Can you still buy NON Lo-E windows?

levsmithlevsmith Solar Expert Posts: 56 ✭✭
Hey all,
I am in the process of buying land and will be building an off grid house. I am currently working on the design of the house. I would like to take advantage of solar heating but am having trouble finding windows. I remember in my parents house, in the winter time we would open up the south facing window curtains and let the sun help warm up the house. Just standing on the carpet where the sun was shining felt awesome on a cold winter day! Now they have replaced a couple windows on the south side with the new argon Lo-E hyped up windows and that solar gain has pretty much completely went away. When I was there last winter I set some frozen meat on the dryer to thaw out because there is a big south facing window that shines right on it. I came back an hour or so later and it was still frozen solid and the top of the dryer was cold when the sun was shining right on it. That was one of the windows they replaced recently.

Now I know most people and architects dont take the time to design a house for the lot to take advantage of passive solar and most south facing windows probably aren't properly shaded to cut out that sun in the summer. That is my guess as to the reason that its hard to find non Lo-E windows. Even the cheapest windows at the big box home improvement stores are Lo-E. Now back to my question, is it still possible to get windows without all the Argon Lo-E, Zo-E whatever so I can take advantage of that solar gain? I'm going to guess to get that, I'm going to have to special order the windows, which sounds expensive...

Thanks for any help

Comments

  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 7,249 ✭✭✭✭
    if you are in california, and wanting a solar house - too bad. All windows sold in kalifornia are Lo-E.
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  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,330 ✭✭✭✭
    So there is always the option to just get some low iron plate glass and built your own frames. A table saw and router with table should be all that is needed. Of course if you want to open them it becomes much more complicated.

    Here is an internet source that will quote you by size all precut. http://www.glasscages.com/?sAction=ViewCat&lCatID=42
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 4,827 ✭✭✭✭
    The only way is to make them yourself, inquire at an older glass shop that still makes sealed units and make the frames yourself. Did that for our guest house but the main place is all new standard, the low E is great in the summer ti keep excess heat out and still lets in some heat in winter... Thing is you need to build a house that does not leak like sieve....
     
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  • Roger ThomsRoger Thoms Registered Users Posts: 19 ✭✭
    Just did a quick search, this might have some helpful information. http://www.efficientwindows.org/gtypes_2lowe.php looks like there are many types of Low-E coatings.

    Roger

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  • Mountain DonMountain Don Solar Expert Posts: 493 ✭✭✭
    As Roger points out there's more to a window than just low-e. (that is a very good link) Solar Heat Gain Coefficient is one thing and the U-factor is another. Windows sold in your area may very well be different from the windows sold in AZ and those may be different from those sold in ND. It is possible to order windows that differ from the local norm. Not all vendors can accommodate that request. Also your local building code will have very definite specs for the SHGC and the U-factor same as there will be minimum R-values for wall and ceiling insulation.

    You are right in that many home designers do not take roof overhang and window placement into account. We are happy we did as it makes a huge difference.

    When we designed and built our cabin we were able to work with the building department and do things that were outside the code parameters. Many states either permit the use of a program called REScheck or have compulsory use of it. It allows the designer to trade insulation R-values, SHGC and U-factors. We traded some larger windows we wanted (more heat loss) by increasing wall insulation.
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  • Hill_CountryHill_Country Solar Expert Posts: 90 ✭✭
    Hi Levsmith,

    I'm thinking that we did almost exactly what you're looking to do, except we're in the "Hill Country" of Texas (90 miles west of Austin). We bought several acres of vacant land, and then designed our off-grid house from the ground up based on passive solar design and other energy conservation principles. For example, we oriented our house to face the prevailing summer breeze (south/south-east here), made the overhang on our "porch" on the south-facing side of the house a certain length so that the summer sun does not hit the windows directly, but in the winter the sun is able to shine in through the south-facing windows directly (did this using sun-angle/seasonal calculators that you can find on the 'net). We also put in "venting" windows on the high side of our single pitch roof...which allows the hot air to rise and exhaust out (we do not have an attic) naturally. Some may call us crazy, but we designed our place from the beginning to not have air conditioning (yes, we are living in central Texas with no air conditioning!).

