Winter is coming. Its arrival is still a couple of months away, but make no mistake, as the evenings draw in, the temperature dips closer to single digits, and gardeners everywhere make plans to protect their tender plants from frosts – it is coming.
For many, that’s a chilling prospect, conjuring memories of last winter’s skyrocketing gas prices that plunged the UK into a cost-of-living crisis. Thankfully, household energy bills have been on a downward trend for several months now, and experts aren’t predicting a dramatic spike anytime soon. But recent geopolitical events – such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – remind us that our bills can go up considerably and unexpectedly, so we should focus on reducing them wherever practical and possible.
To do so, you might race to the thermostat and turn it down – after all, a reduction of just one degree can save you 10% on your energy bill. You might also increase your insulation, switch suppliers for a better deal and wear plenty of layers, but these are all short-term actions.
To see meaningful, big-picture change over a long period, it would be wise to consider the building materials we are using to construct and renovate our homes. Aside from saving money on heating bills, choosing the most energy-efficient materials can also reduce your carbon footprint, contributing towards our personal sustainability goals.
But does glazing have a part to play in this broad quest to make buildings energy efficient and, thus, more sustainable? Can you have your cake and eat it by installing glass walls, for example, that are both stylish and energy-efficient?
We would say yes. Because we’re a luxury glazing company.
But we would also say yes because – when manufactured and installed correctly – high-end glazing can reduce energy bills far better than almost any other building material. In this blog post, we hope to convince you of that fact. So, let’s start by telling you the plain truth.
Old and poor-quality glazing will increase your energy bills significantly
That’s because, according to the UK government, approximately 18% of the heat in a building escapes through its windows. Specifically, it’s lost via tiny cracks in the frame, compromised seals, or simply because the windows were made in an age where single-glazing was the only affordable option.
While estimating the ‘faulting’ date of your windows is difficult, the accepted industry standard is that they begin to lose their efficiency after 15-20 years and are deemed inefficiently obsolete when they celebrate their 50th birthday. That being said, age is sometimes just a number – often heavily influenced by the window’s build quality – so there are a few telltale signs that can indicate the need to replace them:
1. You can feel a draught
As well as flooding a room with beneficial natural light, windows also act as a physical barrier between the elements outside and the comfort within. When a window starts to fault, you will notice that those elements – such as cool breezes – will encroach on your space. If you can feel a draught around the edge of a window, the seals have deteriorated, the frame is compromised, or the window itself is no longer airtight.
2. You can hear outside noises
Few things are worse than noisy neighbours and loud traffic. The sounds of both can upset the peace and quiet of your home, so keeping them out with well-insulated glazing is often just as important as keeping the weather out. If you find yourself turning the volume up on your favourite music or TV shows to overcome external disruption, it’s a sign that your windows no longer provide the insulation they should.
3. You can see condensation
For many, the joy of a window is that it’s transparent, providing uninterrupted views of the scenery beyond. That might sound like the most obvious statement of the century, but it’s also one that underscores the fundamental reason why we value glazing.
So, when our view is interrupted by condensation between the layers of glazing, we can tell that something has gone wrong. Specifically, the seal around your double or triple glazing has likely been compromised, allowing the insulating, inert gas within to escape and moisture to collect inside.
It goes without saying that poor-quality windows display these three symptoms far sooner than their luxury glazing counterparts. Even so, you might feel dispirited at the prospect of replacing a building’s glazing every couple of decades to ensure optimum energy efficiency.
That is an entirely understandable feeling, but it should be somewhat dispelled by the fact that glazing technology has come a long way in the last few decades, and many of these advancements drastically improve durability as well as energy efficiency.
New glazing technologies that can reduce energy bills
It’s here that we get down to brass tacks. What technologies can you utilise as part of a window replacement, renovation or building project that will make your pound go further while shrinking your carbon footprint?
These thermal barriers sit unobtrusively on the outer sides of your glazing and control the heat exchanged from one side to the other. In summer months the low-emissivity coatings reflect much of the sun’s oppressive warmth away from your home, preventing high indoor temperatures. In contrast, throughout the winter months, the coatings trap heat inside, reducing the amount that is lost directly through the glass. Best of all though, the coatings are almost invisible, ensuring that they can be seamlessly integrated into any design.
Double and even triple-glazing
While it might seem like double glazing has been with us for centuries, the truth is that the technology’s invention occurred less than 100 years ago – making it younger than the BBC! Double glazing works by trapping an inert, insulating gas layer between two panes of glass which – much like low-emissivity coatings – prevents a heat exchange.
We might take this technology for granted – especially because the government calculates that just 7% of homes don’t have double glazing – but it’s important to acknowledge the average home can save up to £155 per year when replacing single glazing with double. It’s also worth noting that triple glazing – adding another layer of glass and inert gas – can be 40% more energy efficient than even the best double glazing.
Electromagnetic glass is perhaps the most visually impressive and futuristic technology on our list, but its role in luxury glazing projects cannot be understated. At the click of a button, the glass transforms from transparent to opaque or some gradient in between, controlling the amount of light – and heat that comes into a room. While this is especially important in the summer months, electromagnetic glass can also optimise light levels throughout winter to reduce your reliance on artificial heating and, thus, your energy bills.
We’ve written about thermal breaks before. Much like low-emissivity coatings, double glazing and electromagnetic glass, thermal breaks exist to reduce the heat exchange from the inside of your home to the outside (and vice versa). But unlike those other technologies, a thermal break is located in the window frame, a key area of inefficiency that can prove very costly when overlooked.
Glazing can be inefficient. There’s no denying that.
If this blog post was written 100 years ago (presumably by hand) we would be telling you to use bricks or wood for your building or renovation project because, at that time, these provided far better insulation.
It would have been a short post.
But it’s not written 100 years ago. It’s written today, a time of constant technological advancements that drive efficiencies and reduce energy bills. Choosing luxury glazing that incorporates these technologies means that you can save money without sacrificing style. In doing so, you no longer need to fear winter. Instead, you can embrace it.