Monday, November 9, 2009

Weather the storm

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Sadly it is that time of year again. Time to batten down the hatches, button up the house, and put the storm windows on. All of our house has new double pane windows, except for the solarium. Sixteen 107 year old leaded glass windows and no insulation. You bet your bottom it gets darn right cold in there. The windows have started to bow and warp and are anything but air tight. You can actually see outside on some of them! And I am not talking through the glass either. When it rains hard with a lot of wind, water comes in. Ah, but they are beautiful, add charm and are part of what appealed to me when we purchased the house.

Looking out without the storm windows on.

So, every fall I pull the storm windows out of the shed, drag out the ladder, prepare my bucket of water and vinegar and get to work. The outer windows only get washed twice a year; when the storm windows go on and again in the spring when they come off. I am lazy when it comes to this task, but not so lazy that I want to spend the next seven months looking through dirt and bird poop.

Heat loss through windows accounts for 10 to 25 percent of your home heating bill.[1] Windows are a major source of escaping heat since they provide a poor thermal barrier, with an R factor of only .89. They are also often not well sealed and let cold air in. Adding storm windows greatly improves both of these situations.[2]

Looking out with the storm windows on.

This window assembly—the single-pane window plus the storm window—has an R factor of 1.79, which is actually more energy-efficient than a double-paned window assembly that has an air space up to half an inch (and an R factor of only 1.72).[2] Your old storm windows may be more energy-efficient than you think!

If you don't have storm windows, an inexpensive option is to make your own storm windows by adding a clear vinyl film to the outside of your windows using a special tape designed for this purpose. This is a compromise, since vinyl is decidedly eco-unfriendly, but while you cannot recycle the tape, you can recycle the vinyl and use it next year.[3]

With & without storm window.

This side by side comparison was taken in the morning. The left window has an exterior storm installed; the right window does not. It is completely covered in condensation. All that moisture is on the inside. A darn good way to rot the wooden window frame!

While it is not a job I enjoy and the storms are mighty ugly to look at, I will continue to drag them out and put them up year after year. They conserve energy, reduce my heating bill, increase our comfort, preserve a historic aspect of our home, and add a creepy effect for Halloween!

  1. US Department of Energy - Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home
  2. US National Park Service - Conserving Energy in Historic Buildings
  3. Energy Boomer - Easy Add On Storm Windows From The Outside


Kelsie said...

Thank you SO MUCH for bringing up the fact that a storm + a single pane window is actually MORE energy efficient than a double pane window. I have a 102 year old Victorian, and it has every single one of its original, single-pane windows. The glass is wavy, the sashes are beautiful, the house would absolutely not have as much character as it has now were it to have vinyl replacement windows. These original windows have lasted 102 years--something I seriously doubt a vinyl window could accomplish. I have spent hours making the windows weathertight--reglazing, adding weatherstripping, realigning the sashes, etc. My house is warm, cozy, and full of beautiful, antique light. :)

I get so, so, so sad when people move into a historic home and immediately tear out all of the original windows--especially when they do it in the name of "going green." Sending all of that irreplacable virgin timber to the dump hardly seems green to me, nor does purchasing brand new vinyl windows which, undoubtedly, were NOT manufactured in an earth-conscious way.

Almost every old window can be restored to its former glory--very few actually need to be replaced.

If anyone wants TONS of info and help reworking their old windows, I'd go over to the forums at Old House Web. Those people are window fantatics!

Thanks again for a great post. Your original windows are gorgeous!

utahlawyer said...

You have the cutest house.

Daisy said...

This makes me think about our large living room and its windows. We need a solution; maybe this would be better than replacement with double panes. No matter what, we intend to maintain the character of the house.

Truffula Mama said...

Here are instructions for DIY interior storm windows:

Now, having this link and actually motivating to build said windows are two different things. But, we won't mention that.

greeen sheeep said...

Window quilts are another way to insulate your windows for winter. Like Truffula Mama, I have had the information for some time now, but have yet to implement it. We also add a layer of vinyl (Ack!) to the interior of our solarium windows. It isn't pretty, but it does help. We are able to use the vinyl from year to year rather than dispose it like the 3M products.


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