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What is Low E Glass and why do I need it?

An article in our “make an informed decision” series!

What is Low E Glass and why do I need it?

Low E glass or, more correctly, low emissivity glass is so essential to your home that the building code in Ontario virtually demands its use.

Start with a clear piece of glass and add a coating which reflects only specific parts of the light spectrum. The light you need to see through your windows  is short wave (ultra-violet light). Light that is already heat is long wave (infra-red light). The middle wave-length light is where you as a homeowner get to make an important decision that takes into account your level of comfort in your home in different seasons.

Think of low E glass as microscopic mirrors impregnated either on (soft-coat low E) or in (hard-coat low E) the glass. How these glasses are produced is not the issue. What is important is that with soft-coated glasses, those microscopic mirrors are slightly closer together than on their hard-coat counterparts.

All Low E glasses are designed to reflect existing heat back to its source. This keeps more heat from your furnace in your home in winter and keeps much of the heat of the sun outside in summer. Both types of low E let enough short wave light through that you can still easily see through your window.

The important difference is, because in some low E glasses (soft-coats) those mirrors are a little closer together, this type of glass reflects more intermediate wave-length light back to its source. The result is that the soft-coats tend to have slightly better U or R values because by reflecting slightly more light, they are measured as better insulators.

Is this a good thing? Maybe yes, maybe no. It is certainly a good thing in summer when you want to keep heat from the sun outside, however, in winter, from a purely heat cost point of view, losing a bit more free solar heat (called Solar heat gain”) is proven to cost you a bit more on your heating bill over a full year, in spite of the soft-coat’s slightly better U/R values. By letting in more intermediate light waves, hard coats do give more free heat in winter, but also allow that heat into your home in summer.

Now you get to make your decision. Do you opt to save a few more pennies over a full year on your combined heat and air conditioning bill, with hard-coat low E, (when both glass types will give you significant energy cost benefits), or are you willing to forgo the extra pennies saved to keep your home slightly cooler and more comfortable (with less use of air conditioning) in the summer with soft-coat low E?

Should I spend the extra cost for foam insulated windows?

An article in our “make an informed decision” series!

Should I spend the extra cost for foam insulated windows?

It is a rule of commerce that, in general, the next change one makes to a product to improve it has a lower “bang for the buck” than the last change. This makes perfect sense as it would be foolish to not make the most cost effective improvements first!

After over a quarter century of adding products such as low E glass, gas fillings in the glass sealed unit and better, more energy efficient styles and designs, in order to offer you the best possible products, the industry has turned to additional options such as triple glazing and foam filling. We’ll talk about triple glazing elsewhere, but now let’s review the growing availability of foam insulation in window frames and sashes.

There are two main methods of adding foam. One is to use a liquid that expands inside the window cavity to fill it and the other is to use a pre-formed material inserted into the cavity. Companies, using either method, will insert their foam into specific cavities designed to maximize benefit, without interfering with critical functions such as drainage or reinforcement.

Now for the fun part! Companies that are actively promoting foam tend to use a bit of misdirection. Do you know that foam insulation in a frame may improve the frame’s insulating value by 15 to 20%? Wow!!! That sounds great… sign me up! Not so fast…. Most of the heat loss in a window is through the glass, not the framing materials. That 20% improvement may only translate to an approximately 2% improvement in your window`s performance overall. Not quite so impressive!

Still, it does offer an improvement at a cost. Depending on your budget, after you have added the more cost effective ways to improve your windows performance, this is an option you can always consider.

How do I verify that the dealer I am going to hire is the right one for the job?

An article in our “make an informed decision” series!

How do I verify that the dealer I am going to hire is the right one for the job?

Ok, a disclaimer. Of coursewe know that Ambia is the contractor you want to replace your windows and doors. But, I also know that me simply telling you this is not how you should be making your decision.

First let me explain something about marketing. The best marketing is not to need a whole lot. At Ambia, we have our web site and the basic adverts to help someone looking for us find our phone number. Our real advertising comes by word of mouth from our previous customers. They tell their friends, neighbors and relatives how happy they are and our phone rings. These homeowners have solid proof on which to base their decision to choose us.

Don’t all companies get lots of referrals from previous customers? There are many companies who would prefer if you never talked to a previous customer to find out that promises weren’t kept or work was neither up to par nor fixed when deficiencies were noticed and brought to their attention. These companies require a constant stream of new clients.

So, how do they find them? Since future customers aren’t coming to them, they must get their company’s name in front of as many homeowners as possible.

That early evening phone call telling you that they’re working in your “neighborhood” and just want the opportunity to give you a quote, may be defining “neighborhood” as “somewhere in southern Ontario”.

How about those flyers in your mailbox promising 40 to 60% off? They probably never sold a window for the advertised “full price”. Of course, they’d probably like to if they could find someone so lazy that a contract was signed without any comparison shopping. (That’s why a number of years ago the province of Ontario changed the term during which a consumer could cancel a contract signed in the home from 48 hours to 10 working days!)

Of course, there are numerous web sites promising to filter out the “bad guys” for you or that allow homeowners to post their individual opinions about work done for them. These can be helpful, but as they make their money from the advertisements from the companies being reviewed, they may not be quick to drop them as advertisers. (One site has a unique approach that when a homeowner searches for a particular contractor, a banner advertisement for a different contractor comes up across the page. If the firm who was being searched doesn’t appreciate this, then they are given the option of buying the banner advert to block an alternative firm from trying to scoop customers from them.)

And keep in mind that the post from a “Happy Homeowner” singing the praises of a company could just as well be from Uncle Billy or Cousin Sam. There is very little way to tell from the web.

If you don’t know the source of a referral or recommendation, the best thing to do is make sure that references provided by a company are within easy driving range so you can go and see the home and possibly catch the homeowner outside where you can explain why you’re looking at their home to verify what the company told you. You be surprised how often all you get is a blank stare! Of course, if the company has no references to give you, it could be as simple as they are legitimately a brand new firm, but…

The solution is to get a referral from someone you know, or, take the time to check the references from the company you are considering.

Here is one last piece of advice. Show the company that tells you that the price offered is only good if they sign the contract immediately the way out of the house. Legitimate companies don’t work that way.

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