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Community and Q&A

Building a “pretty good house” in Southwest Michigan

quinn2015 | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

My husband and I are in the blueprint & planning process of our post-frame barn home build; we are building in Southwest Michigan (zone 5A). While we are not a financed build and are not going all out Passivhaus or net-zero energy, we are planning on doing what we can afford using green and passive solar concepts for heating, air exchange units and to use Roxul insulation and Prosoco weather barrier. All of which my husband could describe in grander detail…think Martin Holladay’s “pretty good house” concepts 🙂

The problem I have encountered is finding windows that fit the bill. Does anyone have any suggestions on windows for this area? Naturally, we want the best window for the money (we don’t want all our money going to windows but don’t want to cheap-out either). Anyone with experience or knowledge in our area, I would love to hear from you!! Even if anyone has any ratings/specs they think we should look for would be great as well!

Any suggestions or insights would be greatly appreciated here and don’t feel windows are the limit of discussion.

Thanks in advance fellow GBA’ers!


  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    You might start by reading this article: All About Glazing Options.

    (And by the way, Dan Kolbert and Mike Maines get credit for coming up with the "pretty good house" -- not me.)

  2. drewintoledo | | #2


    I am in your climate zone and have been patiently collecting information and planning a build.

    You might enjoy the benefits vs. cost of the Intus eForte line of windows.
    I tried to find a comparable window produced in the US but couldn't find it. I started looking around and some of the other imports wouldn't even talk to me unless I was planning to spend $30+k on windows which isn't within my reach. My next choice would be thermotech which are made in the US (I believe MN) but the price and performance aren't equal to Intus in my opinion although I do like the integrated interior drywall channel for an easy finish.
    The Intus windows I will purchase boast an incredible u .12 (R8.33). This parameter is most important to me, but may not be to you. You might appreciate glazing with higher solar heat gain but the penalty is lower R value. The highest R value that thermotech offers is just north of R6. My patriotic bone still has me considering Thermotech but my goal is a high R value as stated previously.
    you need to understand window specifications from the link Martin provided, set your personal goals and shop around. I'd be interested to hear what you discover and decide on.

  3. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #3

    Brant: We installed the Intus windows Drew mentioned. Our pretty good house is in Maine, zone 6. The windows have been in for almost two years and we have been happy with them. Cost was surprisingly reasonable.

  4. Reid Baldwin | | #4

    I am in Southeast Michigan. We went with Inline Fiberglass windows from Canada. The specs were superior to what was locally available and, due to the exchange rate, the price was lower. My blog post about our windows is at:

  5. onslow | | #5

    Brant: I am in SW Colorado at 8000 ft and enjoying my Alpen 525S windows. Fixed are .15 U and operable .19 U The choice I made was based on best window for the money we had. Pricing I paid wouldn't be relevant as we had upgrades peculiar to the project. I can say I am greatly enjoying the wind resistance, sound protection and sunlight protection. Last night was -12 to -14 and I measured by center of glass at 54 with room temp of 69. The kitchen breakfast area is two side of nearly full height north exposure windows and I never feel chilled. Hopefully, you can find a rep as good as mine in your area of the country. The new 625 series is the replacement for the 525S and you will find many higher performance options on their site - ThinkAlpen. (And no, I am not an employee, I just like my windows.)

  6. quinn2015 | | #6

    Thank you to all whom have chimed in on this topic. At this time, I am truly impressed with the ratings of the Intus eForte window systems; however, the $6000 shipping charge begins to make the end cost out of reach, but they are still in the game. I am also impressed with the ratings of the Inline Fiberglass window systems and am reaching out to them this week. Thermotech (Canada), I am not finding a website for them at this time but have reached out to a dealer. I am awaiting quotes from Alpen but am not impressed with the customer service, as I have reached out three times with no returned call or email. I looked into Marvin Ultimate Casements about a year ago and am reconsidering them as well; while the ratings are not as impeccable as the European and Canadian brands, they have several options that do meet the parameters (U-factor of 0.21 to 0.22/SHGC of 0.17 to 0.39/VT of 0.39 to 0.48)) for various window orientations and ratings that are not too bad for an American window company. The window options and features are also nice luxuries. I am still struggling in finding the balance for our south-wall windows. I am not sure if I should go with windows that have a high SHGC (as I don’t want to bake us out of our large living/kitchen space) but don’t want to go too low and freeze with high heating bills. I have read and reread all the articles:

