Improving energy efficiency
Older windows can be a source of significant heat loss and gain in winter and summer, but replacing them with new, energy-efficient windows can be significantly expensive. Homeowners who are not ready to invest in new windows can curb energy loss by improving the efficiency of existing windows.
Begin by checking for air infiltration or leakage around the window frames. Windows that no longer have a flush, gap-free installation can allow hot or cold air to flow freely into or out of the home. A careful inspection can uncover gaps and cracks that allow warm or cold air to leave or enter the house. One method for detecting gaps between the sash panel and the window framee is to shut the window on a piece of paper. If the paper that pulls out without tearing, the window is no longer airtight and leaks energy.
Air leaks can be corrected inexpensively with weather stripping and caulk. Installing new weather stripping seals the area around the windows, while caulking fills holes and cracks in places where different building materials join. These two materials usually pay for themselves within one year of application.
Silicone, latex, acrylic latex silicone blend and butyl rubber caulking are all useful for filling holes and cracks. First, any old caulk or sealant must be removed with a putty knife or solvent to allow the new caulk to adhere properly. The new caulk should be applied to joints in the frame and the joint between frame and wall when outdoor temperature exceeds 45 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity is low.
Weather stripping consists of narrow strips of vinyl, metal, rubber, foam or felt that are installed around the frame to seal gaps. Pressure-sensitive, adhesive-backed foam is inexpensive, easy-to-apply and can last one to three years. Reinforced foam, attached to metal or wood strips, works well against air infiltration produced by wind gusts, but it can be difficult to install.
Another easy method of preventing winter heat loss and summer heat gain is the installation of insulating shades, shutters and heavy, lined drapes. Homeowners might want to consider folding fabric shades made of cells specifically designed to trap air. These shades provide excellent insulation.
Installing window films
Window films are another easy-to-apply, cost-effective way to reduce energy loss. Some films reflect sunlight, blocking heat transmission into the home, while others prevent interior heat loss. These films also protect furniture, carpets and wood surfaces from fading from UV rays. The films are available in a number of appearances from reflective, mirror-like finishes to darker tint to those that are completely transparent, which leaves exterior views unaffected.
Films are generally made of polyester or thin plastic applied to the window's interior by homeowners or glued to the surface by professional installers. Tinted window films admit less light than other types of film, which may increase the need for artificial lighting.
Reflective window films contain a metal oxide coating that blocks sunlight and creates a mirror effect outside during the day. Low-emissivity window films, on the other hand, admit certain portions of visible light and block others. Their metallic coatings can be adapted for either heat resistance or heat retention.
Installation typically involves cleaning the window thoroughly, spraying it with a special window film solution, cutting and fitting the film and removing air bubbles. The application itself is not difficult, but it requires time, patience and a steady hand. Removable or static cling window film is usually easier to install than films requiring adhesive.
Adding storm windows
Storm windows block air leakage from the home and add another layer of insulation by trapping air. They also muffle noise, extend the life of window seals by protecting exterior-facing window components from the elements. Storm windows are available for exterior or interior installation and the installation can usually be completed in a day or less.
Exterior storm windows are more difficult to install than their interior counterparts. They require a drainage hole for moisture escape, and heat will seep out of this opening. Since exterior storm window materials must be durable to withstand outside conditions, they cost more than interior windows. Exterior storm windows are often aluminum triple-track models featuring two double-hung window sashes and tracks in addition to a third track with screen. The price generally begins around $70 per window.
Interior storm windows are useful for homeowners who do not want to spoil the exterior appearance of a historic home. These inside windows are the only option for windows that open out. They are more energy efficient than exterior storm windows because of the tight seal they form with the existing window. The price varies with frame material and size but typically starts around $40 per window.
