windows, winter, wind help?

shesaidc2November 2, 2012

We bought a big old queen ann victorian this summer and are now facing the dreaded north winter. (Northern MIchigan). It's only november, has not yet snowed and we are cold.

We have hot water radiant heaters (baseboards), we had the boiler tuned up, the guy said we could replace it with something more efficient, but that it was cast iron and would last forever.

We know we have some work in the basement/attic to reduce the "air stack effect" some of which is short term and some long term.

Now to our windows. Many of the windows have very old roller shades (which suck and we hate, and which are slowly failing (so far we have lost two). We have GIANT windows, and LOTS of windows which I love.. but we also have many windows with no coverings at all. When we moved in every window had 1 or 2 sets of lace curtains, covered in dust, which we gleefully ripped out. (yes they may have been victorian but I hate lace curtains).

We have outside storm windows on almost every window. They have been up for years and sealed in place (very very unfortunate this past hot summer, but a problem for the summer). When I put my hands up around the windows, I feel cold around the exposed glass, cold from the rope area, and on some cold outside the frame of the window. For the cold outside the frame, that is easy CAULK.

What do I do about the cold air from where the rope is?

Do I really need to invest in thermal/insulated curtains in all windows? I guess for curtains I am wondering what will give me the most bang for my buck.

Just make sure every window has something to block radiant heat loss (even if something is a sheet - just kidding, I think)? or really work towards insulated curtains for all.

This weekend we plan to do a smoke test and seal up gaps, add some weather stripping to the front door, and look at getting a storm door (I want something that matches historically, but for the winter might take whatever I can find at a restore type place for cost reasons). I know managing heat loss from the attic, and the air stack are most important for energy reasons, but what about comfort.... (long jonhs and mittens?)

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You can find excellent instructions for making your own interior storm windows at These are relatively inexpensive and easy to make, although the bigger the window, the more difficult to make. You may not want them in windows you want absolutely clear, but for others they really do make a significant difference.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 5:06AM
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Just a "perk" of living in an old house, sweaters, throws, warm socks and slippers. In fact after one (or two) winters, you will find that being inside someone else's air tight house with the thermostat on 80 will make you miserable. Sorry, didn't answer your question at all. I think the idea of heavy curtains in winter and/or akamainegrower's suggestion of indoor storm windows is a good one.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 12:55PM
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A first-aid, triage thing to do the first winter is to shut off some rooms and hunker down in the others.

You can also stuff foam weatherstripping down the rope-openings of the windows you aren't opening any more this season.

If you have wooden exterior storms, plan on keeping them - they are the best.

Old wooden primary window sash can be rehabbed to become nearly as, or better than, energy efficient as replacement windows. It's a job you can learn to do on your own. It's expensive to hire out as it is time-consuming job. But since it can be done one window at a time, it's ideal for DIY.

When we bought this mid 19th-c farmhouse (closed in early Dec.) we were unable to heat it all the first year as the chimney wasn't safe and since we live in northern NY it couldn't be fixed until spring. There is no central heat, so we relied on closing up rooms, and electric space heaters (and electric blankets). My DH had the best of the deal because he went away to work everyday in a heated office. I spent a lot time in those first few months out doing research in the county archives which are heated and dry.

Just figure out how to manage this first winter and you can address some of the issues in the coming months.

There's a good book to get: Working Windows by Terry Meany. You can get it from Amazon. It explains exactly how to overhaul and weatherize your existing windows.

Schoolhouse is correct, after a year or so, you'll find modern, nearly air-tight, over-heated houses unpleasant.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 3:55PM
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Welcome to old house ownership! I've got several strategies that I found worked well with old windows.

I am a quilter, so I used squares of cotton batting, folded up and slid that into the rope area. The rope catches it and pulls it slightly into the space, blocking the flow of air.

In the upstairs where the windows are in not so great shape, I put interior storms on all the windows. They work so well, I use them in the master year round as it is on the street side, and those greatly reduce the noise level.

