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Windows add beauty and elegance to a home. But windows are also the black hole of thermal energy in a home. In cold and warm seasons you can lose a substantial amount of heating and air-conditioning through your windows. If you're interested in saving money on your energy costs, there are ways to make your windows more energy efficient.

You might consider planting trees or shrubbery outside your windows. This can help spruce up your yard and block a portion of harsh sunlight from entering the home. A little shade can go a long way in keeping indoors cooler. If you own an older home with wood-framed windows you might try replacing them with new ones. Modern materials such as vinyl and fiberglass provide much more insulation than wood.

Adding drapery and blinds to windows can have a huge impact aesthetically and practically. In the summer you should close your draperies or blinds on windows receiving direct sunlight. According to a study conducted at the University of Florida, medium-colored drapes with white plastic backings can reduce heat gains by up to 33 percent. And when drapes are drawn during the winter or colder months, you can reduce the amount of heat loss by up to 10 percent.

If you're building a new home, approach your window decisions from a greener perspective. First, window placement is not something to be overlooked. By placing your larger windows facing north and south you can greatly limit the amount of direct sunlight which enters the home. Also purchase windows with double or triple panes. This is more energy efficient and it can also help reduce noise pollution. When shopping for windows look for those with the "Low-E Glass" coating sticker.

The United States Department of Energy recommends windows with this special type of coating to keep windows insulated and protected from ultraviolet light. The government also has a designated logo, Energy Star, for products that offer distinct ecological advantages. And here's the real clincher, the federal government offers some tax breaks for those who want to invest in energy efficient windows.

Some states also offer tax incentives to make these type windows more attractive to buyers. Check with tax officials to get the specifics for your area.

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