The Gruen Eco Design blog about how to convert your dream from an energy efficient home into a reality.
Windows are essential for a house and the comfort and well-being of its habitants, as they let natural light and fresh air into the building and enable views.
But the glass is also a potential weak point of a building in terms of energy efficiency. A single glazed window can gain or lose up to ten times more heat than an insulated wall.
Appropriate window design, size, location and glazing treatment, combined with shading and internal covers, can significantly reduce the energy required for heating and cooling.
One of the biggest advice I can give anyone who is thinking about building or renovation is:
Spent as much money as you can afford on the windows (and the insulation). While you might upgrade your bathroom or kitchen in 10-15 years’ time. You will never ever touch the windows or the insulation again.
And as most of you know, good performing windows can be pretty expensive. The question is: What can you do to keep the cost down?
There are actually quite a few things.
The most obvious solution is to reduce the amount of glazing. You don’t need wall to wall glazing in every room. While still making sure you have enough light and solar access.
For instance; you don’t need floor to ceiling windows in every room. It can actually be quite impractical. Think about furnishing a room. Why would you place a sofa or a table against a full height window? So that you can see the back of the sofa, or the cables from your computer under the table through the window?
Especially when windows are facing west or south. Try to reduce the window sizes and or the sill height. Rather think picture windows. This can really be a nice feature and frame a view.
When designing your house try to use more standard sizes/ modest window sizes. Especially for bedroom, bathroom or study. Just as a rough guide, once one window pane gets larger than 1.2x2.4 metres the glazing gets more expensive, as it needs to be specifically toughened.
Of course, in your kitchen/living/dining area you do want your large big windows and doors. That is okay. But you can easily go overboard if you start to have those extravagant windows in every room.
Speaking of extravaganza. Corner windows are really expensive. So, think hard if you really need them? And if so, maybe just in a really dominant spot, rather than everywhere in the house?
When it comes to our living area most of us do want big openable doors to open up your house to your garden. This is the one area where I do believe it is worthwhile spending a bit more money, since this is the heart of the home. However, there are big price differences in the types of doors available.
The most expensive option would be the bi-fold door. Also, one thing to consider is the folding mechanism and that this mechanism makes the doors usually not as air-tight as other systems. One factor that most people might overlook are the flyscreens for these bi-fold systems. You will need a retractable fly screen. And if you are looking at a big opening. Maybe between 3-6m, you are easily looking at $3000 just for one flyscreen.
The next option down is stacker sliding doors. These are the doors where one can slide 2 or more panels in front of the another panel. So let’s say you have a 3 panel door, 2 parts slide over the 1 panel, giving you a 2 panel wide opening. For those doors you can use normal fly screens.
A bit cheaper again are normal sliding doors. Where just one panel can slide in front of one other panel. Meaning that if you had a 3-panel door, only one could open. I’m actually a big fan of normal sliding doors. Since they are way more cost effective than the 2 previous mentioned options. I do love large sliding doors, for instance 3 or 4 meters wide just with 2 panels. So one side is fixed and the other is openable.
If your budget is really restricted, then French doors are the best choice. They cost even less than the standard sliding doors.
Of course, you can easily combine any or all of the above options in your house.
When getting quotes for you home most people go straight for aluminium windows. But, as I have previously stated: I am a big fan of upvc windows. Good quality upvc windows I should add. Not the crap that gets imported from some overseas countries. In my experience double glazed upvc windows do perform much better than most aluminium systems and often cost between 30-50% less.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to get some referrals to great upvc window manufacturers.
Just some food for thought:
I often wonder why so many people do want or have those huge windows everywhere, and then they have thick curtains or blinds closed down all day. Meaning there is actually no light coming in at all…
The question is then: Why is everyone so obsessed with large glazed areas in the first place?