Tom Shafer

Energy-saving window alternative? Storm windows

October 05, 2011

Your house is drafty. Your windows are leaking air, as well as your heating and cooling dollars. Must you get new replacement windows, or can you stop the energy hemorrhage with new weather stripping and storm windows? If you've researched the cost of vinyl replacement windows, and it is still more than your budget allows, storms can be a viable alternative.

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Fifty years ago today's easily-installed, blind-stop replacement windows weren't available yet. Storm windows were the only way to resolve issues with drafty windows--other than literally ripping your windows out of the walls to replace them. Even today, when window replacement is not an option, storm windows still provide a solution for certain window problems. They are usually attached to the outside of the window--sometimes to the inside--and have one or two moving sash and, usually, a screen.

Types of storm windows

Several types of aluminum storm windows are available--triple track, double track, wood or a single pane on the inside.

  1. Triple track windows have two sash that can be raised and lowered and a screen in its own track that can be positioned, either in the top half of the window or the bottom.
  2. Double track have an immovable screen glazed into the storm window and a sash that can be raised and lowered.
  3. Both triple- and double-track storm windows are applied to the exterior of the window and are visible on the outside of the home.
  4. Wood storm windows are a traditional design, but they are heavy. They need to be stored, installed and removed yearly.

If your home is in an historic area, or outside storm windows are objectionable, an inside storm window may be the answer.

Inside storms usually consist of a single piece of glass in a natural frame. They are not visible from the outside and barely visible on the inside. The window, however, cannot be opened while the storm window is installed. Casement windows require inside storms.

What you can save with storm windows

The cost of storm windows is amazingly lower than that of replacement windows. Here's a comparison of costs:

  1. Double tracks - $57
  2. Triple tracks - $109
  3. Replacement windows - $209

Installation costs for storm windows usually run about $100, while the cost of replacement window installation ranges from $150 to $250, or even $300, depending on the additional work required.

Storm windows come with either clear or low-e glass Both provide an extra layer of air between the primary window and the storm, but low-e can add additional energy efficiency at a substantial savings over replacement windows.

Sealed properly against the home, storm windows can stop air leaks and drafts, as well as reduce cooling leakage. If you can't afford new windows just yet, get storms--and save up.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.


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