As winter approaches, many of us are stocking up on coats and woollen accessories ready for the cold and challenging weather. We make a good job of preparing our wardrobes for the upcoming winter season, but how much consideration do we give our homes? Here, Nick Cowley, managing director of PVCu and composite window and door manufacturer Euramax Solutions, explains how your windows and doors can prepare your home for winter.
The extreme weather from the ‘Beast from the East’ that hit the UK in 2018 had severe impacts on many lives. From school and airport closures to traffic accidents, the weather hit before people could prepare themselves. It can be difficult to prepare for the weather on a normal day, but winter is inescapable and offers a harsher set of challenges.
We rely on our windows and doors for more than just accessibility, security and light — and during winter months, we depend on them more than usual. The windows and doors in our homes play a big part in keeping us warm, however, this is often underestimated. For this reason, old or low-quality windows and doors can cause inconveniences in winter and it’s important to evaluate their energy efficiency properties.
A double-glazed winter
The Energy Saving Trust UK found that up to 20 per cent of a home’s heat loss is caused by inefficient windows and doors. Naturally, energy bills rise in the winter due to increased use of central heating. However, ensuring that your windows and doors are highly energy efficient will reduce heat loss, increase the thermal insulation of your home and keep your energy bills low. So, what makes windows and doors energy efficient?
Windows can lose heat in a number of ways: directly through the glazing, frame or the spacer bar between the glass and frame. To avoid this, it’s necessary to evaluate these areas when preparing your home.
Double glazing consists of two or more panes of glass that are fixed into a sealed frame and is an effective way to reduce the amount of lost heat. Double glazed windows are also filled with an inert gas such as argon gas, which has a 34 per cent lower thermal conductivity than air. The thermal resistance and extra pane of glass means that double glazing helps to retain internal heat, while reducing energy bills that peak during winter.
The benefits of double glazing are not only energy efficiency related. Double glazing can also combat noise pollution, which is beneficial in winter when storms or high winds are likely.
While double glazing offers many benefits, it’s equally important to ensure that the frames around the windows and doors are energy efficient.
PVCu (polychloride vinyl) is an effective and popular choice for window and door frames. This material does not conduct heat, meaning that warm air is retained inside. It is also low maintenance as PVCu is highly durable and will not be damaged or tarnished by severe weather conditions.
An alternative to PVCu is composite, which has become increasingly popular for aesthetic purposes. A composite combines two or more different materials to create one with different properties to its origins, making composites particularly strong. Although composites can have the exterior look and thermal insulation of timber, they are fixed with an aluminium cladding for easy maintenance and durability during the winter.
Sealant is often overlooked, but this simple substance adds an extra layer of protection from the outside weather. Sealant is used to secure windows and doors in place and prevents air from escaping around the frame, improving the thermal insulation of your home.
However, over time sealant can become worn and cracks can appear, allowing heat to escape. It’s important to inspect the sealant around your windows and doors for any defects and replace it when necessary. By maintaining the sealant will ensure that the cold winter air remains outside of your home and the heat stays in.
The fenestration industry has several rating systems to determine energy efficiency quality. For example, The British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC) rates the energy efficiency performance of windows and doors on a scale from A++, meaning the window or door has a high energy performance, through to E, the lowest rating of energy efficiency quality. With a rating of A or higher, you can be assured that your windows and doors are able to keep your home warm and your energy bills down, increasing energy efficiency.
When selling, renting or building a home, an energy performance certificate (EPC) is required to prove a building’s efficiency. Similarly, this rates energy efficiency from A for high energy efficiency, to G for low efficiency. By obtaining this certificate you can rest assured that your building is energy efficient.
Furthermore, the overall thermal performance of glazing and framing is called a U-value, which measures the amount of heat that passes through a glazed unit. The lower the U-value, the more energy efficient the glazing is. Windows and doors with a low U-value retain more heat, reducing energy bills and keep your home warm.
For optimal energy efficiency during the winter, draught proofing your home can greatly improve its warmth. Draught proofing is one of the cheapest ways to save energy and money and can be carried out as a mini DIY project or by a professional.
By covering holes, gaps or spaces in or around your windows and doors, the method eliminates cold air getting in your home and warm air from escaping. Items such as draught excluders are used to stop air evading from the bottom of door frames, whereas self-adhesive foam strips can be used to cover key holes and edges of window frames.
Regardless of whether winter conditions are as severe as Beast of the East or mild snowfall, it’s vital to prepare your home for the colder months. By ensuring the windows and doors installed in your home are reliable, energy efficient and capable of withstanding winter weather, you’ll be able to increase the warmth in your home and keep your energy bills low throughout winter.