Don’t Discriminate Old Windows. It’s Not Fair.

Divided LightYour older home has leaky, drafty, inefficient wood windows that need to be replaced to save you money and be energy efficient, right?

Wrong! Saving your old windows can be one of the best things you can do for your home. Window manufacturers beat their chests, boasting huge energy savings and environmental responsibility in replacing your old windows. In most cases, your old windows will perform just as well, if not better than replacements with a little bit of TLC. Here are some common myths and the truth about replacing your old windows:

Myth 1: Replacement windows are more energy efficient and environmentally responsible – Many window manufacturers will tell you that their new windows will save you money, and yes, you may save on your heating and cooling bills. However, that does not outweigh the cost of the replacement windows. A cost you will not recoup for those energy savings for at least 40 years.

Truth: You can save that money each month by repairing and properly weather stripping your old windows. (MUCH CHEAPER than replacing!)

Truth:  The amount of energy that went into manufacturing the new windows, the raw materials, and the transportation and shipment, multiplied by two (the original windows also went through the same processes) means keeping the old windows will save much more money and embodied energy.

Myth 2: New windows are “guaranteed” and “maintenance free” – The manufacturer will promise a 40% energy savings and a “lifetime” guarantee on their windows or your money back.

Truth: What this really means is that if they don’t save you the promised 40% on your energy bills, the most they will refund is $500.

Truth: The “lifetime” guarantee, on average, will protect the glass for up to 20 years, the installation for 2 years, and other components for 10 years. These guarantees apply ONLY IF the company is still in business.

Truth: New windows may be easier to clean, but “maintenance free” actually means they cannot be repaired at all. So if the window fails, that means another replacement!Old-Windows_Oct2012

Myth 3: Replacement windows will not leak – Manufacturers say that the new materials (aluminum, vinyl, or even wood) used in replacement windows will prevent air escaping or coming in.

Truth: Your old windows (if constructed pre-1940) will most likely be made of old growth hardwood. This wood is extremely dense, and virtually impossible to find today. This wood provides a strong seal against drafts. If you have storm windows, this provides a pocket of air to serve as insulation, eliminating the need for double pane windows.

Truth: The original windows were constructed to specifically fit the opening. The wood has expanded and contracted over the years making a tight seal for the opening. Putting in a stock sized replacement will guarantee space around the window opening, making extra seals necessary, and leaks more likely. Not to mention the window trim will not match the existing trim in the house.

Myth 4: Replacement windows will last longer – The replacement window materials are toted as being virtually indestructible and guaranteed to last.

Truth: Most replacement windows will fail within 20 years of installation. The windows are comprised of one solid piece, so that if any of the components fail, the entire unit needs to be replaced.

Truth: Old windows are made from many individual pieces, making it easy to repair the piece that failed. Not to mention giving business to local window repair specialist and helping to boost your local economy.

What did we learn?

Historic windows are made of old growth hardwood, a dense and impossible to find wood that is irreplaceable. If maintained and properly repaired, your old windows will be more energy efficient than a replacement, and they will last much longer.

Utilize the storm windows to give your home natural insulation. This will help the windows perform better than replacement windows.  Air is a great insulator and the space between your older window and properly installed storm window is more efficient than you might realize.

The replacement window manufacturer’s guarantees are not what they seem – read the fine print.  You may end up spending more money in the long run to maintain your windows and waste an incredible amount of energy doing so.

You can obtain the same amount of energy savings by taking care of your historic windows. Weather stripping and sealing costs significantly less than replacing, and will end up being more energy efficient! Be nice to the windows in your historic home and they will treat you right.

Next up:  A Few HOT Points on Heating Systems (see what I did there?)

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