Too many windows?

TammyTEJuly 12, 2013

My husband is concerned we have too many windows on the back of the house. The back will be facing South West. There are very mature trees all around the back and sides of the house although the back ones are probably 200+ feet away.

If you were to eliminate any of the back windows which would it be? I was thinking maybe one set of the living room.

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Bridget Helm

you can never have too many windows, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 1:18AM
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It is perfect. You can never have too many windows, especially with a nice view. We have lots looking on to our acreage with all trees surrounding us. The best part of our house is looking at the trees and wildlife. Keep the windows :)

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 3:12AM
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They could let a lot of heat into your house. Depends where you live and how west they face. The heat from south windows can be controlled with proper overhangs,, but this is not true for west facing windows.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 7:18AM
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Agreed, too many east, north, and especially western windows can lead to excessive energy costs and discomfort. They usually decrease the strength of a home in storm and earthquake events. They are also expensive and have more maintenance than solid wall area. They also can limit interior furnishing placement.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 10:27AM
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They don't look excessive. As far as eliminating any, it would depend on the daylighting needs, views, contribution to the elevation, and furniture plan. if you're hardly ever in a room or only in there at night, then maybe you wouldn't want so many windows. If you have a nice view but you can see it from everywhere inside your house--it is never hidden and then revealed--it can become less special, just background. Sometimes you might add, remove, or move a window simply because it helps the exterior appearance. If you want to look through a window from a specific place (seated, standing, etc.) you'd want to consider whether a mullion or check rail is blocking your view. I've known people moving into homes and having only one poor furniture placement option, and having to downsize furniture due to poor window placement or two many windows.

Today's windows are better in terms of air infiltration and occupant comfort yet their resistance to heat loss even with the best ones is still much closer to an open hole in the wall than an insulated wall.

If your garage is west-facing that's probably in your favor. I suggest planning all furniture placement.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 10:30AM
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I have read a bit about overhangs. I need to go back and read on that some more. Isn't there a place to put in your GPS coordinates and angle of home and figure all that out? Anyone have a link for that?

It is the back of the house so I'm not as concerned about how it looks from the outside. The rooms across the back are:

masterbathroom - The window over the tub would stay because I like it. :) The window over the toilet I like as well. I don't think I want either of those to change. I guess I could lose the one over the toilet if I absolutely had to.

Living room - There are 2 sets of 2 windows that are 3' per window on the back wall and then one 3' window on the East wall. I think the room is big enough that we wouldn't need to have any furniture placed directly up against the walls, other than maybe bookcases. My thought was to maybe take out one set of those 2 on the back and center the set that's left.

Dining - It's open to the living so it wouldn't be horribly dark but I wanted windows there since that would also let light into the kitchen.

Mudroom and half bath - I think those would be dark without a window. Need to be able to see all those cobwebs. ;-)

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 12:38PM
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Comprehensive enough for professionals.
Pilkington Sun Angle Calculator Manual.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pilkington Sun Angle Calculator

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 9:39PM
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I used this site to make a drawing of where the sun will be on a certain day of each month of the year. I chose 9:00 in the morning and 7:00 at night, then determined from this site the sun's position and angle in the sky for the same date each month of the year. This helped me orient the house. (We have acreage with no restrictions as to home's placement.)

I have considered trying to construct a simple 3-D model of the sun's angle based on what I described above. Then I thought about using SketchUp to design a model. I've gotten to neither but the idea is still on my wish list to do. I'd like to determine if deeper overhangs would help with sun control. We will be building in South Carolina where summer sun is a serious consideration.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sun Position online calculator

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 9:46PM
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Another helpful site.
Sun position chart, solar path diagram.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sun Earth Tools

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 9:48PM
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Thanks nanj, I will check these out!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 10:10PM
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Epiarch Designs

sun is a serious oversight in many new homes. Some of the comments above are proof of that. Fact is you can have too many windows and tall windows do not let daylite and views always pour in. Windows should be designed to enhance a view, think picture frame. Typically, there is very little reason to have windows much below 2' above the floor, and typically a few feet below the ceiling. soaring transoms do not enhance views, unless you like looking at skies. Windows are a big expense on a build, and an even bigger expense come conditioning the space.
The sun is a powerful thing and it can be harvested to provide views, lighting, and even energy savings. However the home has to be designed correctly to do so. It is not hard, but there are basic concepts to look into.

