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Weatherization of windows

July 22, 2009
Wayne Avenue window

Now that's a weathered window!

The folks who sell those no-maintenance-required! vinyl windows are all over the Federal money for weatherization.  I am being inundated with direct mail encouraging me to rip out my old windows and buy new (see previous post).

A lot of windows with a lot of life left in them if maintained are going to end up in the trash, replaced with windows with a short life-span that will end up in the trash when the seals fail not-so-many years from now. The general consensus is that old windows are just not energy efficient; new is better!  (No, no!  Wrong — see this, or see below for excerpt/summary)

Oh, I quake in my boots thinking of windows like this fine one on Wayne Avenue being ripped out and trashed by one of those direct mail window guys.  About the blank eye replacement they will insert in its place.  Can we use the trick the police employ, where we invite window guys to come to a hotel ballroom where they can claim free baseball tickets, but once they get there  we’ll lock the doors behind them and give them a talking to about energy efficiency, storm windows, and old-growth wood windows in old houses?


Preservationists Take Heart

Our study of old windows showed that the energy savings are similar for a variety of retrofit and replacement strategies. Rates of return on investment for energy improvements are quite low when starting with typical or tight windows with storms in place, but are significantly higher when renovating loose windows with no storm.

The difference in annual energy savings between renovating an old sash and replacing it with a new one was very small–retrofits saved only a few dollars.

For preservations, the good news is that with a proper choice of renovation strategy and good workmanship, historic sashes can be almost as energy-efficient as replacements. Window renovators and homeowners can give more weight to comfort, maintenance, lead abatement, egress requirements, durability, ease of operation–and historical value–without sacrificing energy savings. For those of us who work with old windows, this is very good news indeed.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick Kraus permalink
    July 25, 2009 10:03 am

    Yes, but they cost too damn much to keep and rehab on commercial projects. Get the tax credit increased to 40% and we’ll talk!

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      July 25, 2009 10:04 am

      Commercial — okay, I will bow to your greater experience there, and additionally figure there is some professional guidance and expertise. But for the owner of a “vintage” home who has no clue, who figures new, double insulated MUST be better…

      And — wouldn’t you hate to see THIS type of window ripped out and tossed in the dumpster to be replaced by a “better” vinyl window?

  2. Nick Kraus permalink
    July 25, 2009 10:04 am

    Agreed, vinyl windows are the scourge of buildings. In fact I’d say bad replacement windows are the scourage, they can make or break a building’s aesthetic. For us, it’s usually the biggest sticking point, trying to get a good looking window that meets the Standards and won’t kill the budget.

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      July 25, 2009 10:05 am

      So we need a bigger Federal credit (if you want 40%, so be it!) AND quality, aesthetically-pleasing windows that are affordable and that a place like Home Depot would keep in stock. (Are you taking notes, Anderson and Marvin?)

  3. July 26, 2009 2:19 pm

    A few years ago, I needed to replace a couple of aluminum windows that had been put in the back of my house in the 1960s. I wanted to go with a bay or boxed window and I called a window company in the yellow pages that had “historic” in their name so that I might be able to get something similar to the sturdy wood sash windows that are in the rest of my house.

    The guy came over right away (which should have been a clue), and before I even had a chance to tell him what I do, he started telling me that really I should just replace all my windows because “you might as well cut a one foot hole in your wall for each of those old wood windows you’re losing so much energy through them.” Not wishing to spend my afternoon arguing with some guy in my driveway, I said, “Hmm, that’s interesting, I’ll have to think about it” and sent him on his way.

    But imagine I was a little old lady who just needed a window fixed and trusted this guy?

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      July 28, 2009 11:22 pm

      ELMalvaney (or shall I call you MissPreservation?): thanks for stopping by! I can imagine your conversation quite easily. I can’t even convince my own mother that old windows can be worth saving. And if your guy had started making vague promises about stimulus money for weatherization, the little old lady in any of us might have been intrigued at the idea of something for nothing! Hope you eventually found what/who you needed! [I was on a tour today and heard about an old house where the bay window is actually from the bump out at the stern of an old sea vessel (I”m sure there’s a fancy nautical term for that part of the ship, but I don’t know what it is…]

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