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Understanding Energy Ratings for Windows and Doors

Posted by Matthew Singleton on July 31, 2017
| Blog
| 0

Qualifying for the $200 to $500 federal tax credit on new windows and doors depends on two measurements, U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient.

Just because windows or doors are Energy Star-labeled doesn’t mean they’re eligible for a federal tax credit. And with costs running about $500 to $1,000 per window including labor, it’s wise to know something about the scientific lingo and numbers on the product labels you’re likely to encounter.

Here’s your pro-level label-decoding guide so you can be sure you’re buying qualified products.

Which Labels Matter?

The two labels you should look for: The U.S. Department of Energy’s blue-and-yellow Energy Star label, which specifies the climate zones the product is certified for, and the white National Fenestration Rating Council label. Nonprofit NFRC is the industry-recognized certifying body for windows and doors. It reports raw numbers only; Energy Star tells you whether those numbers constitute superior performance, putting its seal of approval on those products that meet its standards.

To confuse matters, DOE has issued a blue label that manufacturers can use to signify that a product qualifies for the tax credit. But DOE doesn’t require that manufacturers include it.

What You Need to Get the Tax Credit

For windows or doors to qualify for the credit, two NFRC-supplied measurements must each be equal to or less than 0.3, regardless of climate: U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC). You must also have the manufacturer’s signed statement that the product complies with IRS requirements. This either comes with purchase or can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.

Don’t be swayed by ratings the manufacturer may post on its own label. A window or door’s frame and other components (weather stripping, sidelights, transoms) can significantly affect its energy efficiency, so NFRC measures based on the entire unit, not just the window glass or door slab alone. Manufacturers, on the other hand, sometimes report values that don’t take the entire unit into account, according to Energy Star.

A Guide to Measurements

The NFRC label typically lists five measurements, including the tax credit-critical U-factor and SHGC. The other three are somewhat less important to energy performance, according to Energy Star, but can help you judge how well a window or door will perform in a particular application—for example, whether it’ll let in enough light.

Where you live affects which measurements are most important, but the tax credit requirements are uniform across the country. There are four Energy Star climate zones, differentiated by whether heating, cooling, or a mix of the two is most critical to energy performance.

1. U-Factor

Range: 0.20 to 1.20

The lower the number, the better an insulator the window or door is.

Tax credit qualification requirement: 0.3 or less

Efficient Windows Collaborative climate recommendations:

  • Northern: 0.35 or less
  • North Central or South Central: 0.4 or less
  • Southern: 0.60 or less

2. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)

Range: 0 to 1

The lower the number, the less solar radiation—and heat—the window or door allows inside.

Tax credit qualification requirement: 0.3 or less

EWC climate recommendations:

  • Northern: The highest you can find (paired with a low U-factor) if cooling isn’t a significant concern; up to 0.55 if cooling is a significant concern.
  • North Central: 0.4 or less for climates with significant air conditioning; up to 0.55 for climates with moderate air conditioning.
  • South Central or Southern: 0.4 or less.

SHGC refers to the solar radiation a window or door allows inside. Seek the lowest possible SHGC rating in warm climates to minimize the use of air conditioning. Look for a slightly higher number in cooler climates so that the sun can help heat your home in winter, but be sure to balance SHGC with an efficient U-factor for your area.

3. Visible Transmittance

Range: 0 to 1

Lower number means the room will be dimmer; a higher number means the room will be brighter.

Tax credit qualification requirement: none

This number applies to windows or doors with windows only. Visible transmittance is the amount of light a window allows to pass through. With older window glazing techniques, VT and solar heat gain were basically the same; the brighter a room, the hotter it got. But new technologies allow windows to let in lots of light while the room stays cool.

Consult VT numbers if you’re looking to reduce glare in a room or fill it with natural light, but be warned that a very low VT may mean you have to use artificial lighting even during the day.

4. Air Leakage

Range: N/A, but .0.3 is standard building code

The lower the number, the more airtight the window or door.

Tax credit qualification requirement: none

This number, expressed in cubic feet per minute per square foot of window/door area, represents the amount of air that the window or door’s frame allows to pass through. Energy Star standards don’t consider air leakage because it’s difficult to measure accurately and can change over time as frame materials expand, contract, or warp in place, according to the EWC. Still, this measurement can help you compare similar products, especially if they’ll be buffeted by the elements.

5. Condensation Resistance

Range: 1 to 100

The lower the number, the more condensation the window or door allows to build up.

Tax credit qualification requirement: none

Condensation resistance is a measure of how much moisture a window or door allows to build up on the surface (which can drip onto wood and cause mold or discoloration) or between glazing layers (which can’t be clean and blocks your view). Energy Star-rated windows tend to resist condensation well, so this number won’t likely affect your purchase decision.