First off, energy use. Ya, they can be pretty to look out, but most dual pane windows are just an r3 with higher end triple panes pushing r5 and up. Most new homes are in the r15-19 range (ok not really, but that's what they make you think). Take the square footage of your wall and window, average it out and you have very very low overall r value of that wall. Obviously this will greatly increase your heating requirements (if in a heating climate) or will increase your cooling load even more in a southern climate. That much glass can easily add an additional ton or 2 to the cooling requirements, which makes the build even more expensive, and the cooling costs that much higher.
Now, you can help your cooling load with overhangs, shades, etc. However depending on your wall height and window sill height, you can easily hit 2.5-3'+ overhangs for just 9' high walls. Again, adds more cost to the build.

Solar and sun studies can be performed with proper modeling and software. Depending on the software, they can be quite accurate. I am in a heating climate, so the windows had to be designed for solar gain. While I do have a large amount of glass on the south, its there for a reason, and with a proper floor area to glass ratio. Overhangs are sized accordingly. For example, in our dining room we have an 8'x7' 6 tall window. This is the main solar collector for the home. With proper overhangs and sill heights, the shadow on the house during the low sun in the winter touches just above the top of the window, allowing full sun to pour into the home. (SHGC number is tuned to be .49 to enhance heat gain). Now that its summer, the shadow of the sun never climbs above the window sill.
these are ways you can help control the sun to gain how you want it. a lot of thought should be put into the amount of window, window types, glass types, and how you want to use them.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 11:29PM
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lzerarc- Thank you. It's those things we are concerned about but don't know how to figure them out. We are in central Indiana. I'm not sure if that would be considered a cooling or a heating climate. There are seasons here where we could use the heater in the morning and air conditioner in the afternoon. LOL

Do we also take into account that the property is surrounded by a mature wooded area on the South and West sides and also partially on the East side? Not all the way up to the house as we cleared several hundred feet for our yard.

I need to look at the links that nanj posted. Would you find those worthwhile in this venture?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 10:36AM
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Epiarch Designs

you can dig into the tools, however generically if you had a section of your wall all you really need to do is draw a line at about 75 degrees up from your window sill and another one about 35 degrees. These will get you in the ball park for sun angles in your area. Then extend your roof line out to meet the 75 degree line. This would determine the overhang to shade in peak summer times.

You are sitting in zone 5, so yes, heating climate. The west side shading will help the sun for sure, as long as it falls within the boundry of the shading however. Again, the angles and how close the tree is to the house will tell you this. If they are a ways away, they will not do anything.

But in zone 5, you have other energy things to consider since you are int he planning phase. I would strongly recommend exterior foam insulation in addition to insulation within a stud. Also consider increasing attic insulation. Zone for you is 38, but bumping up to 49 or better is typically a small investment (in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands) that will get you payback. Exterior foam will come with a higher cost, but again, payback. Now is the time to plan for it all. Too many people ask us the question on insulation upgrades when its too late (something already framed, siding already on, etc).
With increased insulation, you might be able to offset mechanical equipment costs for the house. There may also be incentives for efficient building in your area by power and gas companies. Look into those. My area for example there are about $6000 worth of rebates for Energy Star rated homes. This typically more than covers the added costs of the upgrades. And then you are left with an efficient home for the same cost as building code min.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 11:31AM
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I insisted on a lot of windows in our new home, and do not regret the decision at all. However, the best and most serene area of our house is the back, which faces west, and is where my kitchen and great room faces. There are a couple of things I would change now if I easily could.

Due to the fact that I have an 8 ft. window over my kitchen sink, it is difficult to come up with a window covering that will work. I do need to further explore my options, but have dragged my feet a little both because I got burned out with the build, and also because we have complete privacy. In hindsight, I would have put in a window that was no wider than 5 or 6 feet, to make it easier to find a window covering or sun shade that does not become too cumbersome or heavy to operate. I also can't make a curtain to pull across, since to clear the window completely it would put it too close to the range for safety.

Therefore, my advice would be to keep the windows if that is what you want, but do consider what window coverings are available that fit your style so that you can block the direct sun when you need to, and go from there.

It is also worth every penny to invest in good windows that are well insulated and have UV coating. The coating is clear on ours, so we don't even know it is there. Between keeping window coverings closed when we need to, having high quality windows, and good insulation in our home, we do not have higher cooling costs.

