3 Ways Storm Windows Can Save Your House

Storm Windows

Image Credit: smithrestorationsash.com

Historic windows can be a real conundrum for some people. Sure they are a gorgeous part of every old house, but they can be a real energy waste if they haven’t been properly maintained and weatherstripped. But just because they aren’t energy-efficient now doesn’t mean they can never be efficient.

If you have the means to restore your old wood windows you should definitely do it. You’ll regain their functionality and beauty in addition to really upping their efficiency. But sometimes you can’t afford a full restoration of your windows. While restoration is usually cheaper than replacement it’s still expensive. Your best option is likely adding exterior storm windows.

 

With that in mind here are three ways that historic storm windows can save your old house:

1. Big Energy-Efficiency Gains

Most replacement windows today are double-paned glass units, and window manufacturers are quick to tell you to throw out your old single-paned windows and buy replacements. But you can get the same performance by adding historic storm windows to your original windows for a fraction of the cost.

At around $150-300 per storm window they’re well below the cost of a replacement window, and you get the energy performance of a new double-paned window.

Here are the facts: The addition of exterior storm windows alone can cut air infiltration by 64.3% bringing it below 2009 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) standards, which most of the US currently uses. Source: http://windowstandards.org. 63% is a HUGE leap in efficiency that’s not often accomplished in remodeling.

2. Protects Your Historic Windows

If you’re reading this I hope you are planning to eventually restore your historic wood windows. These windows are fantastic and there are so many reasons to save them. So, whether you have already restored your windows or it is somewhere in your future plans, adding exterior storm windows does wonders to protect your old windows.

Storm windows can dramatically extend the life of your existing windows. By keeping them protected from the elements, you minimize the regular maintenance that is required as well. Paint, putty and wood all will last longer and require less work when storms are installed.

3. Maintains Historic Character

Historic storm windows are extremely simple to add to your house. They don’t require any modifications to your existing windows. Historic storm windows fit in the same frame as your original screens and utilize the same hardware already in place.

While aluminum storm windows can be nearly as effective they certainly don’t fit the look of an old house. Historic wood storm windows fit right into the exterior elements already in place on your house.

And let’s be honest, if adding storm windows keeps you from tearing out your drafty old windows and replacing them with vinyl, they have done wonders to save the historic character of your house.

Whether you want to protect and enhance the efficiency of your restored historic windows or you need an affordable alternative to window replacement, storm windows are the way to go.

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by Scott Sidler

Scott is the owner of Austin Home Restorations, a company that specializes in renovating and restoring historic homes in Orlando, FL and the creator of The Craftsman Blog. When not working on, teaching about or writing about old houses he spends time fixing up his own old bungalow with his wife Delores and their son Charley.

http://www.austinhomerestorations.com

16 comments

  1. Bob Yapp on said:

    The war on historic windows now has a chance to be won. The science proves old and historic windows can be made as or more energy efficient than a disposable replacement window. Storms, as you say, are key. As co-editor, co-writer and founding member of the National Window Preservation Collaborative, I want to say thank you for this great blog and, as you did, encourage folks to arm themselves with the best practices and scientific data buy buying a copy of our not-for-profit book, “Window Preservation Standards”.

    • Thanks Bob! Your work on the standards book has given the rest of us preservationists a powerful tool to help folks understand why old windows are as good as they are.

  2. Mike in Philly on said:

    Our ~1895 Queen Anne has many windows where there are tracks made of copper on the vertical sides on the outside. I’m thinking they are guides where some sort of storm or screen was once placed. Any ideas just what they were used for and how? Was it an older and “original” feature, or some fad that came and went?
    Thank you.

    • Mike, more than likely what you’re describing is spring bronze weatherstripping in the jambs. If it is then it’s probably original and a great way to make your windows energy efficient.

      • Mike in Philly on said:

        I don’t think so; let me give a better description.
        The “things” are more like a U-shaped track and are quite sturdy. It looks more like what something would slide into, with the flat part of the “U” nailed to the wood and the two arms of the “U” facing outward. And they are placed exterior (with a gap) to the double hung windows. They would interfere with a traditional storm window suspended from above. The windows that have these do not have the “hooks” for a traditional storm window. There are 3 windows on one side of the house that do have the hooks for traditional storms (and matching storms found in the basement), and these do not have the “tracks”. But then again, there are also windows that have had “new” aluminum storms put on, so there is a real mish-mash of things that have been done to the house (as I assume is common with old houses with multiple owners and cash flow issues over the years).

  3. Kara on said:

    Beautifully said. This is what I also advocate. I think we are still in the minority, but hopefully others will begin singing the same song!

  4. Jon H on said:

    Scott – do you guys typically use any type of gasketing at the perimeters of your storm frames, or just friction fit them into the openings? I’m thinking of routing a groove in the back of the frames to receive a barbed weather strip that would compress against the stop (except at the bottom). Not sure if it’s really worth it though.

    • It depends on the climate. Here in Florida we typically just friction fit the storms, but in colder climates it makes sense to add a silicone bulb on the outside to get a good seal. Weeps holes at the bottom are by far the most important element to prevent the storm from trapping moisture and rotting though.

  5. Ana Maria on said:

    Good topic. The three concept is most valuable for us.

  6. Tamie on said:

    Where do you find the indoor storms. Just bought an 1876 colonial with 32 windows! With fuel oil running $1000 per tank and a tank a month during the coldest months, this is going to be a big ouch in my budget.

    • Tamie, check out Indow Windows. Submit your info and they will match you with a dealer in your area who can measure and install indoor storms for you.

  7. Dana B on said:

    If an 1865, 3’x5′ window is properly restored and weatherstripped, does it need a storm window to meet that of a replacement window? Or is the claim that historic windows can meet replacement window efficiently based mainly on the installation of storm windows plus weatherstripping?

    • Meeting the efficiency of a double-paned window is a moving target depending on which double-paned window you are comparing your single-paned windows to. Usually it will take proper weatherstripping and the addition of either an exterior or interior storm window to meet a double-paned window’s efficiency. Both of those can be accomplished at a lower cost than window replacement with the bonus that you save the home’s original windows.

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