Energy Star Windows Have CHANGED

Energy Star windows and doors will need to meet a tougher criteria effective October 23, 2023. We’ll explain the details right here.

The requirements have gotten tougher to meet, especially in the North and North Central zones.

What are the new requirements for Energy Star windows?

Here you can see the old requirements for Energy Star windows compared to the new requirements.

Requirements for Energy Star windows effective late 2023 into 2024.
Here you can see the old and new efficiency requirements for Energy Star windows.

For any window to be Energy Star certified it will need to have a U-Factor and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient at or below the numbers listed.

The requirements are more stringent in all climate zones with the Northern and North Central numbers being harder for many companies to achieve with double pane glass. Most companies can reach these ratings with triple pane glass, but that will increase the cost of your project.

Is there a tax credit for Energy Star windows?

Not anymore. There is a new federal tax credit for windows, but the requirements have changed. In the past windows needed to be Energy Star certified to qualify, but now they need to meet the Energy Star Most Efficient criterial which is different.

Requirements for Energy Star Most Efficient windows.
Here are the Energy Star “Most Efficient ratings by climate zone. More info on the Energy Star website here.

That can be a little confusing and you can find more info on tax credits for energy efficiency windows here.

Are the Energy Star requirements the same for windows and for doors?

Yes. The requirements are the same, but the tax credit requirements are a little different. The short story is that the regular Energy Star levels do qualify doors for tax credits, but windows need to meet the more stringent “most efficient” criteria.

Refer to recent post about the federal tax credit for replacement windows for more info. It is a little tricky, but it’s a government program so what do you expect?

Does it matter if my new windows are Energy Star rated?

Not really. It can be a helpful benchmark to determine how efficient your new windows will be, but in reality a difference in U-Factor of 0.01 can make or break an Energy Star rating but doesn’t really make any difference in overall performance of your new windows.

A larger difference in efficiency ratings can make a real difference in the performance so it’s important to understand window efficiency ratings. This will help you compare one option to another. Window salesmen will often make all sorts of claims that aren’t based in reality so understanding the real ratings will go a long way to helping you make the right decision.

If you’re looking for a great window company in your area you can find our recommendations for local companies all over the country here.

Tax Credit for New Windows and doors EXPLAINED

The federal tax credit for replacement windows and doors is back! But, the requirements changed substantially in 2023, the potential benefit has gotten better and the whole thing is a little more complicated.

Many window salesmen don’t understand these programs so it’s important to make sure have the real information. We’ll get to the bottom of it right here.

Topics we’ll cover are:

  • Changes to federal tax credits for energy efficient windows
  • Requirements for tax credit for energy efficient doors
  • Tax benefit for purchasing energy efficient windows and doors
  • Cost increase for windows that qualify for the tax credits

Changes to federal tax credit for energy efficient windows and doors

Effective Jan 1, 2023 the requirements for tax credits for installing new efficient windows and doors have changed. The requirements are a more strict, meaning more efficient windows are required to get the tax credit.

In the past the windows just needed to meet the Energy Star criteria, but now the windows need to meet the Energy Star “Most Efficient” criteria which are substantially different.

Energy Star Most Efficient criteria for federal tax credits for replacement windows.
Here you can see the requirements for windows to meet the Energy Star Most Efficient criteria for eligibility for federal tax credits effective in 2023 and beyond.

As you can see in the graphic above, the Energy Star most efficient criteria are different in the different climate zones. This makes sense because someone in Arizona has different efficiency needs than someone in Maine.

In all areas of the country windows need a U-Factor of 0.20 or less to qualify. For most windows this means they’ll need to have triple pane glass. Even with triple pane glass many products still won’t qualify. They’ll likely need other upgrades as well.

The other criteria is Solar Heat Gain Coefficient or SHGC. That number needs to be at or below 0.20 in the Northern climate zone, 0.40 in the North-Central, 0.25 in the South-Central and Southern regions.

If you’re looking at new windows that meet both of those criteria then you’ll qualify for the new federal tax credit. You can find details about how much money you can save on your taxes below.

Tax credit requirements for doors are quite a bit different

Doors, including sliding patio doors, only need to meet the Energy Star 7.0 criteria as of October 23, 2023. Doors do not need to meet the Energy Star Most Efficient levels in order to qualify for tax credits.