 

By: Karin Beuerlein

Published: August 11, 2016

Article From HouseLogic.com

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    Road to the Horse
    Friday, March 22, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, March 24, 2019 – 06:00 PM
    Alltech Arena
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    Paul Frazer Memorial Combined Test & Dressage
    Saturday, March 30, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 05:00 AM
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    KHP Foundation Cross Country Schooling Days
    Sunday, May 05, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Monday, May 06, 2019 – 04:30 PM
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    Kentucky Spring Horse Show
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    Wednesday, May 15, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, May 19, 2019 – 04:00 PM
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    MayDaze Horse Trials
    Friday, May 24, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, May 26, 2019 – 04:00 PM
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    Scott County Schools Graduation
    Friday, May 24, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 05:00 PM
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    Friday, May 24, 2019 – 09:00 PM to 11:00 PM
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    Woodford County Schools Graduation
    Saturday, May 25, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 05:00 PM
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    Franklin County High Schools Graduation
    Saturday, May 25, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 05:00 PM
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    Country Heir II Hunter Jumper Show
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    Lexington Rodeo
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    Wednesday, June 19, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, June 23, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    Extreme Mustang Makeover
    Wednesday, June 19, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, June 23, 2019 – 07:00 PM
    Alltech Arena
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    Lexington Carriage Classic Pleasure Driving Show
    Thursday, June 20, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, June 23, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    Silverama Region 14 Arabian Championship
    Wednesday, June 26, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, June 30, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    Thursday, July 04, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, July 07, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    83rd Annual Junior League of Lexington Charity Horse Show
    Monday, July 08, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Saturday, July 13, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    859-252-8014
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    Man o’ War “Run for Big Red” 5K/10K
    Saturday, July 20, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 10:00 AM
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    859-259-4219
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    Rood & Riddle Grand Prix
    Saturday, July 27, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 05:00 PM
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    USEF Pony Finals
    Wednesday, August 07, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, August 11, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    Lexus Smooth Jazz Fest
    Saturday, August 10, 2019 – 07:30 PM to 09:00 PM
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    Bluegrass Festival Horse Show
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    Bluegrass Classic Dog Show
    Friday, August 30, 2019 – 09:00 AM to Monday, September 02, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    MSEDA Dressage at the Park
    Friday, September 06, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, September 08, 2019 – 05:00 PM
    Dressage Complex
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    Friday, September 06, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, September 08, 2019 – 05:00 PM
    Hunter Jumper Complex
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    CASA 5K Superhero Run
    Saturday, September 07, 2019 – 08:30 AM to 12:00 PM
    Kentucky Horse Park
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    KMSHA/SMHA International Grand Championship
    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 – 10:00 AM to Saturday, September 14, 2019 – 08:00 PM
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    KHJA Fall Show
    Saturday, September 14, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, September 15, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    Chuck Givens “Born 2 Win” Horse Sale
    Saturday, September 14, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 05:00 PM
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    Franklin County Cross Country
    Saturday, September 14, 2019 – 10:00 AM to 03:00 PM
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    Sunday, September 15, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 04:00 PM
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    KY National H/J Show
    Wednesday, September 18, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, September 22, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    National Mounted Police Colloquium
    Tuesday, September 24, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, September 29, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    Jump Start Horse Trials
    Friday, September 27, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, September 29, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    KHP Foundation Battle in the Saddle
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    UPHA Chapter 9 KY Fall Classic Horse Show
    Thursday, October 03, 2019 – 01:00 PM to Sunday, October 06, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    Saturday, October 05, 2019 – 09:30 AM to 03:00 PM
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    Friday, October 11, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, October 13, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    KY Dressage Assoc. Fall Classic
    Sunday, October 13, 2019 – 07:00 AM to Monday, October 14, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    National Horse Show
    Saturday, October 26, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, November 03, 2019 – 08:00 PM
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    USMGA – Fall Finale
    Saturday, October 26, 2019 – 09:00 AM to Sunday, October 27, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    CKRH Halloween Trail Ride and Used Tack Sale
    Sunday, October 27, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 03:00 PM
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    ___________________________________
    US Dressage Finals
    Thursday, November 07, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Sunday, November 10, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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    KHSAA Cross Country Meet (people)
    Saturday, November 09, 2019 – 08:00 AM to 03:00 PM
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    Southern Lights Stroll
    Thursday, November 14, 2019 – 06:30 PM to 09:30 PM
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    Kentucky Book Fair
    Friday, November 15, 2019 – 09:00 AM to Saturday, November 16, 2019 – 04:00 PM
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    ___________________________________
    Kentucky Horse Park Rodeo
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    Snowbird Dressage
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    Friday, December 06, 2019 – 08:00 AM to Saturday, December 07, 2019 – 05:00 PM
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