When window shopping, look for the NFRC label. You'll save energy and money.
Since 1989, the nonprofit National Fenestration Rating Council has offered the country's only uniform independent rating and labeling system for the energy performance of windows, doors, skylights and similar products.
Similar to EnergyStar ratings on appliances, the NFRC label boils down U-factors, solar heat gain coefficients, visible transmittance and air leakage into simple numbers.
"The U-factor is a measurement of heat loss," explained NFRC spokesman Tom Herron during a recent stop in Sacramento. "Heat is literally going out the window and a lot of money along with it. The solar heat gain coefficient measures the amount of radiated solar heat coming into the house; it's an important factor, too. A lower solar heat gain means less heat is coming into the house and it stays cooler in summer."
Consumers who want to keep their homes warm in winter and cooler in summer should look for low numbers in both categories. U-factors (also called thermal transmission) range from .20 to 1.20. Solar heat gain coefficients range from 0 to 1.0.
About 80 percent of North American manufacturers now participate in the voluntary rating system, Herron said.
"When the NFRC started, it was in response to the (1980s) energy crisis," Herron explained. "A lot of people didn't pay attention to windows. About that time, a lot of manufacturers made wild claims about energy savings for their products."
The NFRC ratings give consumers as well as builders and architects a standard of comparison.
"People are now a lot more interested in window ratings, especially with the advent of green and sustainable buildings," he added. "That brought this topic to the forefront."
Available online, the NFRC's certified product directory lists hundreds of products and their ratings. For more information or the directory, click on www.nfrc.org or call (301) 589-1776.
Make the most of early June weather. There's still time to plant some vegetables even if it's just a few tomato plants in pots. If using containers, choose one that's at least as deep as it is wide; they allow more room for roots. For tomatoes, choose a pot that's at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep; bigger is better.
Transplant seedlings for tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squash. Look for varieties that mature in 75 days or less.
From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, squash, sunflowers and melons.
Plant flowers for almost-instant summer color. Some to consider: Petunias, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, asters, celosias and salvias. When choosing seedlings, pick out annuals that haven't yet flowered; they'll put more energy into growing in size before producing blooms.
In early June, you also can transplant such perennials as coreopsis, rudbeckia, dahlia, coneflower, astilbe, verbena and columbine.
Feed the roses. After their initial big burst of spring bloom, they've worked up an appetite while depleting a lot of energy. Trim off the spent flowers (this is called "deadheading"), then fertilize with a balanced mix (such as 12-12-12). Water the bushes well before adding any fertilizer (that prevents chemical burns of the foliage). The application rate for most granular fertilizers is 1/2 cup per bush, worked into the soil lightly in a circle within 18 inches of the trunk.