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By James Dulley, Published July 17 2009

Kitchen garden window makes room feel larger

Dear Jim: My kitchen has a window in the south wall. I like plants, so I am considering having a garden window installed. Will one provide much space and are there any specific efficiency features I should look for? – Carl M.

Dear Carl: The kitchen is the most common room where a garden window is installed. The moisture from cooking and washing in the kitchen is good for most plants. With a sink nearby, it is easy to remember to water them. Installing a garden window, even a small one, can make a room seem larger.

The amount of space you will have for plants in a garden window depends upon the size of the current window you plan to replace. Most manufacturers custom-size the garden window to the existing wall opening. The depth of the garden window and shelf for plants depends upon the specific manufacturers’ designs and their standard width/depth ratios.

Most of the same energy efficiency design features you would consider for a standard flat replacement window also are appropriate for garden windows. This includes the type of glass, frame and weatherstripping. Depending upon the design, some garden windows have a solid bottom, so its material and insulation value should also be considered.

Gardens window frames can be made of any standard frame material, but vinyl is commonly used for custom-sized ones. The hollow cavities inside the vinyl frame create insulating air gaps. Some companies fill these frame cavities with expanding foam for slightly higher insulation and rigidity. Wood frames are very attractive and provide strength and rigidity in the hot sun.

Many garden windows use hinged casement windows on both sides. Casement windows use a compression type of weatherstripping which provides a long-life airtight seal and good security. Some attractive wood frame garden windows use fixed side glass and a top opening vent. The glass bottom on these slopes down to provide a view of the ground beneath the plant shelf.

Gardens windows, just like standard flat windows, can qualify for the new $1,500 maximum federal energy tax credit. In order to qualify for this tax credit, the garden window must have a U-factor (primarily winter efficiency) and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (summer efficiency) of 0.30 or less. The window manufacturers should provide you with these certified energy efficiency test data.

The tax credit is actually 30 percent of the cost of the qualifying garden window not including installation costs. You mentioned “having the window installed”. Since the installation labor cost is not included in the tax credit and a custom-sized garden window is easy to install, try installing it yourself. If you run into problems, you can call in a professional.

The following companies offer garden windows: Jeld-Wen, (800) 535-3936 , www.jeld-wen.com; Great Lakes Window, (800) 666-0000, www.greatlakeswindow.com; Kolbe & Kolbe, (715) 842-5666, www.kolbe-kolbe.com; Milgard Windows, (800) 645-4273, www.milgard.com; and Simonton Windows, (800) 746-6686, www.simonton.com.

Dear Jim: The water at our house comes from a well and it is very hard. My electric water heater is 20 years old but does not leak. If I try to drain out the sediment to make it more efficient, will it start to leak? – Teresa L.

Dear Teresa: Twenty years is pretty old for a water heater, but not unheard of. The electric water heater at my own home is 23 years old and still going strong. Having well water can increase deposits in the tank.

With any water heater, you should drain a few gallons from the bottom of the tank at least every several months. This is more critical to the efficiency of a gas water heater than for an electric one. The sediment generally does not block and seal any leaky spots.


Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com