Wonderful windows

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Arch, square, round; windows are a source of natural light and fresh air for your home and, if you’re lucky, a scenic view. But no matter how good your window, it’s basically a hole in your wall. CW Home editor Allison Turnbull went to the experts to get the lowdown on all things windows.

woman with her daughter in front of windows
Windows aren’t just something you look through, they play an important part in how energy efficient your home is

Where to start?

The best approach to window glazing is to have less of it and to think very hard about where you put it.

According to Jenny Edwards, Director at Light House Architecture & Science, point most of it north to soak up free heat in winter and make sure your windows are shaded in summer to prevent your home from overheating.

“It’s sad to see new homes in Canberra constructed with single-glazed aluminium windows,” Jenny says. “These are terrible in summer and winter. A single pane of glass is a meagre barrier against the winter cold and the summer heat. And the aluminium frame conducts heat, letting it escape in winter and letting it in during summer.

“In Canberra’s climate, it makes sense to install double-glazed windows in new homes. For some existing homes, it might not be worth the expense, depending on how well or poorly the home performs in other ways, like air leakage, insulation and orientation.”

She says it’s also important to remember not all windows are equal.

“There are big differences in cost between suppliers, but there are also big differences in quality, so don’t assume that a cheaper product will automatically save you money. Do your homework on your product as well as your supplier.”

Double glazing

There are three major options when it comes to double glazing for your home: include it as part of your new build, replacement, or retrofit.

Karen Porter, CEO of Solace Creations, says replacement will get a better outcome than retrofitting because with the latter “you are working with your current windows” – but it still has its place.

“It’s probably good for people in a body corporate who can’t change the look of their windows or if they are on a budget,” she says. “It will provide some benefit but it’s not a complete solution.”

Replacement involves removing existing windows and putting in new windows and sealing it up. While replacement is a more costly option, Karen says it can be done in zones as your budget allows. In a small home, she recommends living areas first as “that’s where we spend most of our time”, then bedrooms.

“You don’t have to do all or nothing,” she says. “The benefit of doing it all at once is that you have the building sealed. The idea is to seal the building envelope. What people don’t understand is your windows and doors are a missing link to the insulation of your house.”

If you’re involved with a new build, Karen recommends installing double glazing from the start, allocating 10% of your build cost to windows.

“It’s a no brainer to put it in when building.”

She says the benefits of double glazing include creating a quieter, more comfortable environment, reducing energy usage and increasing your home’s EER (Energy Efficiency Rating).

And if you’re thinking of triple glazing, think again. Karen says double glazing is more than enough for the Canberra climate, a view shared by Jenny Edwards.

“The benefit you get from triple glazing over double glazing is modest at best, but the cost difference is huge, so the bang for buck usually isn’t there,” Jenny says.

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