If you've always dreamed of living in a unique and energy-efficient underground home, you may be ecstatic to finally be taking the plunge -- literally. However, building an underground home can pose some challenges that aren't present with more traditional homes, particularly when it comes to installing windows (often the only part of your home with above-ground views). What are the best window options for your underground home? Read on to learn more about the factors you'll want to consider before making your new window installation selection.
What factors will you need to take into consideration when selecting your home's windows?
In order to be up to code, all the bedrooms in your home will need at least two methods of egress. This is generally accomplished by having a window and an interior door, although bedrooms with no windows but both an interior and exterior door can also suffice. When it comes to an underground home, this usually means locating all your bedrooms along the front-facing side of your home so that the windows can be exposed to light. Although installing windows near the ceiling may be an option for more submerged rooms, windows that begin more than 44 inches above floor level don't "count" for egress purposes, so you'll still need two methods of exit.
You'll also want to take ventilation into account when placing your windows. For example, locating your kitchen near the back of your home and away from windows could leave you without a way to quickly get fresh air if you leave a pan on the burner too long. You'll want to do your best to set windows directly across from each other at each end of your home so that you can create a cross-breeze for ventilation.
What are your best window options for an underground home?
Because underground homes are at least partially submerged below the ground's surface, they're uniquely energy-efficient. The surrounding topsoil can both insulate your home against heat loss in the winter and keep it cool during the summer, while also protecting your home from wind or hail damage. Choosing energy-efficient windows can save you even more money in the long run by improving your already well-insulated home's ability to keep climate-controlled air indoors.
Double-paned vinyl windows are one of the most popular options, as they come in a variety of sizes and even shapes (often necessary for an underground home's unique floor plan). Regardless of how you'd like the final product to look, you shouldn't have much of a problem finding double-paned vinyl windows that will fit your home. As the name implies, these windows have two panes, separated by a layer of gas that prevents heat transfer and makes them one of the most energy-efficient options on the market. Many double-paned windows can open from either the bottom or the top, allowing easy ventilation. Vinyl windows in particular are also very durable and should last for decades in your new home with only an occasional scrubbing with soap and water.
Are there any types of windows you should avoid when constructing an underground home?
One potential disadvantage of an underground home is excess moisture. Even if you take specific care to waterproof your home during the construction process, you may occasionally be required to use a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air and reduce the humidity level throughout your home. Because of this, choosing windows with wooden frames rather than vinyl may not be the best idea. Even if this wood has been treated, it may absorb water and swell, creating gaps around the edges of your window frame once this moisture evaporates and the frame shrinks back to its original size. These gaps will reduce the energy efficiency of your home by allowing in drafts of outside air.