    So, given that we would rely on the summer breeze, as well as supplement with DC powered ceiling fans for cooling (3 ceiling fans total), we didn't need fancy double-paned, gas filled, low-e windows. Instead, we went with the classic 'el cheapo' aluminum frame windows that we found at our local hardware store. They were "Croft" brand windows and were very cheap...like $55 for a 27"x35" window with screen! Most of the summer the windows are open to allow the breeze to pass through. We also did not put any windows on the west side of our place intentionally, so that the afternoon/evening sun does not bake us. At the same time, we have 2x6 framed walls with a fair amount of eco-batt insulation in them (exterior is corrugated galvalume, which also helps to reflect the sun/heat)...we also have a 4-inch concrete slab on grade which helps moderate the interior temperature. In fact, just this past weekend we recorded 100 deg. F in the shade outside our place, but our place inside was just below 80 deg. F as a high (this is with NO air conditioning mind you...just captured cool air from the morning and DC ceiling fans). Every night in the summer we open all our windows, and then close them in the morning when it starts to get warm, usually around 8am or so. In the winter we use our centrally located wood stove, which heats the place nicely to point we have to open our windows to cool us off...again, having cheap windows in our case made sense!

    Hope you find a solution that works for you!
    100% Off-grid with: 8 Solarworld 275 Watt Panels, 8 Concorde SunXtender 405aH 6v AGM Batteries, MS-4448PAE 48v Inverter, MidNite Solar Classic 200 Charge Controller, 10,000 gallon rainwater collection system, etc.
  • levsmithlevsmith Solar Expert Posts: 56 ✭✭
    Thanks everyone for the replies. I do remember now reading about different types of Lo-E, I'll have to look into that. I am in central Kansas so we do see temps in the summertime reach highs of about 105, maybe 110 on really bad days but not very often. Also the county I am in recommends building to national building code but they do not enforce it and there are no inspections other than well and septic. So I don't have to worry too much about codes.
  • levsmithlevsmith Solar Expert Posts: 56 ✭✭
    Hi Levsmith,

    I'm thinking that we did almost exactly what you're looking to do, except we're in the "Hill Country" of Texas (90 miles west of Austin). We bought several acres of vacant land, and then designed our off-grid house from the ground up based on passive solar design and other energy conservation principles. For example, we oriented our house to face the prevailing summer breeze (south/south-east here), made the overhang on our "porch" on the south-facing side of the house a certain length so that the summer sun does not hit the windows directly, but in the winter the sun is able to shine in through the south-facing windows directly (did this using sun-angle/seasonal calculators that you can find on the 'net). We also put in "venting" windows on the high side of our single pitch roof...which allows the hot air to rise and exhaust out (we do not have an attic) naturally. Some may call us crazy, but we designed our place from the beginning to not have air conditioning (yes, we are living in central Texas with no air conditioning!).

    So, given that we would rely on the summer breeze, as well as supplement with DC powered ceiling fans for cooling (3 ceiling fans total), we didn't need fancy double-paned, gas filled, low-e windows. Instead, we went with the classic 'el cheapo' aluminum frame windows that we found at our local hardware store. They were "Croft" brand windows and were very cheap...like $55 for a 27"x35" window with screen! Most of the summer the windows are open to allow the breeze to pass through. We also did not put any windows on the west side of our place intentionally, so that the afternoon/evening sun does not bake us. At the same time, we have 2x6 framed walls with a fair amount of eco-batt insulation in them (exterior is corrugated galvalume, which also helps to reflect the sun/heat)...we also have a 4-inch concrete slab on grade which helps moderate the interior temperature. In fact, just this past weekend we recorded 100 deg. F in the shade outside our place, but our place inside was just below 80 deg. F as a high (this is with NO air conditioning mind you...just captured cool air from the morning and DC ceiling fans). Every night in the summer we open all our windows, and then close them in the morning when it starts to get warm, usually around 8am or so. In the winter we use our centrally located wood stove, which heats the place nicely to point we have to open our windows to cool us off...again, having cheap windows in our case made sense!

    Hope you find a solution that works for you!

