Are Ceiling Fans Energy Efficient?

Can having a ceiling fan cut down on electric bills?  Many ceiling fan companies say that they can, but let’s take a look at the facts and see what they show us.



AC is the largest consumer of energy in your house, it can represent up to or more than 25% of your home’s energy usage, and costs an average of $0.36 per hour.  A ceiling fan, costs about $0.01 per hour of usage and so if using the ceiling fan to cut down your AC usage works, it would save you quite a bit of money per year.

Ceiling Fans Can and Cannot

First of all, let’s examine what a ceiling fan cannot do: a fan will not cool your room, they will make your room feel cooler, but the temperature will remain the same.  This only works if you are actually in the room, if you have a ceiling fan on in another room that you aren’t actually using, this will only cost you electricity and has no cooling benefits.

That said, if you are in a room, the US Department of Energy states that combining a ceiling fan with AC results in being about to raise the temperature 4 degrees without your comfort level changing.

Fans will work best when:

  • They are larger fans, because they can move air more effectively.
  • They have a great Energy Star rating, the box that the fan comes in will typically have this rating posted on it.
  • They are installed on an eight foot or taller ceiling and are about 1 foot away from the ceiling.
  • Your windows have curtains and blinds to cover them to allow less sun in during the summer months.  During the winter, you can open the window coverings during the day to allow the warmth in and shut them at night to keep out the cold.

To wrap up, here are a few tips for cutting energy usage with the help of ceiling fans:

  • Raise your AC thermostat by 4 degrees
  • When you’re home, keep your fans on but only in rooms that you are currently using.  Switch the fan off when you leave the room (if this is difficult for you, then you might consider home automation solutions)
  • For winter, use the switch typically located on the side of the fan motor to reverse the ceiling fan rotation.  This will move cooler air up and push warmer air down.

What to Look For When Choosing a Window

Last week we touched on four factors to know about when choosing new windows for your home – either as replacements or for your custom home.  These four factors are: Glass, Design, Frame, and Installation.  Let’s take a closer look at what to know about these four essential parts of a window.


When it comes to window glass, there are a lot of buzzwords that get tossed around, what is really necessary for a good window that is going to last and be worth the money that you put into it without breaking the bank?  Double-pane windows with a vacuum-sealed argon fill and low-E glass.  It will probably cost you an additional $30-50 per window but you will see a difference reflected in your energy bill.  We have talked in depth about the differences in single, double, and triple pane glass in previous posts.

When looking at windows, you can usually find a sticker directly on the glass that will tell you exactly what the window’s efficiency features are.  If the window has an Energy Star sticker on it then it means that it has met the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC)’s standards.  These standards are measured in two ways: Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) – measuring the amount of heat entering a house through the glass, and U-Value – measuring a window’s ability to resist heat loss.  For each of these factors, the lower the number, the better energy rating it will receive.

South Texas home owners often choose UV-repellent film as a tint for their windows, it’s practically invisible but it will preserve textiles and paint as well as keeping the interior of a house cooler and save money on utility bills.


The design of a window can have huge effects when it comes to energy efficiency, but that doesn’t mean that you have to settle for something utilitarian or boring.  In the past, custom home builders focused on aesthetics rather than function, but now the modern approach is functionality and beauty in one.  A window can be both décor and an inlet for fresh air, this is especially applicable for transoms (the window above a door or another window).

Decorative windows that are also functional require a deeper casing which can contribute a lot to the aesthetics of your house as “active” transoms.  If you’re looking for further benefits to be reflected in your utility bill, don’t choose a semi-circle or half-moon window as these are not as energy efficient.

Come back next week as we explore the last two of our four important window factors: Frame and Installation.

Should I Replace My Home’s Windows: Part II

A few weeks ago, we discussed questions to ask when you are considering replacing your home’s windows.  We’ll continue that discussion in today’s post; these situations and questions may help you figure out if your house’s windows should be replaced even if you have a historical home where you would normally want to preserve the original windows.

Here are a few situations to consider:

Windows in poor condition.  When your house’s windows are not in good condition: cracked window panes, rotting sashes, sills, or frames, pests coming into your house, inability to open or shut the windows, leaking water, humidity problems in your home are all indicators that you should replace your windows completely.

