A lot of energy-efficiency mavens love to hate windows. I think they’re wrong to do so. I understand the disdain, though, especially in light of a long history of pretty outlandish claims by window manufacturers and contractors about the likely energy savings of windows. Sorry, in most homes you won’t be anywhere near 50%. (Thankfully, the FTC has been cracking down on this in recent years.)
But let’s separate the windows from the hucksters who hype them. In a high-performing building enclosure, you can’t ignore windows. Windows can have a significant impact on energy use. In cooling climates, solar gain through windows can be the biggest energy driver. Very importantly, they also impact comfort.
That’s a big reason home performance contractors can’t ignore windows. As you insulate and air-seal a home, energy-use should decrease. That’s a good thing. But you can also concentrate comfort problems. In winter, poor window performance that was previously masked by dumping a lot of heat into a space can become a bigger comfort issue when we stop sending all that heat. Yes, there are ways to address this with zoning—but that’s not cheap, and with forced air systems it isn’t very practical. And it’s not sufficiently effective and it is hard for zoning to respond quickly enough to changing infiltration as wind ebbs and flows.
Improved windows, installed well, not only improve comfort, but also provide UV protection for furnishings, reduce noise transmission from the outside. And more.
Windows can provide benefits that people are looking for. They can save some energy, too.
Windows also provide a benefit home performance contractors are looking for—leads. Homeowners often start their search for comfort—and even for energy-efficiency with windows. That search can be an opportunity for you to deliver so much more, but only if you’re there to engage the homeowner during the search. This is a big deal. Those of you pay attention to things like SEO and Google Adwords might have noted that there are as many as 400 consumer searches for “Replacement windows” for every “Home Performance” search.
Even if windows are the last thing a window-shopping potential customer needs, you’ll never have the chance to tell them that or provide them with other energy efficiency measures if you don’t offer a solution for their windows!
The leads you generate by marketing windows can frequently turn into bigger home performance projects through an in-home educational process. And even if the homeowner only opts for windows this go around, you gain a customer that you can revisit again with other solutions—and generate some revenue in the meantime.
I’ll never encourage you to oversell the energy-savings benefits of windows. But that doesn’t mean windows don’t provide real benefits to your customers and to you.