There is a certain appeal to a home with plenty of windows, even more so for large windows. Most of us would agree that a home with floor to ceiling windows tends to be more desirable than one with fewer and smaller windows.
They provide visual access to the outdoors, allow in natural daylight and can provide fresh air and air circulation. Large windows have plenty of advantages, as listed below. They provide:
- Plenty of natural daylight. Especially during the dark days of winter, when some of us are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, large windows can allow light to stream in, allowing you to forgo electric lighting while benefiting from natural light. Exposure to natural light is known to help boost energy and moods and generally makes you feel better, while at the same time regulating your natural circadian rhythm, encouraging better sleeping at night.
- Passive Solar gain. If designed properly, large well-positioned windows can help heat a home through passive solar gain in the winter when the sun is shining.
- A way to bring the outdoors in. Large windows can help you feel like you are part of the outdoors even when you’re inside. Studies have shown that views of the natural world have a profound positive effect on our health and well-being. Views of nature help boost our mood and make us happy. The beauty of the outdoors can also be used as a stunning backdrop for your decor.
- Functional art. Beautiful windows are pleasing to look at, make a room appear bigger and add value to a home in the event of resale.
Some other points about large windows:
Design: An architect will take house orientation on the property into account when planning window design. It’s important to address potential glare and/or excessive heat during certain times of the year. Architects can design windows or shading structures that help minimize glare while preserving views. Ideally, in northern climates, large windows should face south or southwest to allow maximum solar heat gain in winter.
Large windows can either be picture windows or operable, or a combination of the two. The advantage of the picture window is that it contains no moving parts and therefore is less expensive to make than its operable counterpart. The advantage of an operable window is that it allows for increased air movement and circulation and allows plenty of fresh air into the home. A large window can be made so that it is a combination of the two, with operable upper and/or lower portions or side parts, leaving the middle as a single unit.
When designing and manufacturing large windows, using a manufacturer with experience building large windows is critical to a successful outcome. Frames should never warp or split and should always be installed by professionals approved by the manufacturer (usually this is a requirement in order for manufacturers’ warranties to be valid). Frames should always be tightly sealed to the glazing (glass panes).
One of the concerns about large windows is their energy efficiency, or lack thereof. Today’s window technology is significantly improved from past technologies. There are several factors that can help larger windows perform well in colder environments. Energy efficiency for windows is measured as a U-value, which is the inverse of the R-value (which measures the rate of heat loss of a material per inch). When evaluating whether a window is energy efficient, look for those with a lower U-value. Windows can be Energy Star certified and will include all of the features listed below.
- Double or triple glazing: Energy-efficient large windows will be double or triple glazed (meaning the window frame consists of two or three panes of glass with space in between). The space between the panes will be filled with argon, krypton or a mixture of the two gases, helping to block cold or hot air from passing through.
- Warm edge spacer bars are used in energy efficient windows and help prevent the passage of cold or warmth through the window.
- Low-emittance (low-e) coatings are another addition a large window will have to help maximize energy efficiency. These coatings can be applied in different ways depending on the climate where the home is being built. In colder climates the coating tends to be applied on the inside pane to keep heat in, and in warmer climates it is applied on the outer pane to prevent heat from entering the house. Further additions and specifications can be made with these coatings to allow solar gain on the south sides of buildings while preventing heat loss on windows facing other directions.
A well-insulated frame is important to maintaining energy efficiency of a window. Avoid uninsulated metal frames as metal is a heat conductor and there will be significant heat loss through an uninsulated metal window. One of the best frame materials to choose is fiberglass as the material expands and contracts at the same rate as glass thereby maintaining the seal between the glass and frame.
Large windows offer significant benefits to any home by permitting the outdoors to become part of the décor, allowing significant amounts of natural light in while providing beautiful views. Concerns about the energy efficiency of large windows are becoming less of an issue as window technology improves, and one might even say that the benefits of large windows outweigh the drawbacks.