Low-E Low-E2, Low-E3 Windows:

The ratings for glass are a bit more complicated than ones we are used to for insulation qualities. With insulation, we expect the higher R value to be a better insulator than one with a low. This is a fairly normal industry standard that has been around a good many years. The problem with window technology is that it is continuously changing and advancing. At Harley Exteriors we keep up with all the latest technology in glass.  In recent years we have seen the gain of greater energy efficient models change more than once, that meet a variety of goals for home owners in a variety of different ways. These ratings are not as simple as an insulator that just requires the manufacturer to increment the number to reflect effectiveness. In addition, more have been added. Understanding these values as a consumer and homeowner will ensure you do not end up spending money on features for windows you do not really need. While most windows sales representatives are not out to rip you off, you can still approach the purchase with a good amount of research and knowledge behind you.

Low E, Low E2 (squared), and Low E3 (cubed) windows are part of these advancements in window technology. The two key numbers for windows are generally the SHGC and U-Factor. The U-Factor is the insulating quality of the window and helps to keep you warm in cold weather. The SHGC or Solar Heat Gain is the reflective quality that helps to keep solar heat out and you cool in summers.

Low-E Windows

What we know as Low-E windows was one of the first advancements made in improving glass pane insulation. These types of windows feature a thin coating of metal on the glass that serves to reflect heat from the interior back in (U-Factor). As one of the first emission control features available; it’s application was rather crude and inefficient. A layer of metal was simply attached to the molten glass while it was in production to give it that extra quality. Extensive scrubbing and abrasive cleaning on the window was able to damage the coating.

Low-E2 Windows

Low-E2 windows are an industry term to reflect the application of two coats of metal onto a window. This generation of windows used a technique called sputtering to help apply the metal solution. With the honing of this technique, silver flakes were introduced into the process to provide an even greater reflective surface for the windows to work with. The problem with this coating is direct exposure to air would cause the silver to tarnish like silverware would.

This made the dual-paned, inert gas filled windows an excellent vehicle for Low-E2 windows. The only problem with these windows is the inherent gas leakage one experiences and any weaknesses that might have existed in the spacers. Glass is made of approximately 75% sand so is a bit porous. Losing approximately 1% of the gas filling a year is not something to be considered a deal breaker. Inefficient spacers of the window can cause a much drastic loss instead. At Harley Exteriors we use a Carbon fiber spacer which is the highest standard in the industry. The quality of those other spacer should be double-checked if one decides to go with another solution.

Low-E3 Windows

Low-E3 windows are another industry term that simply reflects the application of three coats of metal onto a window. This style of window tends to be a great all climate window because it offers great performance in colder weather (U-Factor) and enhanced performance in summer (SHGC). The third coating layer provides great benefit for keeping unwanted heat out of a building but one can only see so much gain from applications for insulating qualities. At Harley Exteriors all of our Olympic series windows come standard with Low-E3 Enviro sealed glass units with Argon gas and carbon spacer.

This is as close to an all-purpose window as one is going to be able to get. In the past, solar gain prevention windows operated largely with deeper tints. This product permits great performance coupled with easily visibility through it for homeowners

Replacement Vinyl Windows

If your windows on the world no longer enhance the façade of your house, shield it from the elements or filter out noise, it may be time to replace them with new ones that will complement your home’s architecture, reduce your energy bills, increase your comfort, and promote peace and quiet. Replacing windows is an expensive proposition that includes not just the price of the windows but the cost of expert installation to ensure that the windows perform as promised. It pays to shop for both, especially now that retailers and remodelers in many parts of the country experience increased demand for replacement windows as local economies and housing markets recover from the Recession.

Through the end of 2016 you can defray a bit of the cost with the federal tax credit for installing energy-efficient windows in your home. The credit is worth 10% of the cost, up to $200 (excluding installation) and applies to replacement windows or new ones installed in an addition. (In October 2016, it was unclear whether Congress would extend the credit for 2017.)

You’ll recoup much of your investment when you sell your home. In the latest “Cost vs. Value Report” by Remodeling magazine, the payback (when a home is resold) on four window-replacement projects (midrange or upscale,  vinyl) was at least two-thirds of the job cost. Midrange vinyl windows did best, returning 73.3% with a national average job cost of $10,708 (for 10, 3-by-5-foot, double- hung vinyl replacement windows.