Does the terminology seem a little confusing? It’s a typical government program, but it’s easy enough to figure out.

Energy Star 7.0 requirements for windows and doors.
Here are the Energy Star 7.0 criteria for windows and doors. Doors that meet these criteria will qualify for tax credits but windows that only meet this criteria will not. Windows need to meet the more stringent criteria called “Most Efficient”.

Doors only need to meet the Energy Star criteria, but effective October 23, 2023 those requirements are changing and getting a little harder to meet. Find more info on tax credits for doors from the Energy Star website here.

In the graphic above you can see the difference between the old Energy Star 6.0 criteria and the new Energy Star 7.0 criteria for doors. There are a few ways to meet this criteria in the Northern climate zone. The other zones are a little more straightforward.

What is the tax benefit for installing energy efficient windows and doors?

What do you get back from Uncle Sam when you buy energy efficient windows and doors? If you purchase qualifying products you’ll be eligible for federal tax credits for 30% of the cost of the new windows and doors with a $600 annual max for windows and a $500 annual max for doors.

As an example, let’s look at someone who bought 10 windows and a sliding patio door for $12,000. You’ll need to get an itemized invoice from your window company that will break out the cost of the door from the windows and separate the labor.

Let’s say the windows were $6,000, the door was $2,000 and the installation was $4,000.

This person would be eligible for 30% of the cost of the windows ($6000 x 0.30 = $1,800). The max would limit the tax credit to $600 for the windows. The door would be eligible too ($2,000 x 0.30 = $600). They’d be limited to $500 for the door so this project would max out the tax credit and the person in our example would save $1,100 on their taxes that year.

This is a tax credit not a deduction so it’s real savings. Of course you should contact your tax professional with any questions, but it’s a relatively simple program.

It’s important to note that the max is annual meaning you could buy some windows this year, more windows next year and you can get the $600 for both years. I imagine some people will spread out projects to maximize tax credits, but many will probably just max it out one year and be done with it.

What is the cost of windows that qualify for tax credits?

The criteria windows and doors need to meet to qualify for tax credits has gotten more stringent. The cost has also gone up. You’ll need to order a more efficient glass package in order to qualify. The cost of that package will likely exceed the tax credit that you’ll receive.

That means you’ll pay more for the upgrade than you’ll get back. That’s not ideal, but it does offset the cost of getting a more efficient result.

In the example above the person bought 10 windows and 1 sliding door and qualified for $1,100 in tax credits. The cost of that upgrade compared to a more common efficiency package is likely to be in the range of $2,000.

In that case you’d be paying $2,000 in order to get a tax credit of $1,100. The net result is you paid $900 more and got windows that are much more efficient.

So, you’re not going to get new windows for free as a result of these tax credits, but it does offset the increased cost that comes with an efficiency upgrade.

That efficiency upgrade will make your home more comfortable and lower your utility costs for decades so it’s definitely something to consider. Especially with Uncle Sam paying part of the bill.

What else to know about window and door tax credits?

It’s important to note that you’re only eligible for these tax credits if the windows and doors are installed in your primary home. Rental houses don’t count.

You don’t need a professional to install the windows. You could install them yourself. However, it’s unlikely you’ll find windows efficient enough to qualify on the shelf at Home Depot. It takes higher end window to qualify. Products like that are typically sold through dealers or window companies.

Some manufacturers likely won’t have products that can meet these standards. The requirements are pretty strict. Some will also likely only have very expensive ways to qualify. This is because some companies will need to use krypton gas between the panes and that’s an expensive solution.

If you’re considering ordering windows it’s worthwhile to understand the cost difference involved in the upgrade that would qualify so you can make an informed decision.

If you’re looking for a window company you can find our recommendations for local window companies all over the country right here.

Simonton ProSolar Packages – Explained!

When ordering Simonton windows picking out a ProSolar package is VERY important to the overall success of the project. This can be a tricky step because most folks aren’t window experts. Frankly, most in-home window salespeople aren’t window experts either.

We routinely see people get bad advice from window salespeople, either to drive up the cost of the project or just because they don’t understand what they’re selling. Luckily it doesn’t need to be too hard to pick out a good package.

Replacement window efficiency ratings.
Here you can see the Energy Star ratings for windows in different parts of the country.

How can you pick the right Simonton ProSolar package for your home?

Don’t worry, we can help.

