Improving Window Performance: Page 3 of 8

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Improving Window Performance
Shades, shutters, films, quilts, and more can give your old windows improved energy performance without breaking your budget.
Installing window films
Installing window films without leaving bubbles can be tricky—it’s usually a job best left to professionals.
New window putty
New window putty helps seal a window pane and minimize air leakage.
Fitting exterior storm windows
Fitting exterior storm windows in preparation for colder weather is often a rite of fall.
Operable awnings - open
Operable awnings can provide summer shade, yet be retracted for winter solar access, wind protection, or to avoid snow accumulation.
Operable awnings - closed
Operable awnings can provide summer shade, yet be retracted for winter solar access, wind protection, or to avoid snow accumulation.
Hinged shutters
These hinged shutters also have adjustable slats to let in some light and view.
Roller shutters
Roller shutters can provide effective shading and some ventilation.
Installing an interior glazing panel
Interior glazing panels are an inexpensive way to boost a home’s energy performance without compromising its architectural integrity.
Quilted window covering
Quilted window coverings and their valances can provide an attractive method to reduce heat loss through windows.
Insulated cellular shades
Insulated cellular shades contain multiple layers that produce a honeycomb-like structure that can add from R-1 to R-4 to a window’s thermal performance.
Improving Window Performance
Installing window films
New window putty
Fitting exterior storm windows
Operable awnings - open
Operable awnings - closed
Hinged shutters
Roller shutters
Installing an interior glazing panel
Quilted window covering
Insulated cellular shades

When to Consider

  • Preserving the appearance of existing windows is a priority
  • Exterior storm windows are already in place
  • Existing windows are drafty
  • In cold climates, when eliminating drafts is a priority

Benefits

  • Saves energy
  • Improves comfort
  • Restores window operation at a reasonable cost
  • Maintains aesthetic of existing windows

Drawbacks

  • Does not reduce solar gain or conductive heat loss through window
  • Usually requires specialized contractor

Cautions/Tips

  • Lead paint may be present; follow lead-safe repair practices
  • Make sure that operability of windows is not harmed

Cost

  • Average: $200 per window (2.5 ft. by 5 ft.)

Exterior Storm Windows

The oldest strategy for improving a window’s energy performance—used by Thomas Jefferson more than 200 years ago—is to add storm windows on the outside of the existing windows. A fairly recent development is the availability of low-emissivity (low-e) storm windows, which have special transparent coatings that reflect heat back into the house.

Exterior storm windows can be fixed, requiring seasonal installation and removal; triple-track, which have moveable upper and lower sashes, along with a moveable screen; and double-track, in which only the lower sash and screen are operable—significantly reducing the crack length and air leakage, compared with triple-track. Most exterior storm windows are aluminum; higher-quality ones are available with a durable anodized finish. Fixed storm windows are often made of wood.

When to Consider

  • Existing windows are in good shape but have poor energy and thermal comfort performance
  • Integrated screens are desirable for keeping insects out
  • Protecting existing windows from the elements is important
  • In cold climates, where existing windows are single-glazed or double-glazed but lack low-e coatings

Comments (8)

Edgar Zeitler's picture

Quick overnight response from these folks to my email inquiry about vertical blind slats.

Edgar Zeitler's picture

A very interesting product indeed, the videos on their website are informative. Just requested a quote for their vertical blind slats.

Robert Crosby's picture

I didn't see mention of a product called "solarize inflector", which looks interesting. It appears to be a reversible window insert that either passes or rejects radiant heat flow depending on which way it is turned.

Wondering if anyone here has experience with this product. Their youtube videos look impressive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4Y...

Michael Welch's picture

Seems like a brand new product that might not even be available yet. The product's web site sure doesn't work.

Edgar Zeitler's picture

While living in Maryland I covered half my windows in each room with aluminum screen frames covered with clear heat shrink. The rest of the windows were covered with 1" styrofoam panels. Both installed inside. Really reduced heating costs even tho my windows were all double glazed with low E treatment. Easy to store between use.

Fred Golden's picture

The 1" styrofoam will reduce heat gain on a sunny day, and yes reduce heat loss at night, or in the mornings/evening when there is no sunlight coming into the window. At the same time, not having daylighting can increase the use of interior lights and that can increase the electric bill.

So some sort of night time only shutters, or styrofoam installed each afternoon, and removed during daylight heating times would improve the heat gain while reducing heat loss.

My sister's home in Phoenix AZ has screens on both the opening and fixed windows. This reduces sunlight hitting the glass, and thus less heat gain to the windows. Air can still circulate to remove any built up heat between the screen and glass. She would benefit from styrofoam covering the windows, yet it would give a "Cave" like feeling too. She would rather have more daylight and higher A/C bill.

The electric shades also look very promising. I know people who have them installed on motorhomes, and there is a wind sensor that brings them in at 15 MPH winds to avoid damage to the awnings.

IndowWindows's picture

Thank you for this informative article! There are so many other options than window replacements and I hate seeing those beautiful old windows go into landfills. Alternatives are more eco-friendly and can be just as efficient as a replacement. Save those historic windows!

samuel chamberlain's picture

One option which is not mentioned is the use of bubble wrap , this of cause is only suitable for out buildings or where the need for improved performance out weighs aesthetics . whilst it can be stuck to glass with water I have found that fixing to the frame is better as this cuts down on air leakage . The bubble wrap can be ripped/cut in case of emergency exit .

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