Just yesterday we discussed the types of windows available for your tiny house. While the appearance of your windows is paramount so is their ability to also be energy efficient, moisture resistant, easy to care for, and accurately rated for your house. So just how do you find these “perfect” windows? The following tips should help with the decision.
UNDERSTAND ENERGY EFFICIENCY
The buzz phrase for windows today is “Energy Star rated”. In addition to argon filled, gas filled, Low-E, it can become dizzying to purchase a window that is truly a performance enhancer. What most consumers don’t know is that The National Fenestration Rating Council is a non-profit organization which actually rates Energy Star windows according to the following features:
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient – How the window blocks or keeps out heat. The lower the number better, which shows less solar heat is transmitted through the window.
- Visible Transmittance – How much natural sunlight is let in. In this case, the high numbers are better.
- Air Leakage – Represents how much air passes through the small joints and cracks in the window. Here, the low numbers are better.
- Condensation Resistance – Shows the window’s ability to resist condensation (water build up or fogging). For this, the high numbers are better.
Before doing any further research or trying to decide what windows to incorporate into your build, it is important to know the above material first. Now you can proceed in examining further aspects of window purchase.
HOW WILL YOUR WINDOW FUNCTION?
Do you want your windows to open? If so, do you want them to slide up/down or side/side? Do you want them to crank out? Do you want vintage or brand new? Wood sashes or vinyl? (editors note: A window sash is the part of the window that holds the glass and the framework around the glass to keep it in place.) The key to choosing a window that fits your needed function is to think about cross breeze, rain, and ventilation. If you want to have that natural breeze, you would consider two casement windows placed directly opposite of each other. If you live in a location that receives a lot of annual rainfall, you may want to think about awning windows that can be left open during rain.
WINDOW FRAME MATERIAL
Wooden sashes behave much differently than vinyl windows. The price is also different, so it is important to know the benefits and disadvantages of each. (descriptions courtesy of Angie’s List)
- Vinyl frame (PVC)
Benefits: Energy efficient, least expensive.
Disadvantages: Weaker material means a thicker frame (less “window”), expands and contracts, deteriorates over time.
- Aluminum frame (metal)
Benefits: Thin, solid and strong, inexpensive.
Disadvantages: Very low energy efficiency, not very durable.
- Composite frame (fibrex)
Benefits: Thin, doesn’t expand or contract, high energy efficiency, durable.
- Fiberglass frame (glass fiber)
Benefits: Thin, high energy efficiency.
Disadvantages: Can deteriorate over time, expensive.
- Wood frame (natural)
Benefits: Beautiful, high energy efficiency.
Disadvantages: High maintenance to preserve durability, most expensive.
GLASS WITH A TEMPER
For clarification, tempered glass is a type of safety glass processed by controlled thermal or chemical treatments to increase strength compared with normal glass. If you have any intention of moving your tiny house on a regular basis you should strongly consider tempered glass windows. While this won’t totally prevent damage while on the road, it will go a long way in protecting your window investment.
Windows can be complicated. They come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. Be smart. Do your research. Talk to others who have built a tiny house. Do you have any questions to ask us about windows? If so, leave the question in the comment section below or ask us on our Facebook page!