You’ll hear window salespeople telling all sorts of stories about low-e glass, gas fills and types of spacers.

This can all feel a little complicated but it’s really not as complicated as you might think.

The Simonton ProSolar packages will all involve combinations of these factors, the low-e coating, the gas fill and the spacer.

Step 1: Decide what you’re trying to accomplish

This may sound obvious but it’s a step people skip all the time. If you’re in the north you probably want a package that emphasizes cold weather performance. If you’re in the south, protection from the sun might be most important.

Then, there may be factors that are unique to you or to your house. For example, I once lived in Baltimore with large windows that faced south. It would get HOT in that house in the afternoons almost all year round. For me, reducing the heat from the sun on that side of the house was pretty important even though Baltimore isn’t exactly the deep south.

Step 2: Define success

At this stage it’s important to keep in mind that lower efficiency ratings aren’t always better. We often see customers struggling to compare the options. These customers will sometimes be inclined to just go for the lowest efficiency ratings thinking that must be the best choice.

That’s not really how it works. For example, the lowest SHGC rating means less heat from the sun gets into the house, but it also means the glass will be darker. In addition it means that you won’t benefit from the heat from the sun in the winter. If you’re in the north this can be pretty important.

We typically recommend using the Energy Star guidelines from the US Department of Energy as a starting point. That way you’ll know you’re looking at options that are at least pretty good. Note, the Energy Star map is shown above.

Pick your Simonton ProSolar package

Simonton ProSolar package.

The basic ProSolar package is shown here. It’s a pretty solid choice for someone in the middle of the country where it’s not too hot or too cold. If you are in a more extreme climate this package probably won’t be the best choice.

Simonton ProSolar Shade package details and info.

The ProSolar shade package, shown above, will be designed for high sun areas. If you’re in the south or if the sun is the main problem you’re trying to solve this package might make sense. It uses a heaver type of low-e coating on the glass to block more solar heat.

The downside to this package is that it will make the glass a little darker than other options. That might be a tradeoff that you’re willing to make, but it’s something to be aware of.

Simonton ProSoalr Sun Package explained.

The Simonton ProSolar Sun package is designed for cooler climates where you want more heat from the sun. This package will have a lighter low-e coating. In addition to more solar heat it will also allow more visible light which is attractive to many people.

What about spacers and gasses?

Once you’ve picked a basic package you can still change the type of spacer in the package and the type of gas fill. These factors will have a much smaller impact on the overall efficiency so it’s important to weigh the increase in cost vs the difference in benefit.

Luckily this is pretty easy to do. All windows will have published efficiency ratings for all options. If the salesman is trying to tell you that he only recommends windows with Super Spacer because it’s the best, you’ll want to ask about the ratings and the cost difference with a lower cost spacer.

Usually the difference in ratings from a spacer is only 0.01 or 0.02 in the U-Factor. If the cost difference is small that might be fine, but if he’s charging you $50 per window more for that option you can probably skip it. You’re not likely to notice a difference that small.

What’s the bottom line?

There are a lot of available efficiency options but it’s not rocket science. Start by identifying what problem you’re trying to solve, then define success then pick a package that will achieve success.

Lower ratings are not always better, in fact they can sometimes be worse. It’s important that you don’t just focus on the numbers without considering what those numbers actually do for you.

How can I find a great local window company?

That part is easy. You can check this section for recommended window companies all over the country.

Other posts you might find interesting:

ClimaTech Glass Options Explained

If you’ve recently heard a sales pitch for Alside windows you’ve probably heard all about ClimaTech glass. What is ClimaTech, is it good, are there different packages available?

it’s not the easiest topic, but I’ll try to break it down without getting too complicated.

What is Alside ClimaTech glass?

ClimaTech is the catchy name that Alside uses for their energy efficient glass packages. There are MANY available packages so don’t think that they’re all the same. There’s ClimaTech PriME, ThermD, Elite, TG2, SC, TK2 and many more.

The best way to understand the ClimaTech glass options

When trying to make sense of the efficiency options it’s helpful to remember that there are basically only 4 ingredients in an insulated glass package.

components of climatech glass
Here you can see the basic components of a glass package. The Low-e glass, the Spacer, and the Gas fill.