Be sure to match the style and quality of the new windows to your house — high-end in a luxury home, midrange in an average home, says John , an appraiser in Seattle. The value of high-end windows in a tract house won’t necessarily be reflected in the home’s appraised market value. Prospective buyers may love those gorgeous, high-performance windows, but they may not be willing to pay more for the house to get them, especially among today’s value-conscious home buyers.

Your monthly energy bill should show immediate savings. Before you install new windows, however, you may want to seal up a leaky house and insulate it. It could cost several thousand dollars, but it may be more cost-effective. To evaluate your options, a home-energy audit, which costs $500 to $700 (or more for a larger home or in a pricier area), is a smart idea.

 

Vinyl Windows: Advantages

Examining Vinyl Windows: Advantages and Disadvantages

Vinyl is a good alternative to other types of window materials because of its price and energy efficiency. It’s made from a plastic material called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC has a high R-value, which means it provides a significant amount of insulation. Price and energy efficiency are just a few advantages of vinyl windows.

Advantages

The advantages of vinyl windows are:

  • Lower energy costs. Vinyl windows keep heat in during winter and out during summer. This reduces heating and air conditioning usage for lower energy bills.
  • Maintenance free. Vinyl windows are nearly 100 percent scratch free. They never have to be painted, scraped, or stained and they’re easily cleaned with soap and water. Because they’re resistant to the elements, they don’t age as fast as other windows.
  • Inexpensive. Vinyl is the least expensive of all window materials, but this doesn’t mean vinyl windows are low quality. Vinyl is durable, and it won’t rust or corrode.
  • Variety. Vinyl windows have many color, size, and style options. They can also be custom made. Colors range from champagne to forest green, and sizes range widely. Vinyl windows are available in styles from awning to picture.

Autumn Maintenance For Your Home

As the leaves change and the days get shorter, take the time this autumn to prepare for the oncoming cold weather. Ready the furnace for the months of work it will have ahead, and clean out the fireplace. Test them both to ensure they’ll be working when you need the heat. Don’t wait until it’s snowing to clear out your gutters. With upkeep in the fall, you’ll have peace of mind in the winter and more time to hibernate.

Inside The House

Heating System Checkup

Be sure to change the air filter in your furnace and check its efficiency before the cold weather begins. Call in an HVAC contractor to test the heating output and give the system a tune-up. This technician can also check for and correct possibly hazardous carbon monoxide levels generated by your heating system. Stock up on several air filters for the winter, and change them every month. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, purchase one for the system to help lower your energy costs.

After your furnace has been tuned up to its maximum efficiency, take a moment to inspect your heating ducts and vents. Dust them off and clear away anything that may have gotten into them over the summer. Then check your windows for any leaks that may compromise your heating efficiency. If you feel cold air coming in, purchase a plastic sealing kit from the hardware store and place the plastic around the window to keep the heat from escaping. Be sure to check your doors as well, and fix their weather-stripping if needed.

Check The Fireplace And Chimney

Most chimney sweeps recommend an annual sweeping, but depending on how often you use the fireplace, you might be able to wait on a full sweep. But if you will be using the fireplace often, call a chimney sweep for an inspection. For further information, read the Chimney and Wood burning Fireplace Safety guide.

Hopefully you will have your older, seasoned firewood now ready for use after sitting for the spring and summer. It’s recommended to keep the firewood at least 30 feet from the house and covered. Seasoned wood is best for fires, as it burns cleaner and longer.

Review Home Fire Safety

The introduction of the heating season brings new potential for fire hazards, so take a moment to review fire safety in your home. Check and replace fire extinguishers if necessary, and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Also go over the home fire evacuation plan with your family.

Outside The House

The Gutters

It’s best to inspect and clean the gutters a few times during the fall, especially if there are many leafy trees around your house. If gutters remain clogged, water will spill over them and onto the ground next to the foundation, which may cause damage to the foundation. Gutters and downspouts should be kept clean and should direct water away from the foundation, as well as from walkways and driveways, so that they do not become slippery or icy.

Yard Maintenance

The orange, yellow, and brown colors of the autumn leaves don’t look as nice on the ground as they do on the trees. Rake the leaves into piles and scoop them into yard waste bags. Most areas have ordinances about burning leaves, so check with your local area government first. When sweeping the leaves off your patio, don’t forget to clean, pack up, and store any patio furniture for the winter. Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house.

