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WINDOWS: Storm Windows

Who doesn’t want to lower their energy bill? But those who own an older home can be facing money

literally flying out the window through those old, drafty single-glazed windows. Cold air leaks into the

home in winter, and the warm, heated air leaks out. In summer, it’s the cooled air that escapes, as the

hot, exterior air enters. It’s time to stop the seeps.

 

If you thought that storm windows are only there to protect your windows during a hurricane, think

again. Storm windows are a high-quality, cost-effective, and proven solution for insulating the home.

They significantly improve the interior comfort of the home by reducing air seepage by means of a

thermal barrier created in the air space between the storm window and the home’s window.

 

Studies show that installing storm windows can improve the energy efficiency of an older home by up

to 30%. They also have the added benefit of providing noise reduction, preventing pollution and insects

from entering through the cracks, and protecting valuable interior furnishings from harmful ultraviolet

rays. And if you live in a hurricane-prone part of the country, they can also save your life.

 

Although installing storm windows does not serve the same function as window replacement, it

certainly provides a cost-effective alternative that is worth considering seriously.

 

Storm windows do not replace your existing windows, and they do not require any modification of

the exterior structure — an important factor for those who live in a home where the windows add

character. Rather, they are an extra layer of window that can be installed on either the interior or

exterior of your own windows. They can be temporary, removable fixtures, or they can be installed

permanently.

 

Installing storm windows is a simple job that can usually be completed within a day using a drill,

screwdriver, and caulking gun. Obviously, it is necessary to accurately measure the horizontal and

vertical inside edges of the window casings and sash heights, and here’s where it gets a bit tricky:

because every window may not be exactly the same size, each window in the house has to be measured

separately.

 

In addition, the storm window’s frame must be properly aligned to the window of the house, and

requires a tightly-caulked seal around its edges. Window sashes must slide easily after installation. If

it’s an exterior storm window, there must be a small “weep hole” in the caulking at the bottom to allow

moisture drainage.

 

Although you can save some 15% of the total costs by installing storm windows yourself, be aware that

unless you are a very experienced DIY’er, it is a wiser to have them professionally installed, because

there are always things that can go wrong and eventually cause damage to the structure of your home.

Or, if the caulking is not done properly, you’ll either trap moisture in the space between the two

windows or allow air seepage into the home.

 

A huge variety of models are available, and describing all of them is beyond the scope of this article.

While your choice will be determined by your needs and budget, some of the most common features to

look out for are described below.

 

For a permanent solution, choose Plexiglas or laminated glass. While plastic panels are less expensive,

they can be scratched or turn yellow after a few years. On the other hand, this type of window is harder

to break. Additionally, the depth of the sash tracks will affect the storm window’s performance, as will

the construction of the locks and catches. The type of track you select will depend on your budget and

needs. The most common types are:

 

Double track — The inner pane move vertically

Double track slider — The inner pane moves horizontally

Triple track — Usually installed over double-hung windows. Each sash moves independently

Picture — Single pane window that does not move

Frame finishes are almost as important as the storm windows themselves, because they prevent

seepage. Frames are available in vinyl, aluminum, or wood, and each type has its good and bad points:

Vinyl — Energy-efficient and can be given the appearance of wood

Aluminum — Strong and light, but a bad insulator

Wood — Good insulator, but requires heavy maintenance. In addition, wood expands and contracts.

Interior storm windows are installed inside the home. They are energy-efficient and easier to install

than exterior models and, because they are inside the home, they cannot get damaged by the elements.

However, they must be physically removed from the window for ventilation.