Windows with safety problems.  If your windows are loose, don’t open or shut, or are weak because they haven’t been maintained properly or are damaged, should be replaced.

Windows with single-pane glass.  If your house’s windows have single-pane glass or temperature conductive sashes or frames, it is typically wise to replace them as much of your heating and cooling will be escaping through these exits.  These windows are usually poorly installed, and or cheap windows that were not well made.

Things to keep in mind when choosing a window:

There are generally four factors to consider when choosing a new window.  These factors are: glass, design, frame, and installation.  We’re going to discuss these factors in more depth in our post next week but here’s a brief overview.


Double-pane windows with a vacuum-sealed argon fill and low-E glass are probably among the best window options for your money.


This area is fairly subjective to what the home owners want, but keep in mind that half-moon shapes, or semi-circles will decrease the energy efficiency of that window.


At first glance, wood may seem the best choice: it doesn’t transfer heat or cold as readily as an aluminum frame but these aren’t your only material choices.


It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a window if it’s not installed correctly.  Keep an eye out for sealants and expanding foams being used to seal your window in place, they aren’t waterproof and can lead to air leakage or worse over time.

See you next week when we delve deeper into these four factors!

Replacement vs Storm Windows

Last week, we discussed some of the differences between replacement windows and storm windows and how to make the choice between them.  Today, we’ll continue to talk about replacement windows and storm windows and help you better decide what is the right decision for your home.

Pros of Replacement Windows

  1. This is a permanent solution to your window problems because with a quality choice comes the assurance that you won’t have to replace your windows in the coming years just because of their age.
  2. Better climate control, energy efficiency, and insulation.
  3. Better and more design choices.
  4. Increases the value of your home
  5. Outside noise reduction.
  6. Allows for more light.

Cons of Replacement Windows

  1. May cause your home’s value to decrease if you have an older or historic home.
  2. May change the look of your home.
  3. Must be installed by an expert and takes more time for installation.
  4. More expensive than storm windows.

Pros of Storm Windows

  1. Allows for the aesthetic of an older or historic property to remain the same.
  2. Less expensive than replacement windows.
  3. Reduces airflow which leads to better insulation.
  4. Since the installation process is simple they can be installed by yourself or a professional.
  5. Protects the primary window from outside damage and helps to reduce outside noise.

Cons of Storm Windows

  1. May be less attractive.
  2. Should be replaced every 2-4 years.
  3. Moisture can become trapped on interior window.
  4. Less light will be able to come through the windows.
  5. Maintenance once every 12 months is required or oxidation and pitting may occur.
  6. Cleaning and maintenance may require removal of the storm windows.
  7. Regular lubrication and cleaning of tracks is required.
  8. Not as energy efficient as replacement windows.

For those on a budget, storm windows are the easiest and cheapest option, this will effectively solve your air leakage and UV ray problems.  That said, if you are not on a tight budget, the best way for energy efficiency improvement is to replace all of your home’s windows with energy efficient windows.  The newer technology is of course the best for your home, but for those that don’t have that option (whether due to budget constraints or historical properties) storm windows are a good alternative.

Should I Replace My Home’s Windows?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered various parts of understanding how to choose windows for your custom home.  Minimizing the cost of cooling and heating is a huge part of the decision for energy-conscious home owners.  For existing older homes, home owners are usually faced with the decision of keeping and repairing the current windows in your home or replacing them with new windows.


Initial Steps

One of the first steps in deciding whether or not to replace your windows is to do the math to figure out the cost-effectiveness of new windows.  This process is not difficult, you can run a home energy audit.  This can be a DIY project or you can hire a professional to assist you.  Either way, this will identify where the major energy-loss areas are located. This audit will help determine if you need to replace all of your windows or simply reapply the weatherstrips or replace some caulk.

Storm Windows

Historical or older homes, where the original windows must or should be kept as an essential part of the character of your home, may just need the addition of a storm window that will protect the original window and elevate the energy performance to that of a modern window.  A storm window is window is that is typically installed on the exterior of the primary house windows (they are also sometimes installed on the interior), they are installed for weather protection of the original window, and normalizing interior temperatures.  They can be custom made to your particular window needs

Replacement Windows

If you believe that your house’s windows should be completely replaced instead of renovated (it’s a good idea to get a second or third opinion about this), you can still keep with the character of the house and win with substantial energy savings while you’re at it.  Another advantage of replacing older windows with new windows is the improvement of durability as well as having a warranty.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Is this a DIY project? Storm windows are relatively simple to install, replacement windows are trickier and you should gauge your skill level carefully.
  2. How old are your windows? Windows that are 30 years old should generally be replaced UNLESS they add historical value to your home.  Keeping the esthetics of a historical home is very important.
  3. What is your budget? Replacing windows can be very costly while adding storm windows is relatively inexpensive.

