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Michael
Is there any way to make my old windows more efficient?

I recently bought a new (to me) house that was built in 1870. On the lower level of what appears to be the original section of house, I have massive two pane wood framed windows with wavy glass and weights inside the wall that hold them open. All the upstairs windows are newer vinyl as well as the additions. I doubt the windows are original, but they are pretty vintage and I think they add a really nice charm to the house, plus I don’t know if I would be able to find windows that size (and they would be expensive). The biggest issue I have is there’s barely any insulating properties. The window frames sit relatively loose in the window and don’t have any rubber or anything, and the glass is thin, although I wouldn’t want to replace the glass. I do have storm windows which will at least add another layer. 

I was wondering though if anyone ever did anything to make them more efficient? Like are the any special gaskets you can buy?

HandyAndyInMtAiry
Re: Is there any way to make my old windows more efficient?

Michael,

There are many things that you can do to increase the resistance value. We still have all the original glass and windows in our house. Our house was build a couple years after yours. Why are you wanting to replace the windows? I would never replace the original sash or glass. I have gone thru and rebuilt every window in our house. It does not take much work. You can true and square the windows. There should be a brass guide in each side of the track, and on bottom and top where the sash meets the jamb. If not, install it. Make sure that the sash meets correct at the meeting rails. I have replaced all the old pot metal pullies with more modern day brass with ball bearings. This makes the window glide more easily. Most of the brass guides in our window jambs were worn, so I replaced everything on each. We thought about things like IndoWindow for the interior, but they were really not needed after giving each window, sash and jambs a tune-up and replacing the glaze.

The value of a historic home lies largely in its historic features. Remove or cover those up and you destroy the value of the home.

This has got to be the most widespread mistake and my personal pet peeve. Historic wood windows are constantly being torn out of homes today and being replaced with inferior products.

Metal, vinyl, double-paned, triple-paned, argon filled, are promoted as the solution to a drafty old house. And I’m not going to lie, they work! What?! That’s right, they work. For a time these new windows are extremely efficient; however, they have a few flaws that make them a bad choice.

The first flaw is longevity. Many of these windows come with a 15, 20 or 30 yr. prorated warranty. That’s great, but what happens after that? Not that you’ll be in the house then, right? Just because you won’t be there doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

Your historic wood windows were designed when families planned to live in a house for generations. There are countless original windows in homes built not just in the 19th but 18th and 17th centuries that are still in service today! Properly cared for these windows can last indefinitely.

The use of old-growth lumber, which is more rot resistant than today’s lumber, combined with the simple design and function of most historic windows makes them extremely resilient. Historic windows are simple and everyone knows that the more complicated something is, the easier it is to break. Argon gas seals leak causing multi paned windows to fog up and fail. Spring tensioners wear out making it hard to open and close windows.

Aside from too much paint build up or a missing rope, historic windows don’t have any of these issues.

Secondly, removing your home’s original windows inevitably destroys the character of a historic house. New windows were designed for new houses. And while there are companies that make windows that look like historic ones they are still quite quite right. Lacking this major architectural element almost guarantees a lower resale price for a historic home. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking newer is better. On an old home, this is rarely the case.

More than likely, your windows are painted shut or rotting in a few places if they haven’t been cared for. Before you run to replace them, call a restorer to bring them back to life. Your wallet will thank you and so will your sense of conservation. Historic windows are a superior product so why replace them with an inferior one?

Historic windows need a couple things to perform as good or better than new windows.

First, they need to be properly weatherstripped. Next, they need to be properly maintained and painted when necessary to prevent rot or other issues. And lastly, you should consider adding historical storm windows to dramatically increase their efficiency. You can add these on the outside or even better the inside to preserve your home’s appearance from the street.

If you can do these three things, you will have windows that last centuries, retain your home’s value and meet even the toughest energy-efficiency standards today.

If this does not convince you. Let me know, and I will purchase the old glass that you have currently. I have plenty of new, "old windows" that I create that need old, wavy glass.

Andrew

Handy Andy In Mt Airy

Kristy
Re: Is there any way to make my old windows more efficient?

I agree with the above post.

ordjen
Re: Is there any way to make my old windows more efficient?

A properly weather stripped vintage wooden window with a well fitted wooden storm window, will equal the performance of all but the the most advanced new windows, and at minimal cost in comparison. From the stand point of energy savings, replacement windows have a TERRIBLE payback period, some as much as 200 years! Here is an interesting article about old window restoration: www.starcraftcustombuilders.com/windows.htm#.VNFCwsxv4pA

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