If you live in an aging or historic home with original windows, there’s a good chance you’ve felt a cold draft or two sneaking past them. Any house with older windows can suffer from some level of thermal inefficiency and sound leakage. Some people recommend replacing the entire window, but that often isn’t necessary, and replacing your historic windows with new ones will take away from the visual charm you’d like to keep. You can get all the insulation properties that come with new windows by installing a quality set of storm windows.
There are probably more reasons to choose storm windows over vinyl replacement windows than you realize. Not only will they save you considerable money on installation, but the different options out there mean you can get all the benefits of new windows while maintaining the look and feel of the vintage ones you’ve already got.
How are storm windows different from regular windows?
Storm windows are different from regular windows in that they aren’t stand alone solutions. Windows are essentially custom-fit weatherproof inserts and are mounted to either the inside or outside of your existing primary window. This allows you to keep your original windows but add many of the benefits associated with replacing them.
When you choose to replace your aging windows with new ones, you remove the old window entirely and replace the unit with a whole new window and frame. It’s a much more expensive solution and can significantly impact the appearance of the structure in which they’re mounted.
Different types of storm windows
We all have different needs, depending on the property and use case. Luckily, there are storm windows that fit whatever those needs are. You’ll need to know what you’re looking to achieve with your new storms beforehand.
Exterior storm windows
If you are primarily concerned with protecting your windows from storm damage, exterior storm windows are the route you’ll want to go. They are much more difficult to install than interior storm windows, but they provide good protection and decent insulation once installed. You can generally find them constructed of aluminum, wood, or vinyl.
Most of them can be opened or closed to provide ventilation, making them a good option if you open your windows a lot. Let’s look at some of the options that are out there.
Exterior Window Configurations
When you decide to go the exterior storm window route, you’ll have to take inventory on how you generally use your windows. Depending on the location and usage requirements, you may even decide to go with different configurations for different types of windows around the house.
Two track storm windows
If you’ve got double-hung windows, a two-track configuration is an excellent place to start. In this configuration, the outside track is fitted with a window pane on the top half and a screen on the bottom. They are a stationary set and cannot slide up or down. The inside track houses only a window pane on the bottom half, which slides up to let the breeze in.
Three track storm windows
Three track storm windows operate in a similar way to their two track counterparts but allow for more flexibility. The outermost track is fitted with a screen that covers the entire window. The two inner tracks have one glass pane each, one on the bottom and the other on top. This means that you can slide either pane. If you want the breeze coming in through the top, you’ve got that option as well as the bottom. If you’re already considering a window screen replacement, this is a great upgrade.
Two track slider windows
This type of storm window is very similar to two-track storm windows, but they slide open and closed horizontally rather than vertically. It’s a great solution if you’ve got windows that slide horizontally.
Interior storm windows
If your primary concern is improved energy efficiency and sound control, interior windows provide superior protection. Interior storm windows are a lot easier to install and remove than those installed on the exterior. They are most often constructed with vinyl frames, which makes them lightweight and great insulators.
Most interior storm windows are inserts that are typically held in place with magnets or by compression and can be easily removed when you want to clean them or open up the windows to let the breeze in. With interior vinyl storm windows, you can leave the historic charm on the outside of the building intact while achieving the thermal and sound insulation you’d expect from new windows.
If you don’t own your home or live in an apartment, interior storm windows can be a cost effective method for weatherproofing windows without a construction crew.
Temporary storm windows
Temporary storm windows are kind of a misnomer. They aren’t really windows at all but a category of plastic solutions that can be used to seal up drafty windows temporarily. They provide protection from drafts in the winter and can be disposed of after the cold season has passed. They are cheap and effective but not a viable long term solution if you care about the appearance of your property.
Deciding on your solution
If you like the idea of adding storm windows to your property but don’t know where to begin, there’s no need to worry. It’s pretty simple to get started.
Measure each window
Take multiple measurements of the windows to be fitted, and use the smallest figures for height and width. When measuring the width, measure at the top, middle, and bottom. When measuring the height, measure from the left, right, and center. Each measurement should be taken from the inside of the molding on each side to ensure a proper fit.
If your windows are fairly square and all standard sizes, you may be able to buy stock storms. If not, nearly all windows can be custom fit to your needs. Getting a good fit is an important part of achieving the thermal benefits you’re after.
Decide which windows are right for you
There are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when it comes time to choose your storm windows. It’s important to remember what you want out of your new windows. Are you mainly concerned with storm damage or insulation? Also, who is going to install them? Answering these questions now will save you from potential headaches down the road.
What are you looking to achieve?
If you live in a storm prone area and your main goal is to protect your windows from storm damage, exterior windows are going to be the way to go, assuming you’re okay with the facade change. If the change doesn’t bother you, your next step is to identify the kind of windows you’re working with and which storm window configuration works best.
If you’d prefer to keep your current look or live in a climate where thermal insulation is your main driver, interior storm windows are going to be the ticket. They are easy enough to remove that you can still open any type of window if you like, but they provide thermal insulation that exterior storm windows can’t match.
Are you comfortable installing them yourself?
Some people are really handy and like to get their hands dirty, while others prefer to pay someone else to complete their projects for them. Much of that comes down to whether or not you’ve got the time, skills, or necessary tools to complete said project.
If you have a decent set of tools and you’re comfortable performing the installation yourself, you can go either route. Many manufacturers can give you step-by-step installation instructions. If they are unable to provide instructions for some reason, you can find tutorials online that show you how to install storm windows.
If getting on a ladder and mounting a large piece of glass seems daunting to you, remember that installing exterior storm windows is a much bigger job than installing interior windows, and you’ll likely have to pay someone to do it for you. Interior storm windows pretty much snap into place, so they can even be installed by those of us with no tools and limited time availability.
How important is thermal performance?
Leaky windows can cost you hundreds of extra dollars per year in energy costs. That’s an expense most of us would prefer to live without. If thermal efficiency is high on your list of priorities, low-e (low emissivity) glass is a great feature you can get with high quality windows. Low-e glass is coated with an incredibly thin coating of metal that reflects infrared and ultraviolet light while still letting the light in. Giving your windows the ability to reflect heat energy not only keeps your energy bills down but can protect the furnishings inside safe from the harmful rays of the sun.
Purchase quality products
Your new storm windows will only be as good as the materials they’re made of. Purchase quality products if you want to make the most of your investment. We’ve got a whole line of solutions to fit every need. Let us know what you’re looking to accomplish, and we can help make it happen.