First, the type of coating on the glass

There are 3 types of low-e glass available. Low-e is a coating that is applied to the glass to block the sun. There’s SolarBan 60, SolarBan 70 and one they call S3 which stands for surface three. Now there’s another called S4 which is on the inside of the house. They can also combine the SolarBan 60 and 70 packages into one glass unit just to make it a little trickier.

The labeling looks like this:

  • SolarBan 60 = ClimaTech
  • SolarBan 70 = ClimaTech Elite
  • S3 = ClimaTech S3
  • S4 = ClimaTech S4
  • SolarBan 60 on 2 surfaces of glass = ClimaTech 2

Second, the spacer between the panes of glass

The spacer separates the two or three panes of glass. There are three spacer options, Intercept, Stainless Steel and a foam type called Super Spacer.

The labeling looks like this:

  • Intercept = ClimaTech
  • Stainless Steel = ClimaTech ThermD
  • Super Spacer = ClimaTech Plus

Next, the type of gas in-between the panes of glass

Gas in-between the panes of glass is heaver than air and increases efficiency. There are two types of gas available Argon and Krypton.

The labeling looks like this:

  • Argon = All packages unless otherwise noted
  • Krypton = K

The K stands for Krypton. Any package without a K is using argon gas.

Finally, the number of panes of glass

In most replacement windows you can order double pane or triple pane glass.

The labeling looks like this:

  • Double pane = all packages unless otherwise noted
  • Triple pane = TG2 or TK2

Any package with a T is triple pane. The T stands for triple.

That’s it. If you’re still with me you’re probably going to understand the options. Every available package will be a combination of the components listed above.

Here are a few examples of the combinations to help you prepare for the quiz:

Based on the info above you can identify any package.

ClimaTech = SolarBan 60 glass, intercept spacer, argon gas, double pane

Climatech Elite = SolarBan 70 glass, intercept spacer, argon gas, double pane

ClimaTech ThermD TG2 = SolarBan 60 glass on two surfaces (2), stainless steel spacer (ThermD), argon gas, triple pane (T).

ClimaTech Plus = SolarBan 60 glass, super spacer (plus), argon gas, double pane

ClimaTech ThermD TK2 = SolarBan 60 glass on two surfaces (2), Stainless spacer (ThermD), Triple pane (T), krypton gas (K).

Are you seeing the pattern?

If you know the labels they use for the different ingredients then you can tell what is included in every package just by the name.

If you’ve heard about an Alside glass package that doesn’t make sense from you it’s aways possible the salesman was confused. Those guys sometimes seem to be doing their best to make the process harder. Feel free to post a question and we can help to make sense of anything.

You’ll probably also want to know what packages make sense for you. We’ll work on that content, for now just post a comment below with your situation and we’ll be happy to help out.

Other posts relating to Alside windows that you might find interesting:

Is Triple Pane Glass Worth the Cost?

If you’re shopping for new windows for your house the odds are good you’ll hear about triple pane glass. You’ll probably be wondering whether or not triple pane glass is worth the cost. The answer is, it depends, and we’ll look at the factors to consider right now.

You may hear some grizzled old timer say, “that triple pane isn’t worth it” or some other blanket statement that doesn’t make any sense. Note, that advice isn’t worth much. We have no idea what it’s based on and the person saying it probably doesn’t either.

To start to understand whether or not triple pane glass is worth the cost you need to understand two things. First, what is the cost difference? Second, what are the other benefits? We’ll look at some real life examples from my company to see how it works.

What is the cost difference?

This is a critical piece of information if you’re going to decide whether or not triple pane glass is worth the cost. Historically companies would play games with the pricing for triple pane glass. This is likely what has formed some of the opinions out there.

As of today (this will change over time) my company charges $89 additional in most situations to add triple pane glass. So, let’s use that in our example. Say you have 20 windows in your house. $89 x 20 = $1780. The additional cost of triple pane glass in a 20 window project would be $1780 as of today, April 28, 2021.

Now we know what it costs lets look at what you get in return

There are three main advantages to windows with triple pane glass.

  • Triple pane windows are more efficient. There are many double pane and triple pane packages out there so there isn’t one simple metric to illustrate the improvement in efficiency that you get in switching from double pane to triple pane, but it’s around 25% in most cases.

That means by spending the additional money you get windows that are around 25% more efficient for as long as you own the house. That’s a pretty measurable improvement. It’s also the sort of thing you only have one chance to buy. You can’t decide to add triple pane glass next year. Technically you can, but it would be much more expensive.