I also made door socks out of rice and leftover fabric to cover up any doors not opened very often (closets, knee attics, etc.). You will figure out where the spots are that leak and gradually find a way to fill those in.

I found windy days a welcome thing, as it helped me figure out where all the spots are that are leaking. Don't forget also to use foam spray around your pipes where they exit the house as that helped quite a bit too.

Once you can, rehabbing the old windows helps greatly as someone has mentioned. I chose to use the Easy-Stop weatherstripping system on mine, and so far, the ones I've completed are pretty weather tight. I wouldn't want to live in a tight new home- not so well built and absolutely no character, imho!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 6:15PM
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Thanks for the feedback!

akamainegrower - what benefit would interior storms provide, if I already have exterior storms up, in good repair, and caulked in place? It seems like a lot of work to have an additional set of storms (taking off the outside ones that we can even get off are a huge ordeal) but if it would make a difference we might give it a go.

schoolhouse - we actually lived in an old (1920's) house before this, so we know and love living in old houses winters too! This house is different, Bigger in square feet (and cubic!) more windows, a walk up attic not filled with blown in insulation and with radiant not forced air... but it does seem draftier than the old house, cold with the thermostat at 69 in the daytime sometimes!

We actually both work from home, close up the office when we are not in it (crappier windows, crawlspace, poorly insulated) and then heat it with a space heater when we work letting the rest of the house get cold, and layer! Just feeling a bit overwhelmed by how much more work this house seems to take (bigger, older) but probably because we did things slowly in the old house since we learned as we went and now we know! :)

liriodendron - how do I know if the windows need to be renovated? In general they seem ok, not cracked (only one storm is cracked) and except from where PO caulked the Window SHUT! or poured calk into the rope hole......... they seem to open good for old windows.

oldhousegal - never thought about crafting supplies being repurposed that way! but excellent idea. Our plan for today (well now tomorrow) is to do a smoke test and caulk up the gaps we see and those we know are a problem in the basement.

So no thoughts about radiant heat loss? Probably less of a concern than gas I suppose. We did pick up a couple of "thermal insulated" (magic according to the package) curtains for windows we needed more privacy and had nothing covering the windows - if nothing else they feel cozier ha!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 8:38PM
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A well-weatherized window will have intact glass and putty, weatherstripping along the sash sides, top and on both sides of the meeting rail. The rope cavity will be as weatherized as possible. It may also have a one of those locking doohickies on the meeting rail to draw the two sashes tightly together. Obviously the glass will be fine, not broken or cracked. (A quick and dirty fix for an crack is taping over on both sides.) The trim indoors and out will be properly caulked.

Storm windows shouldn't be caulked; they should fit well and possibly be weatherstripped on the top and sides (NEVER the bottom). In fact they are not meant to be sealed up tightly at all as that would risk capturing moisture that gets on the cold side of the primary sash and rotting out the window sill. Storm windows are meant to impede wind flow, not keep the space between them and the primary sash hermetically sealed.

Interior storms are lighter-weight than exterior ones.

Your are lucky to have radiant heating from radiators unlike the less-desirable and draftier system of forced air.

It's posssible your radiators need some tweaking: have you bled them or had a plumber see if the distribution system is properly balanced?

Aim to get some attic joist-cavity insulation in ASAP. It's where you'll get the biggest bang for your weatherizaion dollar. Also see if your doors are well weatherstripped, including the door to the attic and any ceiling penetrtions to cold areas (lights, vents etc.).

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 2:59AM
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There's good information about the benefits of the interior storm windows at the site I referenced above. Briefly, the interior storms have an R-value of 2.8. This is a significant increase for a window. The real benefit in my experience, however, is reduction of drafts. These windows are very light and friction fitted, so installing and removing them is nothing at all like the process for exterior storms.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 5:39AM
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Shesaid - The interior storms will block drafts from the pulley runs.