In The Garage

It is recommended that you empty out unused fuel from any gas-powered equipment stored in the garage, such as a lawnmower, because sediment can build up and clog the fuel lines. Store gasoline in tanks out of children’s reach and have it ready for use in your snow blower or emergency generator, if need be.

Test Your Emergency Generator

It’s a good idea to have an emergency generator if you live in an area that sees a lot of ice storms, as these are a major cause of blackouts during the winter. So if you have one, haul it out and give it a test run to see if it is in good working order. Make sure you never run the generator in any enclosed space – like your garage – as it will present a carbon monoxide hazard.

December Home Maintenance To-Do List

To-Do #6:Insulate Exposed Pipes

Insulate Exposed Water Pipes

A frozen and burst pipe is a very unpleasant winter surprise, so it’s a good idea to insulate water pipes in a crawlspace to reduce the chance of freezing.

Insulating water pipes:                                                                                                                     Chose foam pipe insulation that matches the diameter of the water pipes.

 Cut the insulation to length with a box cutter or scissors.
 Open the insulation along the split edge, and fit it around the pipes.
 Tape any joints in the foam insulation together.

December Home Maintenance To-Do List

To-Do #5:Winterize Outdoor Water Spigots

It’s important to drain and cover outdoor hose faucets to prevent the pipes and spigot from freezing.

Winterizing outdoor faucets:                                                                                                               In your basement or crawl space, locate the pipe that supplies each outdoor faucet, and follow it back until you find the shutoff valve.
 Close the valve controlling each faucet.
 Open all the faucets on the outside.
 Hold a bucket under each shutoff valve under the house, and open the small drain cap located just above the shutoff valve to allow the water in the pipe to drain out.
 Repeat this step with every faucet shutoff valve.
 Close the drain caps, and turn off the outdoor faucets.

Winterizing faucets without shutoff valves:

If your home’s outdoor faucets don’t have shutoff valves, you may have frost-free faucets, which don’t require draining. These faucets are installed at a slight angle with the valve located inside the foundation to allow water to drain out of the pipe when not in use.

If you’re not sure if your faucets are frost-free, have a plumber check to be sure.

If your faucets are not frost-free, and you can’t shut them off and drain them; your best bet is to install an insulating foam cover. These covers fit on the outside of the faucet and cinch tightly against the house with a foam seal to help keep the faucet from freezing.

While insulating covers aren’t as effective as draining faucets, they can help keep your outside spigots and pipes from freezing when the temperature drops.

December Home Maintenance To-Do List

To-Do #4: Disconnect and Drain Garden Hoses

Disconnect and Drain Garden Hoses

Now is the time to head outside and drain your garden hoses before freezing weather arrives. Hoses left attached and full of water can be ruined if the water freezes and splits the hose.

Start by disconnecting each hose and removing any spray nozzles. Lift one end of the hose up and move down the hose to allow the water to drain out. Store the drained hoses in a shed or garage until spring.

If you need a hose for occasional watering during the winter, disconnect and drain it after each use. Make sure to remove or open the sprayer nozzle so any water left inside can expand and freeze without breaking the hose.

December Home Maintenance To-Do List

To-Do #3: Insulate Drop Down Attic Stairs

Insulate Drop Down Attic Stairs

While you’re in the attic, don’t forget the attic stairs! Drop down attic stairs are notorious for leaking precious heated air into the attic and reducing the energy efficiency of your home. Attic stair access covers are made of thin plywood, and the construction isn’t very tight, allowing heated air to escape.

There are several ways to insulate attic stairs in your home:

Seal Cracks:

The first step in any attic stair insulation project is to seal any cracks. Small cracks and joints can be sealed with caulk while larger gaps can be filled with expandable spray foam.

Install Weather stripping:

Another easy solution is to install strips of foam weatherstripping around the opening of the stairs. Cut the strips to fit the opening of your attic stairs, then stick the self-adhesive strips in place where the door meets the frame.

When the door closes against the foam, it’ll create an airtight seal that will cut out a lot of air infiltration.

Build an Insulating Stair Cover:

A more ambitious project is to build an insulating foam board box:Cut four pieces of foam a bit taller than the closed stairs for the sides.

 Attach the sides together into a box using metallic duct tape
 Tape the box down to the attic floor.
 Apply foam weather stripping to the top of the box.
 Cut a piece of foam board for the lid.
 Attach the foam board lid to the box with tape.

