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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Energy Efficiency Window Films

Improve energy efficiency of windows and lower utility bills and household energy use this summer


In writing this blog, my greatest concern is for people who are hit hard by this bad economy. According to some reports, that includes everyone in America.

The Impact of the Bad Economy
The bad economy may not cause you to lose your job. However, you may not get a raise, or you may have your pay or hours cut back. And your income, and mine, are under attack.

Businesses that used to be able to fund their growth by borrowing money with really cheap interest rates have to find another way to fund their growth. Rates, when loans are available, will be much higher. Loans are not going to be so readily available, however, because most businesses have really terrible credit ratings.

There is only one way to get the funds that are needed to keep the lights on and grow a business: increase prices.

We will have less income that can be considered 'disposable.' That means we have less money available to eat out, go to the cinema, go to a concert, get a new cell phone, buy music, take a trip to Disneyland or Vegas or Cancun.

This means we must extract as much value from every dollar we have. We will need to save more. We will need cars with better fuel efficiency. We will need homes that operate more efficiently.

Electricity Prices Will Rise
The economy will cause everything to go up in price: food, gasoline, clothing, rent. And, yes, electricity.

The Energy Information Administration estimates electricity prices will increase an average of 2% this year (2009) and about 1.7% in 2010. Rates will be especially high in summer, when air-conditioning is in use in most homes and, therefore, electricity is in greatest demand.

So we have to start finding a way to reduce electricity consumption. Let's begin with a area that is not too expensive. Let's start with windows.

Weatherize Windows: Energy Efficiency Windows
Start now, while the spring months are still cool to weatherize your home in preparation for the onslaught of the heat waves of the coming summer.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy,

"Windows can be one of your home's most attractive features. Windows provide views, daylighting, ventilation, and solar heating in the winter. Unfortunately, they can also account for 10% to 25% of your heating bill. During the summer, your air conditioner must work harder to cool hot air from sunny windows." (Source: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website, a division of the U.S. DOE)

The DOE recommends upgrading your windows to higher efficiency ENERGY STAR rated windows.

What if you happen to be a renter?

Your landlord may be able to upgrade the windows and take advantage of federal and state tax credits. That will depend on your landlord and his ability to fund this improvement, and that may unintentionally lead to an increase in your rent.

You then must look at shadings--curtains, drapes, shades, and window films. This blog focuses on window films.

Block Heat Gain, Let in Daylight
A good inexpensive option may be solar films that you apply directly to the glass of your windows.

Films are thin plastic films that you ally to the inside of the glass. Some films simply reduce the amount of light coming through the window. They reduce heat gain caused by sunlight. Other films also provide insulation. These are often called 'low-e' films. The film has metal included in the dyed material. As a result, they control light and heat.

I prefer the insulated window films. They are more expensive than simply tinting. However, they are also useful during the winter because they prevent the cold air from penetrating through the window glass. You can try to install these yourself. Supplies are available at some hardware stores as well as online. I recommend a Google search for the term: Window Film Tinting.

How Much Will You Really Save?
Some window film dealers' websites claim that customers' household utility bills will be lowered 10% to 25% after installing window shading. This I find hard to believe, unless you are in a house where nearly an entire south- and west-facing walls were made up of windows and sliding glass doors. Even then, it depends on whether you live in a particularly cold or hot climate.

In working in this profession of reporting on using energy conservation to lower utility bills, I know you will save money over time. The cost of electricity will increase. When I started in this business, electricity was less than 6 cents per kilowatt-hour purchased. Now it is nearly 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, and it is expected to double again in the coming decade.

That means we could be looking at 20 cents or more a kilowatt-hour.

So you will see savings, over time. And that is what this blog is about: cutting back on how much energy you need to use, while still living a comfortable life, and paying less for your electric utilities than you would have paid if you hadn't taken these steps.

Other Resources
This video provides a good explanation of why getting windows right matters when it comes to your controlling your utility bills.

These websites may provide some useful information, too:

http://www.smartenergyliving.org/cm/Energy_Efficiency/Window%20Coverings.html

http://www.blindschalet.com/kbc-energy-conservation-8.html

http://www.conservationconcepts.com/WindowTreatment.htm

By the way, I have no affiliation with these sites or their businesses. I am not endorsing them either. These are just additional resources.

Also, check out this site from the government:

And here is another interesting site focused on helping consumers reduce their utility bills through energy efficiency (I like this site):

http://www.lower-my-energybill.com/yourself-window-film.html

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