Every layer stops a bit more cold.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 12:32PM
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liriodendron - the PO sealed all of the storms (inside the window frame and outside the window frame) and sealed many of the windows shut all with caulk... it took us about an hour to get one off to get some airflow into the house this summer... so that is on our list to work on.... That info on the working windows is good. I will check that book out thanks!

The radiators seem ok... we had a boiler guy out who serviced the boiler, but I guess he didn't check the radiators themselves. I can feel heat coming off them pretty ok (except in the rooms the PO ran the carpet up into them and there is no air flow around them....) We don't hear much noises from them which I think is how we can tell if they need to be bled?

Ok so if we can't stop drafts enough with some foam in the pulleys and caulk (in the right places) interior storms might be a good idea?

Also incase anyone wants to see here are some pictures of the house :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Photo tour of house

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Shesaidc2, what a great house--if it weren't even further north than me, I'd swap in a heartbeat!

If you get rushed, you could put plastic film up over the worst windows...but what you really need is some curtains, thermal or not so long as they aren't lace. I made mine when I first moved into my 1908 house using cotton twill. They are simple rectangular panels which have a pocket for a cafe-style rod. If you can sew a straight line, you can sew these. :) Mine have been up nearly 25 years, and I have yet to line them, but they DO cut down the heat loss and drafts.

What type of storms are on the house? Aluminum triple-tracks suck as storms, and you should consider replacing them. If you have wooden ones, you need to open up a few weep holes along the bottom so water can leak out. Next summer, you might consider removing all the caulk, and putting hinges on them so they can open for ventilation.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 6:31PM
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Fabulous house, shesaidc2! Did you do the beautiful wallpaper or was it like that when you bought it?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 12:14AM
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antiquesilver all the wallpaper you see was there when we moved it.... The stuff downstairs is over 20 years old, and the stuff in the bedrooms more than 30....
Sadly for many lovers of victorian wallpaper much of it will be going... we want to keep the spirit and interest but provide a little bit more breathing space. I am an artist and I really like to hang art on the walls and have it pop, and with all that wallpaper that's just not working... plus in many many places it is peeling, fading ect. I will say that when we first toured the house the amount of wallpaper made the house nearly a no go for us, and I have warmed up to it in many ways. So much so the one room we removed it entirely in feels a little naked to me now :) But no immediate plans on the wallpaper downstairs, just settling into the house and seeing how we feel :)

columbusguy1 - haha I mostly love it (except for when I look around and only see all the work!) but Traverse City is an awesome place to live :) The storms are all wooded ones many (all?) of them original, the basement ones were built by the PO. We are planning to remove all the caulk and get the storms off and windows open next summer. I love the idea of hinges actually. Two of our upstairs storms (the BIG ones) hinge open and seems like that might be the original design? It is BRILLIANT! you think I could retrofit the others to have hinges also? Because managing those huge sheets of glass that high up was NERVE WRACKING and we only had 2 to put up!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 9:25AM
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Wow. Enjoyed the tour of your great house, the woodwork is beautiful throughout. Congrats.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Shesaidc2, perhaps an easier fix for the walls is to stick down the peeling sections and paint over the paper? You have no idea--welll, maybe you do--how hard it is to strip paper! My entry hall had multiple layers, all painted over...while removing it in my naivete, I discovered it was almost 1/8th inch thick. If you see one of those 'paper tiger' things, let me tell you that it isn't as great as they say--you will find yourself putting in a lot of work, and removing only extremely small strips. Better is to just spray it with soapy warm water, let it soak in, and then start scraping at a loose spot. I got mine to come off mostly in large pieces that way.