Most storm window frames are made of vinyl, aluminum or wood. Vinyl is lightweight and inexpensive and provides good insulating properties, but it can be susceptible to warping in extreme heat or cracking under cold conditions. Aluminum is also lightweight and affordable, but less durable than vinyl. Compared to other materials, aluminum offers poor insulating qualities. Wood windows are good insulators, but they are more expensive and require more upkeep.
Older windows that are drafty, sagging and refuse to open often suffer from lack of maintenance rather than poor workmanship. Windows made a century ago are often constructed of hardwood and will function almost indefinitely with a little maintenance every few decades.
Sometimes windows are merely painted shut. In these cases, the homeowner may break the bond between casing and window sash by making several light passes over the seam with a utility knife. Inserting a putty knife blade into the seam and working it around the sash will separate the paint from the window.
Cracked and missing pieces of glazing, the hard sealant lining the outside of the glass, are common in older windows. In these instances, homeowners should carefully pry loose the old glazing with a utility knife, clean with a putty knife and apply new glazing with a glazing tool. Oil-based primer should be applied after one week of temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Broken rope pulleys in window frames are another problem owners of older homes face. Replacing the rope involves removing the sash, detaching the old cord from its weight, attaching a new cord of the same diameter and reinstalling the sash. The window stops must be reattached with finishing nails, and touch-up paint may be required. Properly maintained, rope and pulley systems are more durable than many modern spring methods and should last for many years.
Video: Window Restoration is an Alternative to Replacement Windows
Depending on the problem with the window, it may be a better option to call a glass repair specialist rather than a window repair contractor. It's an unfortunate experience to have an intruder break into your home via a glass window or found an errant baseball or stone has chipped or cracked a pane of glass, but a glass repair specialist can quickly repair the damage and resecure your home from the elements.
Check out some of these common glass repair projects:
1. Glass pane replacement
Whether it's a large pane of glass in a picture window or a smaller panel in a French door, replacing a single pane of glass is often much less expensive than replacing an entire window.
2. Cracked, chipped or scratched glass repair
If a panel of glass has become cracked or chipped, it's not always necessary to replace the entire pane. Special compound glass epoxies can be added to fill in the crack or chip and then buffed out to an almost seamless repair.
Scratched glass can also sometimes be given an improved appearance by buffing out the scratches with a rubbing compound and buffer
3. Preventing condensation or fog in windows
As double- or triple-paned windows age, they invariably break down and lose their ability to keep an airtight seal between the panes. Often the result is a build up of condensation or fogginess inside the window due to air infiltration. Glass repair and window repair specialists can remove this condensation and then reseal the window panes and glazing to help a homeowner forgo the cost of replacing the entire window.
4. Rattling or buzzing windows
Windows that rattle or buzz with passing traffic or loud music indicate the glass panels have come loose from the sash or frame. A glass repair specialist can resecure the pane in its frame by adding a new layer of sealant or caulking.
During nicer weather when windows are open, window screens allow cool or warm breezes to flow naturally through the home while also preventing bugs or debris from entering the home, too. However, these screens, usually comprised of metal, fiberglass or plastic, can start to look faded, dingy or distressed over time.
One of the easiest ways to refresh a worn out screen's appearance is by gently cleaning it. If your screens seem to have accumulated a large amount of soot, fine dust or grime, going over them carefully with a brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment can wipe away the unattractive dirt.
Other screen problems, such as holes, rips and tears, or sagging or buckling screens can often mean more extensive repairs are needed. For holes, rips and tears, many retail hardware stores offer screen repair kits that come with patches that can woven into the damaged screen to cover the void.
Whole screen replacement kits are also available at most retail hardware stores. If your window screens are significantly damaged or need to be replaced entirely, buying a roll of plastic, fiberglass or metal screening, the right kind of gasket and a screen repair tool is can be a low-cost and relatively easy fix for most homeowners.
However, if you're not interested in DIY repairs, there are contractors available who specialize in screen door and window repairs. If a specialty contractor doesn't exist in your market, consider hiring the services of window repair or restoration contractor.