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Energy Savings – Historic Old Windows

Posted on: August 18, 2011

Woodruff Hall, on the campus of Castleton State College (Vermont), opened in 1926. It was built on the site of the 1829 Old Seminary, which had been destroyed by fire. Woodruff Hall is now in the midst of a $275,000 “window renovation,” which seeks to have historically accurate windows that match the “look of the buildings in the 1920s”:

Being a window shade manufacturer, wondered: Did anyone ever think of upgrading window shades rather than replacing windows? It is a valid point, given the cost of such projects especially.

We all know that windows provide a “path of least resistance” to drafts, winds, and the elements. Upgraded windows usually provide upgraded performance, convenience, and maintenance. But when you add “historically accurate” to the equation you are bound to compromise on some issues. Take for instance, the vinyl (minimal upkeep) tilt-in (easy to clean) replacement window. Vinyl would not typically be termed “historical” and tilt-ins may need to take a backseat to true weight/pulley sash systems.

In this “green” era, there is also concern about landfills and the preference for refurbishment over replacement.

Take a look at a couple articles from 7 Days, a Vermont weekly:

  • Heeding Unhappy Homeowners, Burlington Planners Look to Redefine “Historic” (3-9-11)
  • The Preservation Police (9-22-10)

The flurry of Letters to the Editor can be found online too.

We did address the issue of Energy Shades vs Replacement Windows in an earlier post, when the newspaper column About the House with Henri de Marne ran a question/answer about this very subject! Mr de Marne’s answer started off with the point that “The energy efficiency can be about the same!” He then went on to say “Insulating shades cost much less and are easier to do.” Ultimately, he suggested good storm windows rather than replacements.

I also distinctly recall a This Old House that refurbished their historic (old) windows, upgrading them in an effort to improve them while retaining the actual original window.

There is even a Repairing Old and Historic Windows: A Manual for Architects and Homeowners.

An interesting article (published in 2009) found here at The Herald Tribune brings up some interesting points: including temperature “control” and “noise reduction”. Cellular Shades help in both those situations!

Sometimes improvement can start from the inside:

(see the “BEFORE” by clicking on the picture!)

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