    Wow, it sounds like you read my mind! That is pretty much exactly like what I want to do. I am designing my house with the idea that I probably wont have air conditioning for at least the first few years, I'm sure I'll probably have to have something eventually because most women around here seem to think they need it. I want to take advantage of the wind in the summer time which is why I will have large south facing windows with a covered porch to shade those windows in the summer. Unfortunately the road is on the west side of the property, so I did put 2 smaller windows on the west side of the house so I can see anybody coming up the driveway. I do have a loft in my design with windows to vent the hot air. I don't think you are crazy at all, growing up, my parents rarely ever used the AC, just couldn't afford it being a 100 year old 2 story farmhouse without much insulation. Although that meant interior temps got up to the mid 80's in the summer but we survived. I think 80 degrees is comfortable with a fan and if you can accomplish that without AC, that's great!

    I guess I hadn't really thought of using cheap single pane windows I was thinking more about keeping the heat in during the winter. Are you talking about storm windows? Does it get humid at night there in Texas? I am opening the windows at night in my current house and closing them at about 7:30 in the morning when I leave for work and while it does trap the cooler air for a while, it seems to also trap the humidity. Although my current house isn't the best, 50 years old, 2x4 walls, brick house and I don't know how much insulation and the worst, neighbors on the south side so I cant take advantage of that south breeze. Anyways, when outside temps get to 100 or so, its not abnormal for the house to reach 88 inside by 8PM. Thank goodness I have a basement to live in during the summer! I will definitely check into the cheap windows though! Thanks for your very detailed reply! By the way, do you have a website or pictures of your house? I would love to see the place in person but its quite a ways away!
  • Hill_CountryHill_Country Solar Expert Posts: 90 ✭✭
    Hi Levsmith...great! It's always nice to hear about folks that are deeply involved in their house's design, and paving the way for what I think, hopefully, will be standard construction practices (e.g. passive solar, etc.) in the future! I think it's very ironic how many of the old building practices that were used during the pre-A/C days have been forgotten today and are only now being rediscovered!

    To answer your question, no, we are not talking about storm windows. We bought some "Croft" brand aluminum frame windows that we opted not to have any sort of glass coating or gas-filled voids installed (they do offer that option/upgrade). We had to special order these windows, only because the hardware store did not have enough quantity in the right size to meet our needs. We also justified our cheap window purchase with the fact that we'll be having a kiddo soon, and having baseballs/rocks/dirt clods, etc. being thrown inevitably results in a broken window or two...it's super easy to have the window glass replaced because they are not fancy, nor do they have special, inert gas in them that pretty much requires the owner to buy an entirely new window should it crack!

    Yes, it can get pretty humid at night where we're at in Texas. Not as bad as, say, Houston, or other locations in Texas, but it still can get pretty humid. We just had a week (last week!) where the low temperature at night was in the mid to upper 70's (~75 - 77 deg. F) and fairly humid. And yes, it can get somewhat humid inside after trapping the cooler, night air. We rely on our DC ceiling fans, as well as a couple AC (alternating current) cheapo fans you can get at any big box store. It has worked well for us so far. We haven't tried running a dehumidifier or anything like that during the day with our windows closed and when the sun's out (aka our off-grid solar could run it just fine after it has topped off our battery bank)...but maybe sometime in the future.

    We do not have a website/photos available of our place, unfortunately. Maybe some day though!
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  • 2twisty2twisty Solar Expert Posts: 182 ✭✭✭
    Contact one of the companies that make the portable buildings.  Both of my cabins have double-hung SINGLE PANE windows. 

    I'll eventually replace them with Low-E versions since, while they let the warm in when the sun is out, they let the warm OUT as well.
  • levsmithlevsmith Solar Expert Posts: 56 ✭✭
    Thanks 2twisty. I had that idea as well and went and checked out the storage buildings in the area but couldn't find any manufacturers marks on them anywhere. I may have to give them a call. Ideally, I would like to get a double pane without any low-e coating. Without any low-e coating, it would allow the suns rays to come in, and the double pane would insulate to keep the heat in. And of course keep the Windows shaded in the summer to keep the sun out
  • 2twisty2twisty Solar Expert Posts: 182 ✭✭✭
  • Ethan BrushEthan Brush Solar Expert Posts: 224 ✭✭
    I agree with some of the other comments that low E is not what you care about, its SHGC.  I just read an interesting article about how in heating climates you really want high SHGC windows, yet they are very hard to find.  The window industry is largly at fault, wanting a one window fits all product.  Here is the article:

    http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/windows-perform-better-walls

    Its also very interesting to note that properly designed windows (insulated, low E, high SHGC) will gain more energy than they lose.

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