In several of my old house books, there are illustrations of shutters being hinged, not from the sides as normal, but from the top, so that you still get shade from them, but plenty of air--and there is no reason storms can't be done the same way. Once you get the caulk out, see what type of hinge would work best, and you can prop the storm open next summer! You could try surface mounted hinges as those would be easiest, just make sure they are strong enough to support the weight--you might also try a piano hinge.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 8:50PM
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Shesaidc2, I can admire the Bradbury & Bradbury papers from afar but there's no way I could live with them - like you, I prefer my walls as a backdrop. My personal rule is that no one should ever be allowed to hang wall paper unless they've had to remove it - & painting over it almost guarantees it will peel sporadically in the future & just prolongs the misery. For your sake, I hope the newer papers are easier to remove than the century old stuff.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 10:00PM
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beautiful home.
I too would hesitate to install storm windows.
some would have to be custom made for the
round windows you have.

windows address part of the air leakage
and thermal transfer that you feel.
but in the big picture there are larger
air leakage areas that would serve you
well to address to improve your comfort.

investing in a blower door test by someone
experienced in existing homes of a same age
as yours would be the way to find these
leakage areas.

nowdays we use sheet materials to build that
cover large areas. back in the was individual
boards. each place where materials
air leakage.

things like wall paper help in that the paper
reduces the amount of air that moves in to
the house.

with a blower door test, you'll be able to feel
the you can on windy days..on one
side of the house. by exaggerating the leakage
sites, you can identify where the air is entering
your house.

check in your area to have someone to do
this type of testing. RESNET, BPI energy raters
and auditors can help you to make your
home more comfortable, and affordable to heat
and cool.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 4:32PM
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1. The guy is right. Do the boiler last, if at all. Forget what they say, at most you'll save 10-12%. But to save it, you'll lay out a lot of upfront cash. Go after the leaks instead.

2. You're right about long johns. They will be your best friend, and you should spare no expense. LL Bean & Patagonia are good sources. At least for us, they make all the difference in the world.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 7:08PM
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columbusguy1 & antiquesilver I am excited to try out the idea of hinging the storms this summer! As for the wallpaper.... it's a job for sure. The old stuff upstairs is all paper not vinyl and the top layers actually have been coming off OK. (6 layers in one room and 4 in the other) I gotta feel these are from the 40's or 5's I don't know, but they are old, so far not a single room has had paint over wallpaper (where I have peaked) thankfully! It looks like they papered the house as soon as it was built (and closets and ceilings!) and just kept on papering over it. We have found damaged plaster, and a strange wall that seems to be missing it's entire skim coat ?!? but thankfully no whole walls which have collapsed. We have failed plaster we reattached, but nothing crumbling other than around corners, baseboard, outlets. The ceiling on the other hand totalled owned us and we are going to have a plaster guy come out and advise on maybe just skim coating over it..? It is obviously crazy but part of my likes removing wallpaper (at least the beginning exploratory pulls and reveals, when we are down to the tough bits I do get more dejected) I feel like it helps the house breath and make the air (eventually cleaner) those old papers had some water damage and they got papered over... not MOLD, but musty for sure.

we had an energy auditor come by and do some analysis, but they wouldn't do a blower door test because we have asbestos wrapped pipes. They wanted us to do a full abatement before they would do a blower door test, though everything I have read (EPA site) says we should just keep ensuring it is encapsulated and not risk abatement. So I might be out of luck for a blower door test. I suspect they are the only company in our area doing it and I doubt we will come to agreement on asbestos....
But they did highlight some areas of gaps creating some stack effect.... but they also didn't do a heat map view so I feel a little let down by the audit... Mostly they wanted us to pay them to upgrade appliances and reduce our usable attic space (building walls and adding cellulose) and completely ignored the crawl space part of the house that is clearly insufficiently insulated. UG! So I feel like we are on our own to "figure it out" But this forum has been helpful :)

Clarion - ok fancy long johns on my christmas wish list :)

by the way, this forum rocks! thanks everyone :)

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 9:12AM
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shesaidc2, that kitchen of yours is worth putting up with any hardship!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 8:58PM
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One thing: if you're trying to avoid drafts this winter, don't pull down any wallpaper before you need to. Leave it up until the last minute as it is probably covering some plaster cracks and squirrelly corners where cold air will come rushing in.. Just leave it until you're ready to really overhaul the room.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 3:28AM
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sorry to hear of your less than helpful experience
with the energy audit.

