To Window or Not to Window?
Below is my response to a post by Martin Holliday on the Green Building Advisor Web Site. See article here:
Basically part of the article states that it is really not worth it financially to get new windows because though they do save energy, you will not get 'pay back' for those windows during the life time of those windows. Something we hear regularly enough in the green building world. The recommendation is to basically just buy storm windows instead.
I understand every point that Martin is making about windows- I have heard it many times- but there are a few points that engineers never (rarely) take into account in the window replacement argument. (And I get that this is the engineer's job- cold hard data- and 'get a storm window' is the answer when you are just looking at the cold hard data of energy saving vs cost of new windows - both monetarily and in embodied energy. So fine- I get it.)
BUT, I am an architect and I am very pro 'window replacement' for the following reasons:
1. Good windows DO save energy and money. (Ok you don't get to full payback on energy alone.)
2. Good windows give you the actual feeling of comfort in a house- better than a storm does (believe me I live with both right this second.) You do not have the experience of sitting next to a very cold surface with a good new window.
3. Safety. Most old windows barely open. Add a stiff, hard to operate storm window (and we all know they are that way) and you double the problem. I changed the windows in the house I live in when my 7 year old was afraid of fire and kept asking me 'but how mommy- how can we open the windows and get out?' I looked at our crappy single pane double-hungs with their impossible storms (that, btw, no fireman could fit thru), and I put an ax next to my son's bedroom window and ordered new windows. Neither my son nor my 72 year old mother could open any windows in the house more than a crack when the storms are on in the winter, I can only open them a bit more than they can. We don't have the strength. There are THOUSANDS of houses like this in the U.S.
4. Aesthetics. Want to up the value of your house? Want to get some curb appeal? Try new windows. Yes some historic homes look way better with their original windows but most houses built between 1940 and 1990 would be greatly enhanced with decent windows. This may seem like a minor point to some but - hey - your house is your biggest investment. Re-sale is usually important. Windows often 'make' the house.
5. Leakage; Leakage DOES matter. Even if it is not as much as your attic or basement (Note also that one of the things on the recommendation list (above) is to have a blower door test and another is to insulate the attic ONLY AFTER sealing the ceiling below the attic - so it MUST matter right?) When you replace your windows you actually have a chance to do it right, kill much of the air infiltration and also stave off, or mitigate a lot of moisture rot. We all know that basically every house from the 50's and 60's with single pane windows is rotting at the sills as we speak - if they have not already been cobbled with trim, flashing and caulk 'band-aids' many times already.
Anyway- I know the point Martin is making about windows is valid- sort of- but I am so tired of the green industry telling everyone to not waste their money on new windows!! These 5 other reasons are very strong reasons to get new windows and I think we should all be taking a more integrated, whole house approach to our buildings. And speaking more carefully about getting new windows.
Also - curtains in the windows may not really help- by the numbers- for keeping your house warmer/ saving energy- BUT they sure do make you feel better in a room with those cold windows in the