We have 8 foot sliding glass doors, and two of them face west. Despite the 8 foot porch all the way around the house, we do get some sun, and of coarse, the heat, into the house for a few hours in the afternoon. I just close our blinds on that side until the sun sets enough behind the woods to reopen them. In hindsight, I probably would have gotten standard 6 foot sliding glass doors, since I like the warm look of cottage style drapes much better than vertical blinds. It is easy to buy drapes for 6 foot doors, but for the 8 foot I will have to either make drapes myself, or have them made. However, the 8 foot doors let a lot more view inside.It is only for the ease of getting "standard" window coverings that I would have considered the 6 foot.

So....keep the windows and just take into consideration how you will control the heat gain. In the south, it's part of what we have to do in the summer here anyway, so I think nothing of it. Blinds are kept closed to the morning sun, and then they are opened and the afternoon sun is shut out. Because we have enough windows and sliding glass doors, it is never dark in the house, even with closing up what we have to.

I am glad I insisted keeping my windows despite what others tried to get us to do. I decided I didn't want "stuff" that needed a ton of wall space cluttering up my home, and the subsequent darkening of the interior. I have now pared down to what is necessary, and I get to enjoy looking at the outdoors when in my home, which I prefer rather than looking at "stuff".

My kitchen is a happy place in which to cook because I put windows in instead of upper cabinets. Upper cabinets make me feel closed in, and beyond the first or second shelf are difficult for me to access anyway. I wouldn't have it any other way. There are plenty of base drawers for things. What doesn't fit in there I still like, but is not really needed for everyday cooking and eating. The kitchen stuff I didn't want to part with, or still need like big stockpots, are in the walk in pantry, and whether to pare those down or not will be re-evaluated in a year.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 11:44AM
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Thanks, I will get this info to my husband. He's the more technical of the two of us. ;-)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 11:46AM
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Thanks Sandy - My kitchen won't have any windows which is another reason why I want to keep the bigger windows in the that the light will hopefully make it's way to the kitchen. I am also planning to go with white cabinets to keep things nice and light, although I know it's a gamble with young children and someone that cooks a lot. LOL

Good points on standard sizing. Ours are 3' wide but then I put a 6" space between so that would make them slightly over 6'. At this point (unless the sun is just horrible) I don't plan to put any window coverings up at all. If anything, maybe some sheer curtains.

I appreciate the input!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 11:52AM
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If you want to keep sun from coming in through the windows, your best bet is to keep it from hitting the windows by using overhangs, awnings or exterior window coverings. Blinds on the inside of the windows are not as effective because the sun and heat have already made their way into the house. This is especially important for east and west facing windows.

The back of our house faces due south. This picture was taken last year on the summer solstice. You can see how the overhang prevents the sun from coming in the south windows.

And here is the back on the winter solstice with the sun coming in through those same windows, except where the overhang is deeper over the deck. (The photo was taken a bit after noon because the sun was not cooperating.)

This is the east side of the house on the summer solstice.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 11:13PM
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Thank you for those pictures and descriptions!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 11:59PM
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Epiarch Designs

nice pictures, that is what I am talking about!
I have a few pictures of ours I can post up if you need additional photos.

The issue I have with blinds are: you pay for the expensive windows for views and lighting. Then you pay for expensive blinds to cover the views and light and to save energy, which really does not save anything as stated above. It all starts with correct design. Large windows are possible, but trade offs must be made if you want to control the sun. Blinds are the easy, after thought option that only solves some of the issues. (if privacy is your goal, why put windows in to begin with, depending on the space of course?)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 8:44AM
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Privacy is not an issue, thankfully. :) I personally don't want any blinds or window treatments at all. That's why I want to be sure about placement now during the design phase.

I would love to see more photos. :)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 2:54PM
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Epiarch Designs

You can read through my blog for more information on solar items. I am linking you to some window information and solar studies, but there is additional information and diagrams on some earlier posts in Oct 2011.

Hopefully this is helpful.

Here is a link that might be useful: sun studies

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 1:03PM
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    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 1:16PM
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If you love your view, keep the windows. You won't have the window coverings closed all of the time, so you will enjoy the view. Our two story great room faces due West and has two stories of windows on the West side plus two stories of windows on the North side. We have mature trees about 160' back from the house, so the sun only bothers us for about 2 hours, max, each day. However, we usually only close the blinds when it is excessively hot out because we just move to another chair, instead of closing the blinds, if the sun is in our eyes and it isn't too hot. We love looking outside. I regretted not having enough windows in our old house. I have never thought that we had too many windows in our current house, and it has a lot of windows. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 5:35PM
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Thanks Carolyn - Our current house is horribly dark and feels like a dungeon to me. We have one room with lots of windows and I try to spend most of my nonkitchen time in there. So I am really nervous about not having enough windows!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 6:46PM
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