  • Triple pane windows are quieter. Despite the claims made by some of the door to door salesmen out there triple pane windows will not eliminate all outside noise, but they do make the house quieter.

Sound transmission is measured by the STC rating. This stands for Sound Transmission Coefficeint. We have other posts on STC ratings so I won’t get into all of the details here.

Since we’re using my company as an example, I can tell you the STC rating for a popular model we offer goes from 28 to 32 by switching from double pane to triple pane glass.

Whether or not that’s a huge deal will depend on your house and your neighborhood, but a good night sleep can be very valuable.

  • Triple pane windows carry more resale value. To be fair I’m sometimes a little skeptical when it comes to claims about resale value.

We had a reader of the site say that a Renewal by Andersen salesperson told her she wouldn’t be able to refinance her house if she didn’t have Andersen windows. Obviously that’s not true, but it’s a great example of the silly statements those commission salespeople will make to try to get a deal.

However, there is no doubt that triple pane glass is worth something to a buyer. It’s something that anyone can see and understand. There are many window upgrades that are virtually invisible to a future buyer of the house. Those will generally carry no resale value at all.

Triple pane glass is different. You can see it, a real estate agent can see it, everyone will know it’s there. You can also be confident that efficiency is only getting more important to buyers. If you think it’s important today it’ll be more important next year.

So, is triple pane glass worth the cost?

Well, now you know the price and you know the benefits. Only you can decide if it’s worth the cost. I tend to suggest that if it fits into the budget it’s a worthwhile option.

With triple pane glass you get a house that is more efficient and quieter and worth more money when it’s time to sell. In our example the cost difference for a 20 window project was $1780.

Triple pane glass is definitely not necessary for a perfectly nice result. If it stretches your budget and you want to skip it, skip it.

If it fits into your budget and you’re planning on being in the house a while I do suggest it. When my friends and family call me for new windows we often end up installing triple pane windows. It’s a great product and it provides for a great result.

My advice is to consider triple pane when you’re replacing your windows. Understand the cost difference and benefits and you can decide if it’s something you’d like to include in your replacement window project.

Other posts you might find helpful:

To find our company or other recommended companies in your area check this section. You can also find window reviews here and information about the tricky window sales tactics that many companies uses here. We hope you enjoy the site!

Choosing a Window based on Air Infiltration (CFM)

Picture this: you’re shopping for new windows and you’ve narrowed it down to three finalists. To the untrained eye they look pretty similar. Because so many window features are government regulated these days, the glass and and U-value (amount of heat transmitted through the window) are basically the same across the board. The material, appearance and price of the three windows are also very comparable. What other features will help you choose between these windows?


You can buy the best window in the world, but if it’s not installed properly it won’t perform properly. If you’re deciding between installation companies, one question to ask yourself is this: Do I want to choose a general construction company that only installs windows some of the time, or a specialized window company that installs windows every day?


Another factor to consider is the warranty. There are two possible warranties a window may have: one from the manufacturer and one from the installer. Some companies only warranty their windows for 10 years against manufacturing defects, while others offer a lifetime warranty. Some companies also warranty against glass breakage. You will also want to ask the installer if they include a labor and service warranty on their installations.

Air Infiltration or CFM

According to Energy Star, “heat gain and loss through windows accounts for up to 50% of a home’s heating and cooling needs,” depending on climate. One final factor that can help you choose between comparable windows is air infiltration. This is measured by the CFM/sqft, or cubic feet per minute per square foot of window area. The CFM/sqft rating describes how much air would leak through your windows each minute at a standard windspeed. This feature is also regulated by the government, and the industry standard is set at .30 CFM/sqft. But what does that number mean in reality? And what are the factors that affect air infiltration?

It’s hard to understand what .30 CFM/sqft actually represents in your home. And, let’s face it, when companies test their windows for air infiltration, they’re doing it in a lab under specific conditions that won’t always match the conditions in your home. A common visual representation that you may see companies use is a graph that shows how many “soda cans” of air are leaked per minute at .30 CFM/sqft vs. whatever their window’s CFM rating is. In these graphs, .30 CFM/sqft = 24 soda cans/minute; .23 CFM/sqft = 18.4 soda cans/minute; .15 CFM/sqft = 12 soda cans/minute; and .04 CFM/sqft = 3.2 soda cans/minute. The lower the CFM rating, the better, but once a window gets below .10 you likely won’t feel a difference in your home.

