A lot of us know of the persistent threat that human activity poses to our environment. Somewhere in our minds, we have a reference signal on the need to conserve the environment and make choices pro-climate change and con the greenhouse effect. We are aware that our world is choking from carbon, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. But as with every context of our living, knowing about a danger does not always equal to acting to preempt it.
We reached out to Dan at Zen Windows, a premier expert in window replacement in Round Rock TX to learn more. Here are some of his thoughts.
What exactly is choking our world?
Records sourced from the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund in 2016 listed the United States top in carbon emissions among the great world economies. Canada came in second followed by South Korea. So how do these and the rest of the global nations make their substantial contribution to the carbon footprints? Here is your list of the top 5 greatest carbon emitters as recorded by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization in 2017:
- Energy production: the burning of fossil fuels to produce energy accounts for around ¾ of the overall carbon footprint.
- Land use: for agricultural and livestock production, deforestation and forest conservation activities
- Industry: mining, construction, and manufacturing activities are responsible for most greenhouse gases
- Transportation: aviation, marine shipping, and yes, your car and all road transportation.
- Commercial, institutional, and residential sectors: use of electricity and energy for lighting, heating, and cooling among other activities.
While we may point fingers at the big industries when considering the first 4 emitters, we cannot do so with the 5th. Here’s why. The US Environmental Protection Agency indicates that our homes account for 24% of the total greenhouse gases. Yes, you read that right, how you construct your home and how you live in it greatly contributes to overall global carbon emissions. And so our focus on windows.
Window replacement and the carbon footprint
There are many ways we can save energy in our homes and contribute less to carbon emissions. Switching off a light when it’s not needed or replacing a high consumption bulb with a power-saving one could be the first step. Unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use also has a significant contribution. But a major energy saver is the quality of your doors and windows. The American Energy Association quantifies this for us: 60% of wasted energy is because of poor window and door insulation. And as deduced, that accounts for unnecessary increase in carbon emissions. So what should we consider when changing windows so we waste less energy and reduce our carbon footprint?
Consider double or triple-paned windows
If your windows are single-pane, you have little insulation and a lot of energy is used up to replace lost heat or cool air. Double or triple-paned windows will help save energy from heating or cooling.
Install weather-resistant window frames
If you have old and warped wood frames, you allow draft into your house easily and cool or warm air is easily lost to the outside. This means adjusting your HVAC system to meet altered temperatures. The increased level of energy consumed by the system means a heavier carbon footprint.
Replacing your warped window frames with moisture-resistant ones will lock in cool or warm air and insulate your home from the draft. Materials such as vinyl and fiberglass are a good option for window frame replacement.
Check the Energy Star label and U-Factor in your new windows
In the US, the Energy Star certified windows adhere to the energy efficiency conditions recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the National Fenestration Rating Council. In specific terms, the Energy Star indicates:
- The U-Factor rating: also referred to as the U-value. An indicator of the rate of heat transfer and the insulation efficiency of your windows. The U-Factor value ranges from 0.25 to 1.25. The lower the value the less the air leakage and the greater the resistance to heat.
- The SHGC rating: the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient is the fraction of solar radiation that passes through a window. It ranges between 0 and 1; the lower the fraction the lower the radiation. Good windows have a SHGC below 0.25.
The Energy Star certification is specific to the four different climate zones (Northern, Northern Central, Southern Central, and Southern). Satisfying the U-factor and the SHGC ratings is determined by:
- The presence of two or more glass panes
- The quality of spacers between the glass panes
- Sealing inert gases such as krypton or argon between the panes
- High-quality framing materials
Final thought: Environmentally-conscious global citizens change their windows
The earth is our common home and preserving it our common responsibility. We can all become environmentally-conscious global citizens by saving energy and reducing the carbon footprint from our homes. And that could commence with changing your windows.