A Common Sense Look at Windows

Windows are the first things you see when you enter a room. If the curtains are open, the outside world becomes a presence in the room; if drawn, then our atmosphere is confined to inside our homes. 

Windows provide security, views, warmth, ventilation, and mood. The care and thought we put into the windows of our homes should reflect their importance in our lives.

Maintaining Windows’ Supporting Structure

If your home is made of untreated wood, then wet, cool weather can have a devastating effect on the wood’s integrity. Wood can warp or rot, creating gaps between your home’s structure and the frames that hold your windows and doors. Unwanted weather can creep in through the gaps, which can increase energy costs.

Apply a quality penetrating oil stain to protect untreated wood. If the surface is painted, instead of applying an oil stain, apply several coats of paint to increase protection. If small gaps are already evident between the wood and window frame, seal the spaces with paintable calking, and then paint over the wood and dried calk. This repair should last about a year.

Correct larger gaps with plastic, felt, or foam weatheripping. Simply secure the stripping to the affected areas of the wood and metal frames that hold the window in to seal. Weatheripping lasts several years.

Weather-Proofing—A Cold Weather Must

A great deal of heat is lost through windows. To provide the best long-term protection for your home—and your wallet—consider installing storm windows before winter. They help cut heat loss through your windows by up to 50%.

Storm windows are available in a wide range of prices. Polycarbonate glass has a long life, but is heavy and fragile. Plastic is lighter, but scratches easier. Mid-level polycarbonate glass and plastic panels can be as low as $55 per 60 x 30-in. window, and upwards of $200 installed. The businesses who sell storm windows can also install them for you.

Applying plastic sheets to either the outside or inside of the windows is an easy and inexpensive alternative to storm windows. The plastic sheets cover the entire surface of the window. After the plastic is applied, windows cannot be opened without destroying the protective seal. To provide ventilation, choose a few windows to leave unsealed. Because southern windows give the best opportunity for warmth and light, choose one or two windows on the south side of your home.

For interior seals, use double-sided tape to hold down the edges of the plastic. Use a blow dryer to lightly go over plastic to shrink and seal it over the window. Because inside plastic seals are less vulnerable than outside, the thickness of the plastic is less important than on outside seals. Choose a less expensive, thinner plastic for inside seals.

For outside seals, nail the plastic cover over the jamb to create an air-tight insulating space over the window.

Insulated drapes protect interiors from the cold and help reduce lost energy. The insulation used in draperies is commonly a foam lining. Thermal lining can screen noise and light, but won’t provide the same level of weather insulation as foam. The cost of 2 panels of pleated, insulated, Cotton Duck drapes can range from $49 to $190, depending upon the size of the panels. Custom insulated drapes cost more.

Easy Cold Weather Energy-Saving Tips

Windows leak heat during the cool season, and contribute to high energy bills. When the weather turns cold, pull draperies and blinds on all windows at night. Windows with a northern exposure should be closed throughout the winter—even during the day. Uncover eastern facing windows in the morning, western facing windows in the afternoon, and southern facing windows during all daylight hours. This will allow the sunlight to warm and brighten your home.

Replacing Windows

Obviously, you need to replace broken or cracked windows as soon as possible. If you’re unable to replace windows immediately, apply adhesive tape over the cracks to keep them from getting worse. Use tape only as a temporary solution.

Installing new windows yourself is a less expensive option than having a professional do it for you. However, given the importance of your windows and how critical it is to have them installed properly, think carefully before you decide to bypass a professional installation. One mistake can imperil your family’s comfort and safety and increase your energy costs.

If you’ve made the decision to replace all your windows, decide whether double-paned windows are a good investment for you. They’re more durable, sound-proof, and weather-proof than single-paned windows.

If you live in a hot climate, consider having your new windows treated with a heat-resistant glaze. The glaze should be applied to the outside to reflect the heat back outside.

A Window into the World

A breeze flowing through an open window on a summer day is inviting. A secured window against the winter cold is comforting. Windows provide light, ventilation, and a portal into the outside world.  Maintain your windows and they’ll serve you and your family in all seasons for many years to come.

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Author:Mary Barry