Casement Windows, Double Hung, R-Value, & U-Factor

As we mentioned in last week’s post about single, double, and triple pane windows, we’re going to spend the next few weeks focusing on explaining the jargon around windows.  By knowing how to talk about windows, you’ll better understand not only how to communicate with your Texas custom home builder, but also what you want for your dream home.  Your window choice does not just affect the ascetics of your home, but also the functionality.

Casement Windows

A casement window is a window that has one or more hinges which attach the window to the window frame.  These can be a single pane or a pair of panes within a single frame.  There are a few particular names that can be used depending on where the hinges are located: hopper windows are windows that are hinged at the bottom, while awning windows are ones that are hinged at the top.

Single & Double Hung Windows

The major difference between double and single hung windows is that for single hung windows, the top sash is fixed and will not move, while both of the sashes on double hung windows will move up and down and may also tilt in.  Because of this, many people choose single hung windows for the lower story and double hung windows for upper levels as they are easier to clean from the inside.

UV ratings or the U-Factor

UV ratings or U-factor is the measurement of how well something performs when preventing heat from escaping a structure.  The higher the U-factor, the worse a product is performing, the lower it is, the better it is performing.  The typical window U-factor will fall between 0.15 and 1.20.


When talking about insulation, the R-Value is often the most discussed.  The R-Value simply measures the resistance to heat flow, therefore, a higher R-Value means a greater reduction in energy consumption.

Difference between R-value and U-factor

The difference between R-value and U-factor is that while the R-value is to measure heat loss resistance, the U-factor is used to measure the heat transference rate (heat loss).

Single, Double, & Triple Pane Windows

When you’re choosing windows for your home, it might seem that your only concern is which design to choose, but in actuality, the windows that you choose for your custom home can affect your energy bill, interior lighting design, and much more.  When talking to your south Texas home builder, you will probably hear terms such as double or triple pane windows, casement, double hung, UV ratings, R-value, and more.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be tackling some of the common window jargon and helping you understand the best choice for your dream home.

What is the difference between a single, double, or triple pane window?

The difference between the three types is very straightforward.  Single pane windows have only one pane of glass and are not widely used anymore as they are not effective as insulation or durable.  Double pane windows have two panes of glass that are separated with a layer of gas.  Triple pane windows have three panes of glass that are each separated by a layer of gas.

What type of window should I choose for my home?

As we said above, single pane windows are not typically used in home construction and are not the best choice for your wallet.  Double pane windows are a great choice when it comes to insulating against sound and weather, they are also very durable and cost efficient.  Triple pane windows further increase all the benefits of a double pane window, but when you compare the higher cost (you will typically pay about 30% more for a triple pane window) and what you are gaining as a sound barrier and insulation, double pane windows are usually the better choice.  The money that you save on double pane windows you can put towards a few added luxuries that you perhaps have not yet considered.

A few extra tips

Though you will save money by not choosing triple pane windows, that doesn’t mean that you should try to save money when buying double pane windows.  A quality window is going to be a bit pricey but it will save you money in the long run.  A good, durable window will not need to be repaired or replaced for years.

Cost Effective Energy Efficiency Part I

An energy efficient home is more important now than ever before, but green walls might not be your thing and breaking the bank to make your custom home energy efficient is not at the top of anyone’s list.  Is it possible to design a dream home that is energy efficient and cost effective?

According to some experts, a home that is energy efficient may actually be easier on your wallet than your average home building cost.  The secret?  The basics.  Gadgets and appliances are great but what you really should focus on is to make a few small but significant changes to your house plan and considering carefully all of the spaces that you are planning.  Do you need such a large living area and a sitting room?

Energy conscious construction should be planned in detail, make sure to talk to your custom home builder about specific products and items that you want installed in your house.  Sometimes choosing the mid-level item is a good cost-effective and perfectly acceptable way to go, other times, your designer can advise you on spending a bit more money to save money in the long run on repairs.  Knowing the cost of materials is important for these conversations so do a little research on your own.