Install a Ready Made Insulating Stair Cover:

You can also buy and install a premade attic stair cover. These covers are made to fit standard sizes of pull-down attic stairs.

Some attic stair covers attach to the floor and are closed and opened with a zipper, while others are positioned over the opening in the attic and lifted off when access to the attic is needed.

To-Do #3:

Insulate Drop Down Attic Stairs

While you’re in the attic, don’t forget the attic stairs! Drop down attic stairs are notorious for leaking precious heated air into the attic and reducing the energy efficiency of your home. Attic stair access covers are made of thin plywood, and the construction isn’t very tight, allowing heated air to escape.

There are several ways to insulate attic stairs in your home:

Seal Cracks:

The first step in any attic stair insulation project is to seal any cracks. Small cracks and joints can be sealed with caulk while larger gaps can be filled with expandable spray foam.

Install Weather stripping:

Another easy solution is to install strips of foam weatherstripping around the opening of the stairs. Cut the strips to fit the opening of your attic stairs, then stick the self-adhesive strips in place where the door meets the frame.

When the door closes against the foam, it’ll create an airtight seal that will cut out a lot of air infiltration.

Build an Insulating Stair Cover:

A more ambitious project is to build an insulating foam board box:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Cut four pieces of foam a bit taller than the closed stairs for the sides.

Attach the sides together into a box using metallic duct tape
Tape the box down to the attic floor.
 Apply foam weather stripping to the top of the box                                                                          Cut a piece of foam board for the lid.
 Attach the foam board lid to the box with tape.

Install a Ready Made Insulating Stair Cover:

You can also buy and install a premade attic stair cover. These covers are made to fit standard sizes of pull-down attic stairs.

Some attic stair covers attach to the floor and are closed and opened with a zipper, while others are positioned over the opening in the attic and lifted off when access to the attic is needed.

December Home Maintenance To-Do List

To-Do #2 Check Attic Insulation

Check Attic Insulation

As the weather gets colder, it’s a good idea to check your attic to make sure you have enough insulation and add more if you don’t.

In most cases you can add another layer of insulation on top of what’s already there, using rolls or batts of unfaced insulation or by blowing or spreading loose insulation. If your existing insulation is water damaged or moldy, it will need to be removed and replaced.

If your home currently doesn’t have attic insulation, the easiest DIY method is to install batts or rolls of insulation between the ceiling joists.

Installing attic insulation:

    1. Choose insulation with a paper vapor barrier of the same width as the spaces between your ceiling joists.
                2.Wear long pants and sleeves, gloves, a dust mask, and protective eyewear. Some insulation can be irritating to eyes, lungs, and skin; so cover up as much as you can.
                 3. Carefully unroll the insulation between the joists, making sure the vapor barrier is facing toward the heated area of your home. In attics, this will mean the paper backing should face down toward the ceiling.
                 4. Cut the insulation to length by laying it on a scrap of plywood, pressing it flat with a straight edge, and slicing with a utility knife.
                  5.  Make sure the insulation fits tightly between the joists, but not so tight that it’s compressed, since the insulating properties come from the air spaces within the batting.

If your attic already has insulation and you’d like to add more, follow the same steps as above, but use insulation that does not have a paper backing to prevent moisture from becoming trapped between the layers.

December Home Maintenance To-Do List

To-Do  #1: Replace Furnace Air Filter

The air filter on your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system needs to be replaced every 1-3 months to keep the air in your home clean and flowing freely. A high quality air filter is the best choice to remove mold, pollen, and other microscopic particles from the air.

The air filter is usually found behind the air return grate mounted on a wall or in the floor. The filter may also be located in or near the air handler. Check out our article on How to Locate an Air Filter if you can’t find yours.

To replace an air filter:

    1. Turn the heating system off, and wait until it stops running.
               2.  Remove the cover on the air return.
               3.  Take out the old air filter.
               4. Write the date on the new air filter.
               5. Insert the new air filter in the return, making sure the arrow on the edge of the    filter is facing in the direction of air flow. For filters with wall and floor mounted returns, the arrow should point in toward the return duct. For filters mounted in the ductwork near the air handler, the arrow should point toward the HVAC unit.
    1. Put the cover back on the air return.
               2. Turn the heating system back on.

To make it easier to replace next time, put a sticker on or near the return with the size filter you need to buy and when to replace it.