We like the look of the original windows in our older home, but they aren’t very energy efficient. Can you offer any solutions?
—Ken and Judy
You can make significant improvements to your existing windows without investing a lot of money or time. Heat loss during the winter and heat gain during the summer can usually be addressed without replacing windows.
Energy loss and drafts often occur in the cracks between window components. Weatherstripping can be used for areas where a window’s movable parts meet the window frame. Retailers offer a variety of weatherstripping for different types of windows. These materials are low-cost, easy to apply, and can pay for themselves in energy savings in as little as one year.
The seam between the window frame and the wall is another common source of air leakage. Fill anything less than one-quarter-inch wide with caulk; for anything larger, use expanding foam and paint over it. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
If the window pane is loose, or the glass is cracked or missing, it’s probably costing you money. You may be able to reglaze a window yourself if you’re handy, or look for a local shop in your area that will do it.
Window coverings are another alternative, from interior roller shades and cellular shades to draperies. Recent laboratory tests showed that cellular shades could cut heating or cooling expenses between 10 to 16 percent. Some cellular shades have a lighter reflective side and a darker, heat-absorbing side. Some can even be reversed with the change of seasons.
Draperies are usually less efficient than shades but can provide some comfort during winter and summer months. For maximum benefit, make sure the drapes overlap in the middle, are as tight to the window and wall as possible, and run all the way to the floor.
On the outside of the house, you can install awnings or overhangs above windows that receive a lot of direct sunlight. Window films that adhere to the window surface can reflect unwanted summer sun, while solar screens can also be effective.