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
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
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
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.