As they age, older homes can be made more energy efficient – and replacing outdated components isn’t always the answer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
A good example: Windows in older homes (especially those that predate 1950) are typically made of now-scarce, old-growth wood. The DOE says this wood is denser, more rot- and warp-resistant, and holds paint better than modern, plantation-grown wood.
You don’t always have to replace your home’s historic wood windows to improve efficiency, but replacement might be necessary if windows can’t be repaired or updated.
When thinking about replacement windows for historic homes, consider these points first because they could save you money … especially because repairing vs. replacing windows in historic homes can usually be done at a lower cost while achieving nearly the same level of energy efficiency:
- Check the caulk at the interior and exterior casing to stop air leaks.
- If you live in a local historic district, check with the historic district commission before purchasing low-e storm windows; they may not comply with guidelines.
- Keep exterior surfaces painted (including glazing putty) to protect components from water. Keep paint off of sash locks, window panes, and ropes.
- Do spot repairs as necessary to glazing putty. Putty needs to be replaced periodically, but spot repairs can be done.
- If your sashes are hung with rope, it can be replaced if it dries out or breaks.
- Make sure the sash lock works and is engaged. It helps with security, but also makes sure rails are held together tightly.
- Add weather-stripping as necessary.
- Consider applying window film. Newer low-e window film increases the insulating value of your windows, offering year-round savings. It helps keep heat out during summer months, and keeps heat in during winter months. Some low-e films don’t noticeably darken windows or views, so your local historic district may allow these window films.
According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, replacement windows for historic homes could take 100 years or longer to pay for themselves in energy savings. Trying these steps to repair or update your windows can prolong your home’s character, save historic resources, and improve energy conservation.
Have you replaced the windows in your historic home? Why or why not?