Cheaper Windows

I discovered windows one afternoon and after that, nothing was ever the same.”
Anne Spollen

A “high efficiency” window in an insulated wall works much like a hole in a waterproof container. Insulation and windows can be viewed as opposites.  If you have R-90 in the floor, ceiling and two walls of a cube, and glaze the other two walls with a state of the art triple glazed, low-e, argon-filled, high-priced floor to ceiling window, the overall insulation drops to around R-61, or a 32% drop in efficiency.  If you start with R-30, the overall effect is  smaller, to around R-21, only a 28% drop in insulation value, but the plunge remains. There is no way around it.  The 5th Dimension of Letting the Sunshine In for the Age of Aquarius costs a lot of energy.  And it costs lots of money, if that helps you feel better about it.

Of course there are some profound solutions.  An array of televisions with a camera outside is cheaper than deluxe windows — both installation and energy consumption.  An added benefit is you have a record of the days to rebroadcast when the gloom rolls in.

Another practical solution is higher walls, as I discussed in Art of Architecture for Art.  While this will not change the amount of illumination, it will change its character.

More conventional thinking (yet often ignored) suggests ways of capturing light and directing it through small spaces.  Light comes from the south in the northern hemisphere, so southern glazing makes sense, even in rooms on the North side of a structure.  Directing light through the ceiling/floor joists via bright, reflective ducting works just great, and it provides advantages: one, the light is easily diffused and introduced high in the room, and two, the darker the season, the more direct the source of light into the southern exposure. Yet another is greater security.  And privacy. And fewer drafts.

Speaking of porting light, all square feet of glazing are not all equal.  The advantages of material thickness to insulation is proportional, as is the insulation value of space itself.  If you replace a gazillion dollar low-e, triple-pane, etc. etc., window with a glass block port and a couple of panes of glass along the way to the outlet,  the R-value keeps increasing while the light itself keeps pouring in.

Finally for this article, if you just have to have lots of huge windows so the world can look at you making payments on glazing and spending energy, make them temporary.  Create your own clever system of closing the walls against the windows as much as you know how to close the windows against the storms and cold.  The main times for loss of the most energy tend to be the exact opposite of the times most people want the view (namely, nights and inclement weather) so close the walls when you are not watching.

Or, just turn the TV screens back to yesterday.

 

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