Smart Ways to Make Windows More Energy-Savvy

Energy-Efficient windows at Berkeley Lab"Smart windows" will adjust to the outside temperature, letting solar heat in during the winter and keeping it out during the summer. Image: Lawrence Berkeley Nat'l Lab/Roy Kaltschmidt, photographer

Technology eventually will give birth to smart windows that adjust to the weather. But until that blessed event, here are tips on how to make your windows more clever and energy-efficient.

We thought double-paned windows with low-emissive coating were pretty intelligent ways of letting in light and keeping out heat in summer. But it appears that window IQ will jump in a few years with the help of nanocrystal technology, which lets panes adjust to the weather.

A flick of a switch will enable these “smart windows” to let in solar heat in winter and keep it out in summer, dramatically reducing energy bills that cost home owners $40 billion a year.

These smart windows are probably about three years away from the mass market, and a mass market price is even further off. Until then, put on your thinking cap to figure out how to reduce high energy bills during the hottest and coldest months of the year.

Here are a few HouseLogic ideas that we think are pretty smart.

  • Repair windows that have cracked sashes or foggy insulated panes. Investing a few dollars and some sweat equity in these DIY projects can save you the cost of new windows, plus cut down on energy bills — maybe $20 annually for each repaired window.
  • Aesthetic as well as practical, window coverings, like honeycomb shades and plantation shutters, boost the insulating value of your windows.
  • If your windows are rattling, make baffles by cutting pine strips to fit inside the framed glass. You can secure the strips with finishing nails and wood glue. Caulk and paint the strips to match the original window and block air leaks.
  • If you want to go for the whole magilla and replace old windows, it’s pricey — $500 to $1,000 per window. But the cost can be defrayed by energy savings over time, local and federal tax credits, and the added value to your home. If price isn’t your concern and you live in an extreme climate — or you’re adding a sunroom, you could opt for triple-paned windows filled with insulating argon gas, which really boost efficiency. Those are more expensive than standard windows by about $500.

What smarts things have you done to make your windows more energy efficient?