seems to be more the case these days as utilities
are taking over a previously independent field.

given the age of your house, and construction
methods used at that is a given that
your house has excessive air infiltration.
I've tested houses of that age that we had to
use multiplication factors to calculate leakage
as it was so excessive. several tests of these
homes had to be done to show smaller leakage sites
after larger ones had been sealed.

so given that, lets work on some logical assumptions.
heat loss is mostly through the ceiling into the attic.
the uninsulated crawlspace also contributes to
damp & cold. these would be the first two areas
to concentrate on.

I don't recall seeing any information on insulations
in attic walls or crawlspace.
can you give us some info on those areas?
what if any insulation in attic?
and is crawlspace closed, open or a combo of both?
any insulation in floors over crawlspace?
how is access in crawlspace?
the rest of the house is over a basement?
how much is crawlspace & how much basement?
I don't know much about you'd have
to be pretty descriptive or post pics.

before adding insulation..first you air seal.
different materials make long lasting seals
for different leakage sites. we can help you
to determine what would be most cost effective
for you to invest time & money in.

I'm in total agreement about leaving wallpaper.
the wallpaper will help to stop air leakage into
conditioned space. the beautiful floor and ceiling
moldings will be your leakage areas in most of the
rooms. window frames, door frames leak between
framing sections. clear caulking will seal the leaks
and expand and contract as weather changes.
would you invest time and effort into doing some
caulking yourselves?

will you be staying with the heating system that
you currently have?

lots of questions, hopefully you'll be able
to answer and we can go from there.

it would be a shame to not make such a wonderful
house comfortable & affordable to live in.
let's see what we can do.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 12:32PM
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insulation in attic? As is probably the case the attic is a combination. Most of it is a walk up attic, with insulation under the floorboards between that and the ceilings below. Probably a cavity of 8 in. The back half of the house is regular attic with cellulose blown in, possibly other stuff below that (we have not gone digging and I don't know the depth). There is a small addition to the house (they bumped out 4 feet on two sides on the back half of the house which is a single story and the "attic space" as it were is not accesible but has a vent panel ? on the outside.

walls - They had cellulose blown in in the 80's (I have the receipt only $1700) and in the attic we can see it overflowing at the edge of the attic walls. I also suspect some mineral wool in some places as when we ripped up carpet recently in a bedroom there is a gap where the toe (?) molding would go and there is some black stuff but those are interior walls.

Most of the house is basement, with giant old stones that have been sealed fairly well except in one area under the kitchen. The floor is dirt with wood planks on top and then sometimes of laminante or other "tiles" the home inspector suspected they had asbestos in them, they are wearing through in parts.

The crawl space is small, L shaped about 4 wide on each side and then 10-12 ft on either side. The crawl space is also open to the crawl space on our back porch which is enclosed, but FREEZING cold. The main lock to the house in on the back of that room, but there is a door which closes it off from the house and we keep it closed. The crawl space is assessable, part of it is poured cement (I think part of it was a porch off of the kitchen that was later enclosed and expanded, and the rest is dirt. It is not fully supported underground with no piers seeming to go more than a foot below ground. This was likely added in the 1910's and has held up well, the porch which is probably of the same date/expansion has had more shifting. We have very sandy soil so probably will not see significant movement, but are going to properly deal with that in the next year or so. There looks to be Styrofoam covering the crawlspace under the house with the joints taped going flush to the outside wall. The porch is not as well sealed and I can see the wall cavity and it's pink insulation sticking through... probably so can the chipmunks who live under there...

The room that has this crawl space addition is our office where we both work during the day. We pretty much keep it closed off from the the rest of the house most of the time and heat it supplementally during the day with a space heater. It has carpet (OMG NASTY) run up into the radiator (which need a good vacuuming) and dealing with that is on our list before christmas.