A Few Other Cost Saving Tips

Building over your house’s garage is an excellent way to utilize space in a cost effective way, this space can be as cheap as 1/3 the cost of building in other spaces.

Windows are another area in which you can save some money.  Spaces such as open areas and foyers don’t need operable windows, here’s a good place to utilize fixed glass which will save you money and will also serve to reduce air leakage.  Double-hung windows are beautiful but unnecessary, single-hung windows serve the same purpose and are cheaper to purchase and install, they are also more efficient when it comes to energy ratings.

This is a big topic that we’ll continue covering next week, so be sure to check back then to learn more and drop us a comment with your thoughts.

Radiant Floor Heating 101

Radiant floor heating, or underfloor heating is an energy efficient and practically invisible method of heating your home. If you’re remodeling an existing home, adding the finishing touches to your new home’s plans, or just dreaming a little, radiant floor heating is worth knowing about.

What is it?

This type of flooring can be found as far back as the Romans who invented this method of heating their marble floors. With this method, heat is conducted through the surface of the floor instead of through the air.

How does it work?

Most radiant flooring falls under two types: hydronic, heating through hot water pipes, and electric, heating through electric wires. Both types of underfloor heating are buried under the floor. An electric radiant floor heating system is more cost-effective and easier to install, but tends to be more expensive in the long run while the hydronic radiant floor heating system is more expensive and difficult at installation and less expensive to operate. How to choose? The rule of thumb is that electric works better for smaller areas while hydronic is more efficient for larger areas or the entire house.

Pros and Cons

Because heat rises, radiant floor heating is an energy efficient way to make certain that you stay warm. With more traditional Western heating methods, heat often gets trapped near the ceiling, or in houses that aren’t sealed well the heat escapes outside. Underfloor heating systems can be tricky to install in an existing floor, you will need to tear up the entire floor to install it. There are a few other options if you want the benefits of radiant floor heating but don’t want to go through the pains of installation in an existing house. Electric radiant pads are one of these options and worth exploring a bit more.

Stone, ceramic tiles, and concrete all work very well with radiant floor heating. Wood floors might not work so well, but talk to your custom home builder about your options if you just can’t live without a hardwood floor and radiant floor heating, there are still some ways to make this work. Vinyl and laminate flooring, as well as carpeting do not work very well with the necessary heat flow.

Flat-Panel Radiators

Here in the USA, we often think of a radiator as outdated or ineffectual as a heating unit.  In sharp contrast, flat-panel or wall-panel radiators are known in Europe to be the epitome of minimalism, quiet, and calm warmth. That’s because the design and functionality of the radiator has undergone vast changes and has become a streamlined heating option.  The huge hissing, clunking, and groaning radiators of decades past are gone and have been replaced with a sleek, well-designed, efficient, and silent great-grandchild.

How They Work

The “how” of flat-panel radiators has not changed with their design: water is heated in a boiler and flows through the radiators to gently radiate heat into a room.


Forced air systems may lose up to 30% of the heat that they generate just through the airway ducts, radiator heat is much more efficient.  They also won’t stir up dust which can cause or exacerbate allergies, and they are so quiet that you’ll probably forget that you even have them.  Wall-panel radiators of the past didn’t have the huge surface area that today’s models have to offer.  This means that the heat they give off is much greater but at the same time, they don’t require the water temperature to be as high and will only heat water to the required heat.  This effectively lowers the amount of energy being used, while heating more efficiently, and making the radiators safe to touch.

Another significant benefit of the flat-panel radiators is that with multiple thermostats, you can limit your wasted energy and save on your utility bill by only heating the rooms you need to heat instead of the entire house.  Unlike their bulky great-grandparents, today’s models offer space-saving solutions, the smallest clocks in at about 2 inches deep, but the average is 3-4 inches.  The large range of designs offered today is also a bonus; you can choose something around which to build your interior décor, or you can choose a design that is practically invisible.

Where to Find

Talk to your custom home builder about the wall-panel radiator options in your area, but a good place to start looking are European companies that import to the USA.  The USA also has some good companies that offer flat-panel radiators, your home builder can help you connect with them and discover the best choice for your dream home.