This post is focused on the environment for Blog Action Day. Replacement Windows is a subject I planned to address at some point. So, in support of Blog Action Day let’s touch on it today.
Folks are being given bad advice about their old wooden double-hung windows. They are unfortunately encouraged to replace these historic windows with new energy efficient windows. This advice is misguided for several reasons – most of them environmental. Here are 10 quick reasons why replacement windows are a bad idea.
1. Green – ‘Green’ is being used as a marketing tool. Be careful, Green is not always Green. Historic windows are ‘Greener’ than any replacement windows. Marketers of replacement windows typically compare energy efficiency with older windows that are not working properly. They also base studies in areas with severe climates.
2. Embodied Energy – The energy and resources required to manufacture and install the original windows has already been absorbed. If they are replaced, they will end up in the dump – very unfriendly to the environment. Manufacturing and installing replacement windows expends huge amounts of energy and further depletes environmental resources.
3. Home Energy Loss – There are many sources of energy loss in a home. Windows are way down on the list of culprits. They just happen to be the most visible and therefore the most fragile.
4. Materials and Life Span – Most historic windows are made with irreplaceable old-growth wood – made to last. Many 100+ year old windows are still functioning. New replacement windows have a stated maximum life span of 20 years (or less). It’s doubtful any of them will reach their stated life span. Also, they are typically made of vinyl – a petroleum based product. If constructed of wood, it is much lower grade than old-growth wood.
5. Repair – Replacement windows can’t be repaired. When something goes wrong (such as a broken seal – you’ve seen those foggy double-paned windows), the whole window has to be replaced. Very unfriendly to the environment. Historic windows can, and should, be repaired. It will cost less to repair them than replace them. Your home and the environment will look and feel better.
6. Ambience – Replacement windows are a bad substitute for the original. Windows are at the top of important aesthetic features and significant architectural details of a home. And don’t you love that wavy glass.
7. Value – Original windows, adequately maintained, are worth more and will last longer than replacement windows.
8. Savings – The amount of money spent on buying and installing replacement windows will not be recouped before the windows need to be replaced again. There is no payback.
9. Workmanship (Fit) – Historic windows were made to fit the opening they occupy. Sizes of old windows vary and can be of several different sizes in one home. Replacement windows come in standard sizes which do not easily fit the original window openings. The poor fit leads to further energy loss and typically results in a window that does not operate properly. Poor fit also reduces useful life. If extra care is taken to properly fit a replacement window, the window opening will be smaller. Your home will get less light.
10. Storm Windows – Along with proper maintenance, the addition of storm windows can be more energy efficient (and again cheaper) than replacement windows. The energy efficiency of replacement windows is due to double-pane glass. Storm windows provide exactly the same energy barrier with more operational flexibility.
Remember, they are called replacement windows because they will have to be replaced in a few years.
Few, if any, of our fine old irreplaceable double-hung windows are beyond repair. In most cases, they are just suffering from lack of maintenance. Repair them – the environment, your home and your pocketbook will thank you.