Window expert offers advice on making them energy-efficient

Window expert offers advice on making them energy-efficient

Mike Shadoan left engineering school expecting to design robotic equipment for carmakers. Instead, he landed a gig developing automated equipment for a window manufacturer. He then spent more than a decade traveling the country and designing windows, window-making machinery and window factories for several firms.

Returning to his homebase in northeast Ohio, he founded the sales and installation firm Radiant Windows in 2001. "I quickly realized that people don't want a sales presentation," he says. "They want to learn. I just try to educate homeowners, so they can make the right decision."

How do I make my windows more energy-efficient?

"One method is to tape a 3M film around the framing and then use a hair dryer to stretch and tighten the film to block drafts. You could install storm windows which are less expensive than buying replacement windows, but it's more or less a band-aid. Ultimately you're going to have to replace your windows to get the best results.

"The industry rates the energy-efficiency performance of a window by the 'U-factor.' It measures the amount of energy that transfers through something, so the lower the number the better. A good-performing window is probably a 0.35 U-factor; a great window is 0.30; and a fantastic window will be as low as 0.16.

"It is critical to also consider the amount of air leakage the window might have. Many windows have a great U-factor but have terrible air leakage. You need to know the air-infiltration rate - again, the lower the number the better.

"The industry maximum allowable air leakage is 0.30 cubic feet per minute. Most of the windows we carry are 0.03 and lower. That's 10 times better than the standard.

"After you learn the U-factor and the air-infiltration rates for a particular window, you are armed with all the information you need to make an informed decision. These numbers will be on the NFRC sticker on the window.

"The NFRC sticker also shows a figure for the solar heat gain coefficient. A high number would indicate a high amount of solar energy admitted through the window and a low number represents better reflection of solar energy. It's better to go with both a low U-factor and a low SHGC number.

"Windows are made of vinyl, wood, aluminum or fiberglass. As far as I know, the most efficient material is vinyl.

"Lastly, as a consumer, I'd want to know the warranty. A lot of companies are in the 20- to 50-year range. We give a lifetime transferable warranty on the product and labor."

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