If you could install ANY storm window you wanted . . .

tigerpurringDecember 3, 2006

If you could install ANY storm window you wanted . . . what would you choose?


I just moved into a cool townhouse built in 1980. It somewhat mimics the style of the 1920's bungalows in the neighborhood, with a little more modern of a twist. It's very bright and sunny, with one 18' wall being entirely casement windows facing east (windows are painted shut).

Outside of the wooden casement windows (which have unfortunately rotted quite a bit, and will have to be restored) the rest of the windows are bronzed aluminum and very large, and open to the side.

We have been in the house a month and can already tell that in winter it is very drafty and cold, partly due to the single-pane glass and partly also due to the fact that aluminum windows that are so large will never completely seal. In the summer, we know that we are going to be hot, hot, hot. We are trying to minimize running the A/C and heater, partly on principle of the thing, and partly because our power utility is Genexa (wind powered) and PRICEY. Soooo . . . we decided that we would like to add (permanent) storm windows over all of the windows in the house; bronzed aluminum over the bronzed aluminum windows, and I guess white or paintable fixed aluminum storms over the wooden casements (after they are fixed).

Fine, sounds easy enough. But then the glass company said, "what kind of glass would you like?" And I said, "um, storm window kind?" :)

Reading and browsing this and other forums at GardenWeb and the HomeSite made me realize that I had many many options. So, I ask the experts . . .

1) assuming that you would like the storm windows to confer some additional energy benefit in addition to the inherent insulating benefits they would provide (e.g., could I add something like a low-E coating?)

2) assuming that you would like the storm windows to confer some sort of STORM benefit (i.e., some kind of impact resistant? storm? coating/glass)

What would you use?

I've had a hard time to much more research than this. My twins don't allow me much time on the computer, sigh. The other thing I'm confused about is that different window companies have all tried to sell me different types of storm windows. One guy insisted I needed tinted glass (why?), another guy offered an impact-resistant acrylic layer in the windows, but said they were only good to 60mph?. One guy said his storms were good to 115mph, but they seemed a little bulky (and were more than 2x the price of some others).

Thanks for your help as I decide this. It's a little scary, I think, to spend so much money on something that I've never even given a second thought to, and it's so hard to try to look things up with the littles underfoot . . .

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Speak with the association as this problem is widespread.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 7:11PM
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I know little about this, but here are some thoughts anyway :)

- For south facing windows that get good solar gain, you would probably be better off with just plain clear glass or plastic. This would preserve the solar gain.

- You might think about clear Acrylic inside storm windows. These are lightweight and near invisible. I would guess a whole lot cheaper than commercial outside storm windows.

- The resistance to wind or wind blown debris seems of little value unless you live in an area that gets hurricanes?

- Thermal shades to reduce night heat loss help a lot with or without storm windows. Some of the good ones (e.g. Shmphony Shades with the energy track) are good for about R3, this would give you R4 total, or about 25% of the heat loss you now have with your current R1 single glazed windows.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 10:55PM
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Hi, Gary, thanks for the response. You know, I should have mentioned that I live in Houston. :) Solar gain . . . I think I don't want very much, right? Inside storms won't work when hurricane Rita's big sister comes (or during the next random thunderstorm with 40mph winds, sheesh), although they sure do sound easier.

Thanks for pointing out the Symphony Shades. I like the energy track idea and will probably be buying new shades, soon. The shades look like a great option.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 6:06AM
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tigerpurring (can tigers purr?),

Several good questions...

First, in Houston, keeping solar heat out nine months of the year is the big issue.

Second, Rita's big brother or sister might not happen soon or it might be the first storm of next season. There are a couple of options there as well.

Third, you have a couple of options depending on cost versus requirement.

Your aluminum frames are never going to be energy efficient. No matter what you do they will still be an energy sinkhole in your home - but, this is a much worse problem in colder climates and what you are proposing will greatly limit the loss due to the frames - if done right.

The cadillac of storm windows for your requirement would include insulated (dual pane) glass package with a LowE2 coating and laminated glass in an impact resistant frame. This option would also cost - alot.

This option would give you greatly improved energy performance (I would veture to guess at 30-35% in your environment), storm/impact resistance, substantial noise reduction from outside, and it would block virtually 100% of UV from entering your home.

Again, overall amazing perfromance - for an equally amazing price (and amazing price not in the "good" way).

The next step "down" - but still a very good option - is to get a single-pane storm window with impact resistant frame and a LowE2 coating between the laminated lites.

One problem with this approach is that not all manufacturers will offer this option - and of those that do not all are a long term investment. This particular option MUST be manufactured correctly or else the glazing may have some long term problems - not with energy or safety performance but with longevity.

There are some good products in this category and a storm window with this glazing option will offer both impact protection and good energy performance numbers.

Exposed acrylic in your environment isn't going to last very long. Actually, I can't think of anything good to say about using plastic-glazed storm windows in your environment (or any envronment). I can think of several negatives though.

Laminated glass consists of two lites bonded to a plastic interlayer. NOte on my above comment concerning platic-glazed storm winodw I mentioned "exposed" plastic. In the case of laminated glass, the plastic is sandwiched by the glass.

Laminated glass is what is used in impact / hurricane windows. It is the same glazing that you find in your car's windshield only about three times thicker and much tougher. Laminated glass blocks about 99% of UV and it is also a product used in sound-deadening applications (airport windows, for example).

LowE coatings on windows block radiant heat from passing through the glass. This works for both outside heat coming in and inside heat going out.

There are several different versions of LowE coatings available - in your position I recommended a LowE2 coating (which is actually LowE "squared" - which means that there are two layers of silver in the coating - and it is a tradename for Cardinal Glasses coating. But, since they manufacture about 70% of all residential coatings used in North America, their tradename has become somewhat associated with the coating "type").

Anyway, The LowE2 product will block a substantial amount of solar heat from passing through your window glass. Ordinary LowE will block heat but not solar gain. I can explain that much more in detail - but it isn't really a big deal other than you want to stop as much direct solar gain as possible.

I have likely left you with more questions than answers - feel free to continue!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 11:16AM
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