Living in the Midwest affords us many amazing opportunities. Folks may say what they want about the beauty of the Carolinas or the desert southwest, or even the pristine beaches of Florida, but from our point of view, no region compares to the beauty and variety of activities available in our very neck of the woods.
Just think about it. Looking to go fishing? We have miles and miles of rivers to fish. Enjoy water sports? A summer visit to Iowa’s great lakes should be on your calendar. Every family has at least one or two rugged outdoorsmen. Kids getting kind of antsy? Wisconsin Dells will take care of that. Even those who need an urban fix can schedule a weekend in the Twin Cities, St. Louis, or Chicago. The list goes on and on.
There is one variable, however, that adds a touch of challenge to living in the Midwest. Let’s all say it together…WEATHER. It, too, can be the best in the world, but its extremes are enough to drive us indoors.
There our story really begins, because in the Midwest, home to incredible extremes of great and horrible weather, we really understand the value of a home well-constructed. And since this is a blog about windows, well, how about those windows? Imagine living in Iowa in the mid-1800s, when a window was little more than a thin sheet of glass set in a not-so-secure sash. Something tells me the drafts in those old homes could be terrible!
But modern windows and the advanced manufacturing techniques that produce them are an entirely different matter. Not only do today’s windows give us a view out on our beautiful Midwestern horizon, but they keep us warm in the winter and comfortable on those sticky summer days.
For the next few editions of this blog, we’re going to focus on some of the features of modern windows that make them so important to our daily lives and help you understand what to look for the next time you’re in the market for window products. Let’s call it the “Window Appreciation Series.”
Let’s start off with a discussion on a really exciting topic… like low-e coated windows. Just gives you goosebumps thinking about it, eh? Well, let’s not be too hasty, because low-e coatings are to modern windows what olive oil is to a good Italian recipe. It makes everything that much better.
So what is low-e coating?
According to our friends at Ideascapes:
Low-e coatings have been developed to minimize the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light that can pass through glass without compromising the amount of visible light that is transmitted. This is where low emissivity or low-e glass coatings come into play. Low-e glass has a microscopically thin, transparent coating – it is much thinner than a human hair – that reflects long-wave infrared energy (or heat). Some low-e’s also reflect significant amounts of short-wave solar infrared energy. When the interior heat energy tries to escape to the colder outside during the winter, the low-e coating reflects the heat back to the inside, reducing the radiant heat loss through the glass. The reverse happens during the summer time.
To use a simple analogy, low-e glass works the same way a thermos does. A thermos has a silver lining, which reflects the temperature of the drink it contains back in. The temperature is maintained because of the constant reflection that occurs, as well as the insulating benefits that the air space provides between the inner and outer shells of the thermos … similar to an insulating glass unit. Since low-e glass is comprised of extremely thin layers of silver or other low emissivity materials, the same theory applies. The silver low-e coating reflects the interior temperatures back inside, keeping the room warm or cold.
In other words, low-e coating blocks the infra-red energy from passing through the glass in a window or door. In the summer, we want to keep the infra-red energy outside so the AC unit doesn’t have to work so hard. In the winter, we want to keep the heat from the furnace, which includes infra-red energy, inside, not escaping to the exterior.
Low-e coating not only saves money on utilities, but it reduces interior drafts in the winter by absorbing some heat into the glass, so the air next to the glass stays warmer. If the air next to the glass gets cold, it’s denser and starts to sink compared to the warm air away from the window. This can create a convection current, which is moving air, but many people think it is air leakage from the outside. That might be true if your windows have gaps between the sash and frame, but it might also be air being made cold from cold glass sinking inside somebody’s home.
So there you have it, everything you wanted to know, and then some, about low-e glass. So next time you’re sitting in the comfort of your home looking out on a frigid winter landscape, just take another sip of your hot cocoa and think: “Thanks, low-e.”