Exterior shot of ECHO home, built by Team Ontario with JELD-WEN windows and doors, for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.
ECHO, built by Team Ontario, ready for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013.

“The triple-pane argon-filled technology selected for the glass for both our windows and doors certainly was a plus that helped our home rate well in terms of the energy balance and comfort zone contests.”
– ECHO engineers, Team Ontario

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 wrapped up in October, with Canada’s Team Ontario taking sixth place overall. The Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost effective, energy efficient and attractive. JELD-WEN Canada was pleased to participate as a Visionary sponsor in this dynamic project, donating energy-efficient windows and doors for the sustainable house that was constructed by the team. As the name “Solar Decathlon” suggests, the competition is composed of 10 contests. Team Ontario placed 1st in the coveted Engineering category, tied for 1st in the Energy Balance and Hot Water categories, placed 2nd for Affordability, and tied for 4th in Market Appeal.

Team Ontario is a collaboration of more than 100 students and faculty from Queen’s University, Carleton University and Algonquin College. The team conceived and created ECHO—which stands for Ecological Home—to demonstrate that the path for sustainable living for “echo boomers” is possible today. United by a passion to promote renewable energy and sustainable living, the team envisions a future where net-zero homes are commonplace throughout Canada and the world. “Net-zero” refers to a home that utilizes solar and energy-efficient technologies to produce at least as much energy in a year as it consumes.

The 940 sq. ft., $257k home includes a combined kitchen/living/dining area, master bedroom, bathroom and multipurpose room (i.e., second bedroom or office). The team first built the home in Ontario, then disassembled it, shipped it to California and then reassembled it again in less than nine days for the Solar Decathlon competition that began October 3, 2013, in Irvine, California.

JELD-WEN interviewed the team to learn more about their experience in the Solar Decathlon and working with JELD-WEN products.

JW: What were the most exciting, rewarding and challenging aspects of the Solar Decathlon competition?

TO: The Solar Decathlon encourages students to think sustainably and to incorporate smart solutions into everyday living. The biggest challenge was to design and build a house that could be shipped 3,000 miles, put together in nine days, and then taken apart in six! We were excited to show the 20,000+ visitors to our house the possibility of sustainable products and responsible design solutions. It was rewarding to finish 6th overall, with 1st place in the engineering, hot water and energy balance contests, and 2nd place in affordability. JELD-WEN played a key part in our success by combining superior products with excellent customer service when working with us. We are grateful for their support and hope their continued dominance in the windows and door market will lead to future partnerships as well.

With an energy efficient door, it is important to reduce or eliminate air leakage through the seals around the door frame.
Insulated JELD-WEN steel door with low U-Value and air leakage sealing that is low, even for industry standards.

JW: How was your experience working with JELD-WEN products?

TO: We received many compliments on our sleek black windows and a few curious visitors admired our modern looking metal-skinned doors. The triple-pane argon-filled technology selected for the glass for both our windows and doors certainly was a plus that helped our home rate well in terms of the energy balance and comfort zone contests. In the market appeal contest, where the house is judged on the value it gives to the homeowner, the affordability and durability of the aluminum-clad vinyl windows stood out.

JW: What are the most important considerations for you when choosing windows and doors for an energy-efficient structure?

TO: Our decision was based on three criteria: performance, affordability, and aesthetics. It’s important to have windows and doors that are selected appropriately to help maintain a consistent comfort level in the house. This means sizing and locating windows based on energy modeling, paying particular attention to size and orientation of the windows. Energy models help the team select the correct insulation level, the amount of solar heat gain required to reduce heating loads, and the amount of natural day lighting in the home. This is important to keep the house warm in the winter season and cool in the summer season. Without compromising performance, products must also be affordable to keep project costs down and to be accessible to more homeowners. Finally, it is also very important for windows and doors to be aesthetically pleasing. This might mean having various designs for the same technology (e.g., triple-paned, argon-filled, low-emissivity coatings) and offering various colors. In addition, engineers need to work in conjunction with designers to create marketable products that keep up with popular design styles. When these three criteria are combined effectively, adding energy efficient windows and doors adds significant value to a structure.

In part 2, we explore more in-depth information about choosing and using energy-efficient doors and windows, including benefits and challenges, and what qualities to look for in a good window or door.

Choosing Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

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