Most of the energy wastage in old buildings is usually associated with overdue maintenance. In fact, reports suggest that as much as 25 per cent of heat loss occurs through windows and drafts, which can be easily managed with proper and timely repair, improvements, or energy-efficient window replacement. In comparison, 35 per cent of heat loss occurs through the walls; 25 per cent through the roof; and 15 per cent through the floor.
When it comes to repairing old windows, replacing them with energy-efficient ones and installing storm windows, many designers, contractors, and architects agree that each solution is unique and right for different situations. However, leaky windows that have been in place for over 30 years should definitely be replaced.
Energy-efficient window replacements feature new technologies that offer significant savings in energy bills over time, along with incredible durability, beauty, customization, low-maintenance, and even lifetime warranties. You can choose from a wide range of shapes and styles to suit your needs, from single- and double-hung to casements and awnings, and everything in between.
But the extent of any home improvement project largely depends on your budget. If you think that it is too soon to install energy-efficient windows replacements in your home, or if your budget does not allow it, you can still make your current old windows more energy efficient in the following ways:
Addressing simple maintenance issues can significantly reduce heat loss and improve the efficiency of your home. You should start by accessing your windows to identify any air leaks, cracks in the frames, windows, and joints, and any other signs of damage.
The type of window frames you have can be the biggest cause for energy loss. Many old windows feature wooden frames that are actually good insulators. The only problem with timber is that it is susceptible to weathering, insect damage, and decay.
Identify the damaged areas in your windows that can be fixed, and replace any severely damaged sections, such as infested frames or damage that allows precipitation to settle on the window frames. Check the condition of the paint, varnish, and other treatments, and reapply them if need be. You should also consider splicing techniques to reduce the incidence of dampness and decay.
Consider adding weatherstripping or caulking to seal tiny cracks and gaps around the windows. Caulk is particularly useful for sealing cracks that are less than .25 inches wide on the non-movable parts of the window (such as frames), while weatherstripping can be used to fix leaks on the movable areas of the window without interfering with their ability to open/close properly.
After performing basic maintenance and ensuring that there are no gaps, leakages, or cracks in the windows, you should consider other strategies to improve their energy efficiency. Common options include:
- Double or triple glazing: Double- and triple-pane windows are obviously more efficient than single-pane windows. They are even more effective when argon gas is filled between the panes, helping to keep warm air in and cool air out. However, changing the window panes in your entire house can be a rather costly endeavour, and it would be more cost effective to replace the windows with new energy-efficient windows.
- Tinting: For very old windows, something as simple as tinting the windows can dramatically improve the comfort level of your rooms by filtering out unwanted radiation and heat. However, this option can limit your view of the outdoors, meaning that only the less visible windows can be tinted.
- Installing insulating shades: Tight-fitting insulating shades can be applied on the windows to prevent cold drafts and heat loss. These soft covers are usually more effective when installed after weatherizing.
- Installing window films: Consider using heat shrink plastic film to seal each individual leaky window. The film should be cut for each window pane, attached using double-sided tape, and a hair dryer used to shrink the film and eliminate wrinkles. For greater energy efficiency, you can also apply Low-emissivity (Low-E) coatings to the windows, though this option is more expensive.
- Using appropriate window treatments: With the right shades and curtains, you can effectively control the amount of light getting into your home, and also act as a buffer between air flow in drafty windows and your rooms. Studies suggest that curtains can reduce heat loss by about 25 per cent.
- Adding storm windows: Both interior and exterior storm windows can be added to your existing windows to help reduce airflow and improve insulation. They are easy to install, protect the main window’s insulation, and also help to reduce noise. Unfortunately, storm windows also require special maintenance, and need replacement every two to three years, so they could be costly as a long-term solution.
Leaky windows can be expensive for homeowners, but these strategies can help to improve their efficiency in the short-term. For long-term savings, you should consider energy-efficient window replacement. Although high performance windows require a substantial initial investment, they offer great return on investment in the long run due to improved energy efficiency, better climate control, low maintenance, better light control, and noise reduction, among other merits.