Factors That Affect Air Infiltration

What factors most affect air infiltration? As we mentioned above, proper installation is critical to a window performing well. We recommend choosing a company whose main focus is windows and doors.

The climate and weather conditions where you live also determine how much air will leak through your windows. Here in New England we definitely want to choose windows with a lower CFM rating whenever possible.

Finally, the design of the window will play a major role in air infiltration. Windows that don’t open (i.e. picture) will have less air infiltration than those that have moving parts. All windows that move will have pile (weatherstripping material) between the moving parts to help prevent air leakage.  Rubber or felt are the most common pile choices amongst window manufacturers. No matter how many times you open or close your windows, rubber will bounce back to its original shape. Over time felt tends to stay compressed and may not provide the same level of protection against air leakage that rubber does. Window frame material is another design factor that impacts CFM ratings. Materials that expand or contract due to weather conditions will be more likely to sometimes have gaps between the frame and the sash. Finally, some windows are designed specifically to provide superior protection against air leakage. These windows will likely be the ones that are in the under .10 CFM/sqft category. Look for windows that have their CFM rating clearly stated in their brochure or on their website.

Danielle Cleary is with of United Better Homes in Pawtucket, RI.  United is a leading installer of replacement windows in the Rhode Island area.

What is a Replacement Window Spacer?

When you’re in the market for replacement windows, you’ll probably hear a lot about the NRFC ratings, the glass and the installation itself, but another important factor is the replacement window spacer.

What is a Replacement Window Spacer?

Any replacement window that has more than one pane of glass will have some type of spacer system.

The spacer is not simply the space between the panes of glass but it is the material that is used to hold the glass in place from between the panes. It also keeps the seal of glass air tight to keep in inert gas like argon or krypton gas.

Here you can see a triple pane glass unit with 2 spacers. The spacers are the gray pieces that separate the pieces of glass and keep the gas sealed inside.

Why is the Type of Spacer Important?

The spacer is one of the factors that affects the overall efficiency of the windows.

If the spacer is aluminum, the efficiency of the window will not be as effective as a spacer made of stainless steel (which is less conductive).

Many window manufacturers are now offering ‘warm-edge’ spacers that are generally made of a composite material. This type of spacer can help to improve the condensation rating (and by improve, we mean lower the likelihood of condensation, but you can read more about that here).

What Type of Window Spacer Should I Get?

My two cents worth is that you can ask the company you’re considering hiring if they have a some type of ‘warm-edge’ replacement window spacer. Generally the cost to upgrade should be quite nominal.

It’s included in our triple pane windows at my company, but nearly any replacement window company worth it’s salt should be able to  upgrade double pane windows with a high performance spacer as well.

Andrew Zahn is the owner of Zen Windows in Central, PA.   Andrew has worked in home improvement sales, marketing and public relations before opening his own window company.  If you’re in central PA and you’re thinking about new windows you should reach out to Andrew.  He’ll be the easiest window company you’ve ever dealt with. 

2016 Energy Star & Condensation Resistance

Condensation Resistance Now a Critical Rating?

I have always been an advocate of using performance ratings to aid in selecting a good window. If you have spoken to more than one window sales rep, you probably know why. Misinformation, shady tactics, and high pressure are all too common in this industry, and third party certified ratings serve as a way to cut through the salesmanship and compare replacement windows objectively. Unfortunately for you the consumer, things just got more confusing in that area.

Enter Energy Star Version 6

Much like U-Factor and solar heat gain, condensation resistance is a rating certified by the NFRC. In the past, this rating has moved nearly linearly with U factor in most cases, as it generally improves as the thermal performance of a window improves.

Whether you are aware or not, there are some MAJOR changes taking place in this area, and it has to do with the new 2016 Energy Star requirements for the Northern Zone, which call for a .27 U-Factor.  To clarify, this rating only applies to the Northern Zone.

Other zones still use ratings that are more easily achieved, and still effective for those areas. On the plus side, .27  is a darn good U-Factor for double pane glass, and for the most part, to this point, only good to excellent windows have achieved that rating.  The problem of course, is that there are A LOT of middling to poor performing windows on the market that could not hit that number.  That is of course without utilizing glass technology that has side effects.