    “All About Glazing Options”
    “Choosing Triple-Glazed Windows”
    “Windows That Perform Better Than Walls”
    “High-Solar-Gain Glazing”

    At this moment, I have Intus eForte, Inline Fiberglass, and Marvin Ultimate Clad Casements in the running. I am also considering sticking with a higher SHGC for all windows: west (one window), east (one window), and north-facing windows (six windows) around the house, as the “High-Solar-Gain Glazing” tutorial made some valuable points. Still a work in progress!

  7. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #7

    Brant: We opted for SHGC of .49 for all our Intus windows. Our living area has a set of six windows that make up an area about eleven feet on a side. There's a three foot overhang that keeps mid-day, summer sun out. We never feel overheated. VT is .70. The Marvin VT numbers seem low. I'd try to find someone with them installed and see if they are too limiting.
    Having a good local distributor is perhaps more important than what window manufacturer you select.

  8. Reid Baldwin | | #8

    It looks like you are reading the right resources. The SHGC choice will likely be tied into the floorplan and roofline development. Whether or not high SHGC makes sense on south facing windows may depend on whether or not you are able to provide good summertime shading. It also depends on the percentage of the south elevation that has glazing.

  9. quinn2015 | | #9

    Any suggestions on a modeling program? I am working on the calculation (ratio) of south-facing window square footage to finished living space. Our home is designed as a 40x90 "all-in-one" two-story barn home (four corners, one roofline); garage, work/hobby shop, and living space are all under one roof. We have a small basement in the center of the home just for mechanical room and main floor plumbing access; the remainder will be slab on grade with radiant heat flooring. Primary living is one great room on the main floor at 1455 sqft and open above to the second floor of bedrooms and recreational living space. What ratio of south-facing window-to-living space is the most common; I have read as low as 7% and as high as 20-30%, and do I use just the main floor living square footage or do I include the second floor (or a portion thereof) because it is an open below/open above floor plan?

    We were not planning on southern overhangs because of this article: "A Contrarian View of Passive Solar Design":

    However, this puts it all back in question of ratios and how much SHGC to get the right balance.

    I would appreciate input from anyone who has either built this way or has any input.


  10. drewintoledo | | #10


    I am working with an Intus dealer from the East Coast and shipping will cost me around $500 for the Intus windows. I'm looking at 8 windows and 2 or 3 doors.

    Shop around. If you need more information on who I'm using I'll be happy to share.

    Here are some tools which will allow you to play with overhangs and the effects of shading on the windows:

  11. quinn2015 | | #11


    You noted $500; are you serious or was that a misprint? I would really appreciate the name of your dealer. I contacted Intus directly and am working with someone from headquarters out of Virginia. The windows are great but the shipping somewhat kills the deal! If we can get that lowered, we're in!

    And thank you for the SketchUp link too!!

  12. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #12

    Brant, I highly recommend BeOpt as an energy modeling program. It's a free download from the DOE, but I wouldn't be surprised if it goes away with the new administration: It's not too hard to learn and lets you play with various factors such as SHGC and glazing ratios.

    And talk to this company about Intus:

    You could also talk to this company, they sell a near-clone of Intus called Logic:

  13. drewintoledo | | #13

    Michael referenced the facility I am purchasing from, PerformanceBuildingSupply. Tell Alba that I said "Hello!".

  14. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #14

    I also strongly recommend Performance Building Supply. Alba and Jason came to our house and spent the morning showing my contractor how to install the windows.

  15. quinn2015 | | #15

    I called Performance Building Supply today and spoke for some time with Alba today. You are all correct; they are the nicest and most helpful people I have had the pleasure of speaking with in the last couple of years through this passive-building journey. I have no doubt in my mind now that we will be purchasing Intus eForte windows. Alba is looking over our plan and we will be going over details and choices here-forward. I will post more as we go! Thank you for the referral guys!!!

    -Leslie Q.

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