Have you heard the myth about windows – that one of the best ways to improve your house’s energy efficiency is by replacing old wood windows with high-tech new ones? We hear it all the time, and it drives us nuts, because we know that in most cases it is just that – a myth. We know that new replacement windows take so long to repay the investment that they wear out before homeowners ever see the savings on their energy bills. We know that the materials these windows are made from, like vinyl, are environmentally damaging to produce. We know that old-growth wood is one of the best materials out there, and that to send it to the landfill is not sustainability, it’s waste.
But it’s hard to get that message out when there’s a lot more money to be made persuading homeowners to buy new windows than encouraging them to keep existing ones.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has produced an excellent new fact sheet that succinctly lays out the case for keeping old windows as a way to save energy and money. I can attest to that – when I bought my house six years ago, the windows either didn’t open at all, flew up by themselves, or were so difficult to open as to be nearly non-functional. For the price of about three replacement windows, I had all 12 of the double-hung windows in my house repaired by old-house expert Steve Jordan. In doing so I kept what preservation architect John Bero calls “the best windows you can get” – old-growth wood windows with good-quality storms. I also kept my house’s original design intent intact, saved a ton of money, and kept 12 high-quality wood windows out of the trash.
In addition to the National Trust’s pamphlet, take a look at Rehab Rochester, our “owner’s manual” for historic houses, which includes sections on window repair as well as many other common maintenance issues old-house owners (or any homeowner, for that matter) face.
Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator
9 thoughts on “Save Energy, Save Money – Save Your Windows!”
An excellent post. I had not yet heard about the NTHP Windows Tip Sheet-very good.
Your readers can get more help with saving windows over at the Historic HomeWorks Forum:
I wholeheartedly endorse preserving and repairing wood framed, double-hung windows in older homes, and I did so in my old house. Our new 1930s era house, however, presented us with a preservationist’s dilemma: to replace and suffer guilt or retain and suffer the heat, cold, and energy drain. You see, our new house had (note the past tense) metal framed, single paned casement windows. They were beautiful, but a disastrous design choice for a home in this region. We researched a bit but it seemed all resources addressed only wood framed windows.
It’s too late for us now (we pay penance for our replacement windows by maintaining our LS membership and advocating tirelessly for preservation!), but what advice would you have for other homeowners with metal framed casement windows in poor repair?
You’re right, most of the resources out there focus on double-hung windows. There are a few places I can point you to for information about casement windows:
1. Our Rehab Rochester book has a section on windows that includes some information on casement windows.
2. There is a Preservation Brief from the National Park Service on metal windows.
3. The City of Phoenix has a useful information sheet on historic steel windows.
There was a house on our house tour a couple of years ago with beautiful original casement windows, and they had recently had interior storms installed. It looked great.
Thanks for being a Landmark Society member! We are so appreciative of all the support we get from members like you.
Yes to all of it! Can this blog be published in a well-circulated magazine or newspaper? The information can’t be said often enough!
Can you share any names of window repair services in the Rochester area? I’ve had one quote where each window would be equivalent to the cost of a brand new wood window. Would love to get some other quotes. Thanks
Yes, there are two places over at the Historic HomeWorks Forum that list window specialists:
Window Specialists Clearing House, Available or Needed:
There are a few listed here, and you can describe your project and others may contact you.
Also, this listing has a few window specialists:
Some of those listed do work in the Rochester area.
Who did you get your first proposal from?
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I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great resource. Love reading it.
Window replacement represents one of the more substantial investments you can make in your home. The replacement of old or under-performing windows can effectively reduce your monthly utility costs and give your home a bit more curb appeal.
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