old windows is to upgrade to more energy efficient models. Window companies have improved their offerings so they now help save you money on your energy bills all year long.

But it's easy to become overwhelmed trying to figure out which windows are right for your home. Shopping locally is a good idea. Windows vary by region, so you'll get the best advice from retailers that have experience in your climate. Choosing windows from major manufacturers is also key. They sell a lot of windows and have the muscle behind them to produce quality products.

Remember, as with anything, you get what you pay for. Go cheap and you'll end up replacing your windows sooner than expected. To help you decipher the keys to energy-saving windows, here are some tips.


New window frames made of wood are the most popular and very energy efficient. They are easy to repair and maintain and can be painted to your desired color. They are susceptible to rot and insect damage, but better window makers offer them clad in vinyl or aluminum, or treat them with a water-repellant preservative that makes them last longer. They tend to cost more, but they offer the best look for both inside and outside your home.


With their good moisture resistance, vinyl windows are a good choice. They are equally energy efficient to wood windows if they are insulated. They are also low-maintenance but do fade over time, especially in darker colors, which can also become brittle as they age, so choose lighter neutral colors that you can live with for the long term. You can restore the finish with a soft scrub cleanser should the frames become dull. They're slightly lower priced than wood windows.


These windows are strong but not very energy efficient because they conduct heat. Condensation can form, creating moisture issues, including frosting in winter. Most often, these are the cheapest windows you can buy.


Window frames made of fiberglass are offered by some of the major manufacturers as an alternative to wood or vinyl. They are high maintenance, as they need painting. It's difficult to find them in energy efficient insulated versions, and they are more expensive than insulated vinyl windows.


Composite windows look like wood and most makers prefinish them in a host of colors. They perform well, but you may not like the look of a full composite window on the inside of your home. To solve this issue, some makers use composite materials on the outside of the window and wood material on the inside. Cost is about the same as vinyl windows.

Tips for Choosing Energy Efficient Windows

  • Look for Low-E coatings on the glass. These coatings reflect heat inside your house and reflect UV rays from the sun outside your home. They have a slight tint that may or may not be visible depending on how dark you want the tint to be. In colder climates, the coating is applied to the inside panes of glass, while in warmer climates, the coating is applied to the outside of the glass.
  • Casement and awning windows are the most energy efficient because they clamp more tightly against the weather stripping on the frame than double-hung windows.
  • Look for windows with multiple panes of glass separated by low-conductive argon or krypton gas filling and warm edge spacers with tightly constructed frames.
  • The best weather stripping on any kind of operative window is a compressible gasket type much like you would find on your car doors. The weather stripping combined with a quality latch will effectively keep out cold air and rain, plus keep warm air in in winter.
  • Look for windows with low U-values or U-factors. These windows have the best insulating properties.

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