Residential buildings account for approximately 20% of the total US energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, and one of the major inefficiencies in the average house is the commonplace window. Poor seals, inferior curtains, and a host of other factors can turn an older window into a critical problem for the energy- and budget-concious home-owner.
However, a new study released Tuesday has shown that retrofitting older windows yields similar efficiency results as replacing them, but is also much cheaper than the alternative.
The report, “Saving Windows, Saving Money: Evaluating the Energy Performance of Window Retrofit and Replacement,” was commissioned by the Preservation Green Lab and funded by The National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
Analyzing decades worth of research on the performance of double hung windows, the report compares the relative energy, carbon, and cost savings of retrofitting versus replacing in multiple cities across the United States.
The conclusion? Upgrading windows (specifically older, single-pane windows) with exterior storm windows and insulating shades can result in substantial energy savings across a variety of climate zones.
“A number of existing window retrofit strategies come very close to delivering the energy benefits of high-performance replacement windows – at a fraction of the cost,” said Mark Huppert, technical director of the Preservation Green Lab. “From weather stripping and sealing, to installing exterior storm windows or interior cellular shades, almost every retrofit option offers a better return on investment than outright replacement.”
“Homeowners and designers who want to upgrade existing windows have many choices: from simple low cost, do-it-yourself solutions to complete replacement, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars,” said David J. Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This report provides the context and data to help budget conscious consumers make sound decisions.”
“Whether you live in Boston, Chicago or Phoenix, the conclusions are nearly identical,” said Kirk Cordell, the executive director of the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology. “With careful planning, it’s possible to affordably increase the energy efficiency of a home or residential building without compromising its design quality or historic character.”
The full report is at www.preservationnation.org/saving-windows-saving-money.
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