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Updating old building windows

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Just as windows are a part of your whole house, so should they be part of a whole-house solution to cutting back on energy use.

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Weather stripping was found to have the lowest energy cost savings and a low average ROI relative to other window improvements.Retrofits have better returns on investments than replacement windows.Window retrofits such as cellular shades, storm windows, and insulating shades can achieve energy savings comparable to replacements at a much lower cost.Include retrofitting in your cost-benefit analysis. As you’ll see throughout these tips, retrofitting historic or older windows has numerous, measurable benefits.Still, not every old window needs to be saved, so it can help property owners to ask these questions as part of their initial cost-benefit analysis: Tackle other energy-efficiency measures first.Meanwhile, if you’re in a place that relies more on cooling systems, like Phoenix, consider whether exterior shading, such as overhangs, trees, or nearby buildings, is present.

If these elements are already shading the windows—or if windows are not oriented toward the sun—the windows will receive minimal or no cooling benefit from a retrofit. Perform high-return, do-it-yourself installations first, where possible.

They can help you evaluate energy-saving solutions, the proper order for implementing them, and estimated costs.

Then consider what additional efficiency gains or energy savings retrofitting your windows can offer.

Replacing them usually requires changing the size and/or shape of the opening.

So while standard-sized new windows might save on operational costs, they’ll compromise the character and historic integrity of a home with smaller windows, less light, distorted proportions, and trim that doesn't match the opening.

Weather stripping (good for old, drafty windows) and interior surface film (good for homes with big cooling bills) generate immediate savings at a low cost and don’t prevent you from adding other cost-saving retrofits later.