Is it necessary to completely replace windows? If you like the style of your old wood windows, but you want the energy savings of a multiple pane, there are options that don't necessarily mean ripping all your vintage windows out. If you don't want to go the full replacement route, you have several choices.
If your windows are in good condition, you can add interior storm windows. These are custom-made windows that fit inside your window frames. They may be made from glass, acrylic, or polycarbonate. (Careful with the acrylic and polycarbonate; both need gentle treatment to prevent clouding or scratching.) This can be an extremely cost-effective solution for vintage homes where window replacement is not desired or permitted because of architectural restrictions. Additional benefits include UV-protection, easy installation and removal, improved energy efficiency as well as a reduction in drafts and noise associated with single-pane windows.
Another possibility to consider is having the sashes removed and adding a second pane of glass with a spacer between the panes, then reglazing both panes. It's one way to preserve the look of that cool, old wavy glass in the original windows, too. It's not an inconsequential expense, but still less than replacing vintage windows. The downside is locating a company that does this type of work.
A similar solution entails removing just the sashes and having them replaced with dual-pane, Low-E sashes. Again, not inexpensive, but at least you will preserve the architectural integrity of your vintage home. A few national manufacturer's have remodeling kits that can be customized to meet the requirements of your older home.
Where historical accuracy is desired in older homes, check with a local historical society. They may be able to point you in the direction of specialists in your area who are qualified to do architectural restoration.
The trick of course is staying true to the house without going broke. Buy the best quality you can afford. Research your options, then shop around to get the best quality for your price point. If possible, push the envelope a bit. Aim for a high quality, architecturally correct window with the best R-value possible and an excellent warranty.
All new windows are rated by the NFRC for energy efficiency. An R-value is used to designate the efficiency of each window and is provided by all manufacturers. There is usually no R-value rating available for interior storm windows or reworked solutions provided by craftmen. You can expect more accurate energy information from major window manufacturers such as Marvin or Pella if they custom make your Low-E windows for your home.
Benefits include noise reduction as well as saving money on heating or cooling costs. Vintage homes, often built on the edge of town, are now located in the heart of the city. Reducing noise coupled with energy savings, will make your home more comfortable, pleasant, and affordable. Reduced condensation inside windows often inhibits growth of mold and mildew, and windows treated to minimize UV rays will protect draperies, carpets, and upholstery from beciming discolored or faded.
To get a little extra help, check with your local power company, city, and state governments for energy rebates, tax incentives, and neighborhood revitalization funding. You may find rebates for EnergyStar® products that are frequently approved for such programs.
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