The standby in this area is a heavy coat (or more than one) of low-e, often 366 glass or comparable. This results in a pretty dark window that cuts a bit too much solar gain for many homes in colder climates.  The newest, and potentially more harmful option is a surface 4 low-e coating. This is a coating of low-e that is applied directly to the surface of glass that you can touch from the interior of your home. You might think that this would be cause for concern with scratching and durability, however, these concerns are largely unfounded. The larger issue is how this rating affects condensation resistance, particularly since the region of the country in question struggles with window condensation issues as is.

alside fusion ratings and reviews
For example, here are the ratings for the lower end Alside Fusion window with the typical Climatech Glass. Notice the U-Factor does not meet the Energy Star guidelines for the Northern Region, but the condensation resistance is 56 which is decent.

condensation on Alside window
Here are the ratings for the same window with the Climatech SF glass option. This lowers the U-Factor to meet the Northern Region requirements, but look at what it did to the condensation resistance. This window is MUCH more likely to develop condensation when it gets cold outside.

To very simply describe what low coatings do, they reflect heat. By placing this coating on the interior surface, you effectively keep that pane of glass and the airspace behind it from warming. Colder glass= MORE CONDENSATION when all other conditions are equal.  The condensation rating drops precipitously, by nearly 10 points in many cases.  Ratings in the upper 50’s and 60’s are dropping down into the 40’s in some products with the surface 4 low e coating.  While there are ways to mitigate the amount of moisture in your home to compensate, many homes in the Northern region have enough of a challenge doing that without injecting this additional difficulty into the equation.

What is the Solution?

Well, there are a few things that you can do actually. One, buy a double pane window that achieves a .27 or better without this coating. Incidentally, if you combine this with a good air leakage rating under .05 or so, you can be assured of getting a pretty darn good window. Two, buy triple pane glass, which in the Northern region should be given strong consideration anyway.  Three, forego buying an Energy Star rated window in favor of one that will actually be better suited to your needs and budget. Personally I’d opt for option one or two, however, option three is better than unknowingly installing windows that may end up looking like a shower door in your home. This issue is particularly important for wood interior windows, as interior condensation is one of the leading causes of damage that I see to wood windows installed in the last 30 years.

condensation resistance
It may be a little hard to tell from the picture, but this window has condensation on the inside of the house on a cold day. If you touch this glass you’ll get all wet.

Location is Key

One final thing to clarify, is that both the Energy Star rating in question, as well as the gravity of condensation as an issue are fairly unique to the Northern Zone and colder climates. This coating is not inappropriate in other regions, and in fact, is excellent technology when applied correctly.

In addition, it should be noted that Energy Star HAS proposed an equivalent certification where a lesser U-Factor can still qualify provided that the difference is made up by a higher SHGC. Unfortunately, those trade-offs are still somewhat challenging to achieve, and nobody wants to advertise a less efficient U-Factor since that is the number one rating that consumers use to compare.

Ultimately, the moral of the story is buyer beware. Do your homework when making a purchase of this magnitude. On the plus side, you are HERE, so that’s a great start!

Brandon Erdmann is the owner of HomeSealed Exteriors in Milwaukee, WI.  He’s a window installation expert, a supporter of this site and an all around great guy.  If you’re in the Milwaukee area and you’re thinking about new windows you should give Brandon a ring.  You’ll be glad you did.

2016 Window Tax Credit Details and Information

As an observant window shopper you may have heard about the 2016 window tax credit.  There have long been tax credits associated with energy efficient replacement windows and the federal government has just extended the tax credit for new replacement windows and energy efficient doors.

Which windows qualify?

Over the years there have been different methods for determining which windows and doors qualify for various tax credits.  In 2016 the government is using the Energy Star guidelines to determine which replacement windows and doors qualify.

If your new windows and doors are Energy Star certified then you’ll qualify for the tax credit.  Most manufacturers offer many qualifying options.

What are the 2016 Energy Star guidelines?

The guidelines vary based on where you live.  This is a pretty reasonable method as folks in Phoenix need different windows than folks in Maine.  The exact requirements for your location are shown here and your window installation company should be able to make sure they’re offering you windows that will qualify.

2016 Energy Star tax credit requirements for windows and doors
Windows and doors that meet or exceed the ratings shown here will qualify for the 2016 federal tax credit.

How much is the tax credit?

