Improving Window Performance: Page 4 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

Benefits

  • Increases airtightness and insulating properties of window assembly
  • Protects existing windows
  • Improves comfort near window
  • Most storm windows offer convenient, easy operation of sash and screen 

Drawbacks

  • May conflict with historical codes or condominium regulations that prohibit changing windows’ exterior appearance
  • May interfere with existing window operation 
  • Fixed storm windows require seasonal installation and removal

Aesthetics

  • Low-profile and high-quality storm windows are often more attractive than standard triple-track storm windows
  • Often available in variety of colors to match existing windows

Tips & Cautions

  • Look for a specific term warranty (e.g., five-year) or a transferable lifetime warranty, because longer warranties are indicators (though not assurance) of more durable products
  • Unless venting is required at the top of the window, choose double-track storm windows with just one operable glass sash
  • If living in a condominium or historic district, check with authorities before proceeding
  • Follow manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. The low-e coatings used on storm windows are much tougher than the low-e coatings used in most IGUs, but some coatings may not be completely smooth, so a lint-free cloth is recommended
  • Keep weep holes in storm windows open at the sill to reduce condensation; keeping the most airtight layer to the interior of the entire window assembly reduces condensation potential
  • Check with manufacturer on the emissivity of the low-e storm window; the lower the value, the better the insulating
  • Consider how storm windows will affect egress (the ability to escape through the window in an emergency)
  • Use caution in combining exterior low-e storms with double-pane windows that have low-e or tinted surfaces, because the combination may produce temperatures high enough to damage the IGU

Cost

  • For average-quality storm windows, about $150 per window

Awnings

Awnings are attached to the house above the windows to provide shade. They typically have UV-resistant fabric stretched over metal frames, and can be fixed or operable. Some are fabricated from aluminum slats. Awnings block direct sunlight and glare from the window opening to reduce summer cooling needs. The greater the unwanted solar heat gain, the more cost-effective this retrofit will be. It is better to prevent sunlight from entering the home rather than try to mitigate its heat effects after it has already passed through the window.

Comments (7)

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.

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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