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Posted by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 5/3/2016

Finally got through the window process today after several years of researching, and a couple months of working with suppliers on quotes. Because we are in a very cold climate zone and we are going to be living here full time for a numbers of years, I decided long ago to use very high efficiency windows, keeping in line with the overall low energy theme. What do I mean by very high efficiency? Normal double-pane windows have an R-value of two. Add a low-E coating and argon and you can get a three. This meets Energy Star, and 99% of people or more stick with this. I want to get better than that for two reasons. 1) the great room has a huge amount of glass. It would feel very cold in the winter due to the amount of glass and thermal radiation, especially at night. There are a select few companies that can make windows with an R-value of as high as 14! That's more than most walls in standard construction! That high value comes with a price ($) of course and I settled for far less - a value of 5-6. But this is almost twice the standard Energy Star rating. It means at the design temperatures for the house, I can save a prorated $2-3 a day. And be more comfortable as I sit in front of all the glass.

Also, with the very large temperature swings between day and night, especially in winter, I was concerned with such things brittleness of the frames and the expansion differences between the frame and the glass. While it appears that all the frame materials have been engineered to handle the low temps, there is a huge difference between expansion/contraction of the frames and the glass. PVC has a huge change in length with temperature. Wood and aluminum clad wood is not too bad, but fiberglass has very little and is very similar to the glass itself. And don't even think about aluminum frames! They should NEVER be used anymore as they conduct heat and cold soooooo much.

Why am I concerned about the expansion/contraction? Because while the glass cassette should be placed into the frame without being attached, most companies do, by sealing with silicone caulk. That means that stress is placed on the glass unit which over time will break the seal and you not only lose the argon gas inside, but you also allow moisture to get in. That's why you see so many windows that are fogged. The manufacturers I went to for quotes do not seal the glass to the frame, and in addition, since fiberglass has very similar expansion coefficient to glass, there is little stress even from the friction fit of glass to the frame.

And lastly, I'm at over 9,000'. I need a window that can be argon filled for that elevation. If you fill a sealed glass unit at sea level and climb to 9,000', you risk the thing exploding (well, cracking) from the expansion at altitude.

So I was looking for companies that can supply fiberglass windows (frames) and very high efficiency. I inquired of four companies. Two in Canada and two in the US. That two in Canada couldn't argon fill for 9,000 ft. The two here (Alpen High Performance Windows can supply high very high efficiency units, Marvin pretty high performance units) can supply fiberglass frames and make the elevation. In reviewing the bids, I ended up splitting the order. All the windows go to Alpen, and the six French doors go to Marvin. And through splitting the order and making changes in window sizes and configurations, we were able to reduce the window cost by over 25%. That's a good thing as some other things are hitting the budget in the opposite direction!

Posted by Kelsey Jo on 5/4/2016

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Why argon and not krypton? Cost?
Posted by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 5/4/2016

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While krypton is even more efficient, it comes at a price which I wasn't willing to accept. For me the cost benefit wasn't interesting. That doesn't mean for other projects especially where there are large window walls that krypton or even a four pane assembly might very well be justified.
Posted by Kelsey Jo on 5/5/2016

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Darn, I just wanted to say your windows would protect you from Superman because they have Krypton(ite)!  Too bad :(

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