The tax credit for 2016 is based on the cost of the windows.  You’ll be eligible for a federal tax credit of 10% of the cost of the windows, not including labor costs, up to $200.

The tax credit for doors is similar.  It’s 10% of the cost of the doors, not including labor, up to $500.

This is only $200?

If you’re one of those people who says, “oh, it’s only $200 well that’s nothing” then please make a check out to me for $200 and drop it in the mail.

I know it would be better if it was $2,000, but c’mon $200 is $200.  Go buy your sweetheart something nice and quit your grumbling.

Is this a tax credit or a tax deduction?

This is a tax credit.  This means your tax bill will be reduced by $200.  There is no consideration for how much you make or how much you pay.  If you owed $10,000 in taxes you’ll only owe $9,800 if you spent over $2,000 on qualifying windows.

If you’re owed a tax refund (since starting a business I can barely remember what a tax refund is), your refund will increase by $200.  So, if your refund would have been $3,000 it will now be $3,200 if you purchased qualifying windows.

What if I already purchased windows?

If they meet the Energy Star requirements and you’ve purchased them in the last few years you’re eligible for the same credits.

What documents do I need?

You do not need to submit anything with your taxes.  You just let them know how much you spent on the windows and you get the credit.  It might be a smart idea to keep a copy of your invoice and the manufacturers certification statement in your files just in case you need to prove anything one day.

What if I used this tax credit last year?

If you’ve used a tax credit for any energy efficient home improvement in the past you probably cannot add this credit to that one.  You get one shot whether you use it for new windows, a new furnace or one of those fancy tankless hot water heaters (I just got one of those bad boys, endless hot water, I love it).

Should I ask a tax professional if I have questions about this?

Yes.  I’m a window person not a tax advisor.  This is the best info I have based on my experience.  Please don’t email me saying I cost you tax money.  Call your tax preparer with any questions.

Are Foam Filled Windows Better?

Are Foam Filled Windows Better?

One of the more common questions that we here in the Milwaukee area, is regarding foam filled windows. Are they actually better?  Is the upgrade worth the money? Which type of foam is better, injected or push-in? The answer like many things in life of course is… It depends.

Are foam filled windows better?
Here are two different types of foam filled windows. Is one better than the other? Check the U-Factor.

Foam Filled Windows have benefits

Foam filled windows will provide some benefits across the board, the debate really comes down to how much of a benefit, and is it worth the added expense. My first recommendation to replacement window shoppers is to check how this option affects the U factor of the window. Some foam filled windows will have a U factor that improves by 2+ points, others will not budge at all. There are a variety of factors for this, most notably in the design of the extrusion(the “inner-framing” of the window).  Windows that have many chambers will often see less impact on U factor, because those dead air spaces actually do a decent job of insulating. This is not necessarily reflective of product quality, it is just a different means to an end.  That said, the primary benefits to foam filled windows will be superior thermal performance (measured by U factor and condensation resistance), as well as a little bit of extra structural stability. It could be be conceivable to improve sound transmittance as well, however the impact here is probably negligible in most cases.

Types of Foam Filled Windows

The two common methods to foam fill windows are injected foam, where spray foam is actually injected into the extrusion, and push in foam, where expanded polystyrene is cut and pushed in. Despite what sales people may tell you, both are effective methods when executed properly, and each does have its own minor pros and cons.  Injected foam is generally higher density, and therefore a better insulator.  This advantage is somewhat mitigated however by the fact that these are pretty small spaces, so the actual increase in R factor is minimal. The downside of injected is that spraying foam can produces air pockets and inconsistent fill. Push in foam eliminates that potential issue, however this type of foam must be cut to exacting tolerances where it provides a tight fit in the chamber to be effective. The manufacturers that do this right, have CNC machines that cut the foam precisely to fit.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, the option for foam filled windows is better, however the value of it depends on the price vs performance increase. This is generally a pretty inexpensive option, so it does make sense in many cases. The one thing to keep in mind, is that when comparing two different products, the type or even presence of foam filling does not necessarily make that product better than the other. A precisely designed and manufactured unit will be the better option, with or without foam.

Brandon Erdmann is the owner of HomeSealed Exteriors in Milwaukee, WI.  He’s a window installation expert, a supporter of this site and an all around great guy.  If you’re in the Milwaukee area and you’re thinking about new windows you should give Brandon a ring.  You’ll be glad you did.