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Storms plus renovation vs replacement

Our house was built in about 1913, in a simpler style on the footprint of the original--it burned--high-Italianate Victorian. You could call it a Colonial Revival looking back at Queen Anne. :) It has high ceilings, two staircases, lots of nice detail, 35 oversized leaky 8 over 1 double-hung windows with ugly ill-fitting uncaulked aluminum storms. All have working weights in the uninsulated pockets. It's a bit of a local landmark.

We must replace our heating system, which is grossly inefficient, and would love to go geothermal. In preparing for that, we are tightening up the house to reduce the BTUs required to heat it. We have added insulation in the cellar and attic which the insulation people think will reduce the BTUs by about 20%.

The question is, what to do about the windows. I described the house in order to explain why I am so resistant to vinyl replacement windows. We have prices ranging from Harvey Slimline Vinyl (ugh) at $15K installed to Anderson400/Marvin (very nice) at about $28K plus probably another $3.5K installation for a total around $32K. We also have a price for Harvey Tru-Channel white aluminum storms installed at $11.3K. To that we could add the cost of having someone disable the weights, insulate the pockets, possibly add weather-stripping, and install some kind of balance or friction channels, which I'm figuring would add another $3.5K for a total of about $15K. There is one more window quote to come in, which is a locally-made replacement window with wood interior/clad exterior that should be significantly cheaper than Marvin/Anderson.

My questions are these:
A)Do you think that the storms-plus-renovating method will result in a significant BTU savings, and if so about how much? (Our current window situation is probably closely equivalent to single pane.)
B) How do you think this would compare to replacement windows?
C) Do you think that "friction channels" will work in our kind of window, or would something else be preferable?

Re: Storms plus renovation vs replacement

I did a lot of research on windows a couple months ago. What I learned is that you can oftentimes make older windows nearly as energy efficient as new windows by adding good storm windows and by weather-stripping. You might also consider replacing the window weights with spring balances so you can insulate the window weight pockets. There are also specialty glass companies who will replace your single pane glass with double pane glass if you want to go that route, too. (You might not need that with good storms.) Good quality new windows would certainly be energy efficient but it might be hard to make them blend in nicely with your vintage house.

Before you make up your mind you should know the condition of you existing windows and frames. Are they just leaky or is there any rot? Are the frames square? It will be hard to make them nice and tight if they are racked. If the windows and frames are in good shape (or can be repaired) then they are good candidates for adding the weather-stripping (and other insulation) and storms instead of replacing them.

Single-pane clear glass has a heat transfer coefficient of about 0.9 BTUs per hour per square foot per degree Fahrenheit. Low-e coated double-glazed glass has a heat transfer coefficient of about 0.3-0.4. Single pane glass loses heat over twice as fast as the low-e double glazed. But storm windows will help reduce that overall number.

Here are a bunch of articles I found that should be useful:
Airtight Windows in 9 Steps – Use a weather-stripping kit to make older windows airtight.
Installing a Storm Window
Insulating around a window between the rough opening and the frame – see step 8
Insulating Window Weight Pockets
Invisible Sash Balance Hardware
Replacing Sash Weights with Spring Balances
Sealing Around Windows

If you do go with new windows make sure they install them properly.
Installing a Window
Installing a Window
Installing Interior Window Trim
Installing Replacement Windows (inserts)

I have not heard the term "friction channel". What is that... a jamb liner?

Re: Storms plus renovation vs replacement

One thing to remember, replacement windows are window boxes that fit in your existing window box. So the replacement windows would actually be 1½" to 2" narrower and shorter than the original.

Besides the suggestions above, you can also buy replacement sashes and spring balances that would be nearly the same size.

Re: Storms plus renovation vs replacement

Our windows are not rotten. All except perhaps one or two currently move up and down easily, so if they are out of square it isn't dramatic.

I just recently saw something about "friction channels," and they would appear to be vinyl liners. (Since our windows are white, they would probably look okay, and they appeared to be significantly easier to install than the alternatives, possibly cutting the cost.) We had earlier been told about spiral balances, but they cost $50 per window, I've read that they are very high maintenance, and the window guy who initially suggested them said that they "wouldn't work" for our windows. (Why, I don't know--my H talked to him.) Spring balances are yet another alternative, I gather.

Thanks for all the articles: I'll delve into them!

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