Living in an older home in New England has both its charms and its challenges. One major challenge is how to fix or replace old windows in your unique home.
Some of the windows in your home might be single-pane, and you can feel the cold breeze flowing in and the dollar bills flowing out all winter long. The rope and pulley systems in your windows seemed quaint and full of character when you bought the home, but as the ropes started to break and the windows became difficult and even dangerous to open and close, the quaintness soon wore off. There is no need to put up with inefficient and difficult-to-operate windows. They can be repaired or replaced without sacrificing the character of your older home.
How to Improve Performance in Windows
There are some short-term fixes you can use to extend the life of original or not very new windows in your older home. To improve the U-Value — that is, the insulative quality of aging windows — you can use storm windows. Our parent’s homes often had storm windows that were installed and taken down during the warmer months of the year. If you own an older home, you may still be doing this.
If not, you should consider it if replacing single-pane windows is not something in the plans for the immediate future. Storm windows have their limitations; especially if you keep them up all year, they limit your ability to open windows to get breeze flowing in warmer months, but they can definitely have a positive impact on your utility bills.
To protect the interior of your home from UV rays, there are special films you can apply to the glass. This protects skin as well as helping to keep furniture, carpet, and other furnishings and materials from fading.
There is no way around it. Upkeep of older windows is a lot of work. The sash that surrounds the glass is likely all wood, which means they need to be protected from the weather by paint or stain, and monitored for damage. Reglazing (replacing the putty that holds the glass in place) needs to happen every few years, a costly and labor intensive process. Rope and pulley mechanisms can be replaced, but again, this can be a costly and labor intensive project.
Installing New Windows That Perform Better and Keep the Character of Your Home
For better energy efficiency and less maintenance, your best option is new construction or replacement windows. You would use new construction windows if you are putting an addition onto your home, or removing and replacing exterior walls in the existing footprint of your home. But will replacement or new construction windows negatively impact the character of your old home exterior? Not if you choose the right materials and have them installed properly.
Characteristics of Modern Windows
Installing new windows has a number of benefits. First, the glazing that keeps the glass in place on the window is much more durable and has insulative properties. Many new windows have argon gas placed between the glazing, which helps insulate and also assists in UV protection.
In Massachusetts, the U-Factor of windows needs to be .30 or lower to meet modern energy codes. Another term to understand is solar heat gain coefficient, or SHGC. What does that mean? The lower the number, the higher the quality of the glazing which prevents sun radiated heat from entering the home. The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) provides ratings on these and other factors like air leakage and condensation resistance for new windows. Understanding energy efficiency ratings will help you choose the best windows for your home.
Today's windows are either aluminum clad on the exterior or they are fiberglass. These materials are more durable to the elements than wood. They come in different colors, different exterior casing profiles, to blend in with the existing aesthetics and architectural style of your home.
Older homes often have very unique patterns in the window grids. There are many different options to help match the characteristics and style of windows you are replacing in your home.
Installing New Windows
If you have rope and pulley windows to replace, you might be able to replace them with a larger window. Rope and pulley windows have a large, uninsulated pocket on each side of the window. When installing replacement windows, you can choose a larger size, and insulation will be added to increase energy efficiency.
You Have Options to Replace Windows in Your Older Home
Whether you decide to improve efficiency of existing windows or make plans for new construction or replacement windows, it is good to know you have options. The best path forward is to learn about these options and find a contractor with the experience and the craftsmanship to not just install the new windows, but work with you to match the character and charm that led you to purchase this home in the first place.