Archive for the ‘windows’ category

Energy Savings in Window Replacement

June 7th, 2013

QUESTION:

I have an old farm house with some updates. The first floor has double-pane windows (15+ years old), and the upstairs has old single-pane windows. We replaced 11 windows with Energy Star-rated windows. I reviewed my energy use, and found that it did not decrease at all. Could I have been sold bogus Energy-Star windows?

–STU

ANSWER:

Evaluating any energy improvement in a home is difficult. You need to compare energy use based on similar heating degree days. Degree days take into account the dramatic variations in temperatures. But you also need to consider wind, interior temperatures, heating plant performance, air leaks, ventilation, use of fireplaces, and other variables.

New, Energy-Star rated windows with thermally insulated glass will normally perform better than old wood windows. If they are rated and certified, the window should not be an issue. But on-site installation and air sealing is a key detail affecting the window and wall system performance.

If your old single glazed windows were tight fitting and you had tight fitting wood storms, the actual change in the heat transfer through the new windows will not have a large effect on your energy usage. The replacements just don’t save much money if the original windows were in pretty good shape.

If you were given some type of guarantee or promise from the window installation company, I suggest you contact them with your concerns and read all the claims and fine print.

In my mind, the biggest reason to replace old damaged wood windows is lower maintenance, ease of operation, appearance, comfort, and finally energy savings.

–MR. FIX-IT

 

Energy Efficiency Improvements – Where to Start?

August 21st, 2010

QUESTION

I have some funds to do energy efficiency improvements to my old (1950’s) home, but I don’t know where to start. The home is well maintained, but has had no energy improvements. It seems that every contractor has the best product, and there are many claims about huge energy savings. The government rebates and tax credits just seem to complicate the issue. Where do I start?

ANSWER

There is no simple answer. I can outline where to logically start, but I think your home deserves an evaluation and some scientific testing before you start spending.

I suggest you contact Focus on Energy. Their goal is to provide information, resources and financial incentives to help improve energy efficiency in Wisconsin. The state program is well known throughout the country.

I used the Focus on Energy program called “Wisconsin Energy Star Home Program” when I built a new home. They gave advice on construction details, and worked with the builder on energy efficiency. The results were fantastic.

For existing homes like yours, they offer a service to scientifically evaluate your home and the systems in your home at a very reasonable price. Their consultants can test for leaks, review your equipment, and use a computer model to identify the best areas to invest.

Overall, you should look at the easy energy improvements and your old equipment. If you have a furnace that is over 25 years old, put that at the top of the list. If the attic insulation has never been improved over the original three to six inches, that should be high on the list as well. Insulating the top of the basement wall, using low-flow plumbing fixtures, fluorescent lamps, and a set-back thermostat are simple changes with a great payback.

An evaluation by the Focus on Energy is the best first step. They also offer a new interactive website at Ask Focus on Energy. They will answer your questions and refer you to a large database of answers. If you have a unique question, one of the experts can respond.

Black Discoloration on Wood Windows

July 13th, 2010

QUESTION:

We have a black discoloration occurring on the wood part of the windows in our house. Do you know what it is and how to get rid of it? The windows are double-hung and the house was built in 1995. I assumed it was mold and moisture-related because I noticed it first in the bathroom, but now I have found it in small patches on other windows. I have tried many cleaning solutions including TSP and a bleach-water mix, but none seem to work. It occurs both in winter and summer, with windows open or closed.

ANSWER:

If the stains are a dark discoloration that cannot be removed from the surface, you have water damage in the wood. If the TSP removes the stain it may be dirt or mold. Once the surface finish is damaged by water, the water will discolor the wood. If the finish is gone and you have a dark stain, you have water-damaged wood.

The fix is to refinish the wood by sanding, bleaching, and more sanding. Then stain and varnish back to the original finish. It’s not an easy job. Don’t get too worried about the “mold” word. Issues related to mold have been greatly exaggerated by many folks in recent years. Go to the State of Wisconsin or university websites for accurate information about mold in a home – not testers or contractors who make money on mold.

Cracks in Windows

March 16th, 2010

We have lived in our home for 7 years and have had to replace four windows because the inside panes crack and spider (usually during winter). They are double-hung thermopanes with a full screen on the outside. It happens to different windows; three in the back bedrooms, and one above the kitchen sink. Is there any logical explanation for this? What can be done to prevent this from happening to other windows?

Answer:

Thermally insulated glass should not crack unless there is some type of manufacturing or installation defect. The only windows that I have seen crack did so because they were twisted or under pressure in the frame. A small amount of pressure applied to one point can cause a crack.

In this case, I would follow up with the manufacturer and their local representative. Major manufacturers stand behind their products and often offer a 10-year warranty on thermally insulated glass. There is no logical reason for glass to randomly break except the issues listed.

Condensation on Storms

February 3rd, 2010

Question:

I have 12-year-old Kolbe double-hung windows. One set of windows in a 2nd floor bedroom has had exterior condensation on the inside upper-half of the storm window (not the actual double-hung itself). In cold weather this will ice/frost over.

What does this indicate? Is it a problem? Assuming it is an interior leak, how would I figure out where the source is?

Answer:

Condensation on the inside of the storms is caused by warm, moist air leaking from the inside of the home around the interior, primary windows into the space between the primary window and storm. Once the moist air is there, the moisture condenses on the storms – the coldest surface.

This is a common problem and unless it is excessive, quite normal. There is no easy fix. You can try to seal the inner, primary window, reduce the humidity level in your home, or even open the storm a little to vent out the moisture.

You can find more information here:
Fogged Up? Clearing the Air About Window Condensation Problems

Condensation on East Windows – Not West?

December 16th, 2009

Saturday I listened to you talk about moisture on windows and looked the article up on your website. I have a question. What if some windows get moisture and some do not? We have a 16-year-old house – two story. The bedroom window on the east side of the house gets moisture (always has), but the bedroom window on the west side of the house does not. After reading the article I learned a lot, but I just have this other question. Thank you so much.

-Sue

Answer:

Wind Pushes Air Through a HomeWhen warm, moist air contacts a cold surface, you have condensation (just like moisture on that iced-tea glass in the summer).

I assume you are getting condensation on the storm window. Wind blows at your house, and in the Milwaukee area it often blows from the west to the east. On the west side of your home, cold air is blown in around the storm and leaks into your home. The air blowing in is very dry and there is no condensation.

On the west side of your home warm, moist air is leaking out of the windows and you have condensation on the cold storms. The storms trap the warm air and the storm glass is cold.

For folks that want more information, look at my website article “Fogged Up? Clearing the Air About Window Condensation Problems.”

-Tom

Condensation on Storm Windows

December 4th, 2009

Question:

Condensation on WindowsI have a 12 year old Kolbe double hung window. One set of windows in a 2nd floor bedroom has had exterior condensation on the inside upper half of the storm window (not the actual double-hung itself). In cold weather this will ice/frost over.

What does this indicate? Is it a problem? If I should fix it, assuming it is an interior leak, how would I figure out where the source is? Thanks in advance.

-Chris

Answer:

Sources of MoistureCondensation on the inside of the storms is caused by warm, moist air leaking from the inside of the home around the interior, primary windows into the space between the primary window and storm.  Once the moist air is there, the moisture condenses on the storms – the coldest surface.

This is a common problem and unless it is excessive, quite normal. There is no easy fix.  You can try to seal the inner, primary window, reduce the humidity level in your home, or even open the storm a little
to vent out the moisture.

You can find more information in my PDF article – Fogged Up? Clearing the Air About Window Condensation Problems.

-Tom