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