We are armed with caulk and ready to use it! We had a 1920's home before this that we tightened up and added insulation to the attic and did other things to (renovated a kitchen and bath) so we are pretty handy. We have caulked around the outside of some of the windows and added a little weatherstripping to the front door. The area by the front door is constantly 5 degrees colder than the living room thermostat. The front door is not original but an old door that fits not horribly. There have been some attempts at weather stripping but they were not done correctly (no using compression right) We are debating between adding a storm door on the outside (evidence of one before, and we would love a screen in the summer for airflow) or just buying a curtain to cover it up for this winter and look for the perfect wooden screen/storm to match the others in the house.

There are two places in the basement that seem to be problematic. One is a hole that carries pipes up to the second floor for plumbing. The other is under the kitchen sink where the rock foundation wall has been busted up at the floor level to allow plumbing access (clearly not original sink location) The energy audit guys suggested filling both of these with fire proof foam, but that freaks me out as they are plumbing access and we need to be able to access those if a leak occurs. Also at some point the original owners removed the backstair case, and "covered up" a window. It is covered with siding on the outside but I can see air moving dust around inside where there is just some barrier up over the window (The frame is still there). This is behind our upstairs shower and also in our basement stairwell.

If you need more info or pictures I have them or can get them (I like to take pictures and obsess about my old house :)

Oh and we plan to keep the boiler we have, we had it serviced and the guy said it was in good shape, well maintained and would last forever. All of the pipes are copper going into the boiler and covered in foam, but they then connect to old pipes to traverse the basement and head into the walls and they are covered in asbestos. I do not know when they were converted from old fashion radiators to baseboard ones, but they seem to be in good condition but all need to be vacuumed (covered in dust) (especially in rooms with carpet.

By the way it is KILLING ME that you say leave all the wall paper :) I thought the winter would be the perfect time to bust out a steamer and go to work, better than the hot summer months :) But with two kids and work it might be good to just settle in and deal with the mechanics

Thanks so much!!

Here is a link that might be useful: includes pictures of crawl space

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 4:27PM
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From the pictures you showed, I saw a bathroom with both a radiator and baseboard, and several other rooms with baseboard. This suggests that previous owners replaced the radiators with baseboard with perhaps lesser heating capacity. Have you calculated how much heat your baseboards can provide wrt the size of rooms and expected losses?

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 4:30PM
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Geller how do we determine that? The transition to baseboards happened before 86, the upstairs standup radiator is not connected and may not be original as the PO had been doing some restoring and had the house filled with antiques and most of the lights are replacements new old looking I think. The rooms heat up ok when the radiators are going but once they stop. During the day for instance the "feels" colder than thermostat might say. Also the difference between livingroom and other rooms is noticable 5 degrees at the door

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 4:48PM
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1. Radiators to baseboard conversions in old houses are often problematic, especially with high ceilings. Generally speaking, in old houses with their normal amount of leakage, there are not enough walls to run sufficient baseboard to give you the BTUs you need. In the old days, radiators were specified by their number of sections based on a heat loss calc for a given room. When a modern heating guy comes in, his only option is to run the max baseboard that the room allows, which is generally insufficient. You run out of walls before you get the required BTUs.When it gets really cold, the baseboard in this instance will be unable to satisfy the boiler/thermostat, and the boiler will run non-stop. Very expensive! We had to rip out all our baseboard and re-install radiators. You wouldn't want our heating bill even today, but they are half of what they were with baseboard.

2. I am assuming you have hot water heating (most baseboard is), and not steam?

3. Proper clothing and long johns will alleviate a lot of the "feeling" of cold.

4. Rooms that are colder than others either have higher leakage, or less heating capacity (i.e. short runs of baseboard.)

5. Unless you have unrealistic expectations, it is alarming that the cold is effecting you so early in the season. The real cold has not even arrived. If you are having trouble in November, January will be quite another matter...

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 10:17PM
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Clarion has some very good points. I had the feeling that the baseboard may not have enough surface area, and also may be slant fin rather than cast iron. Cast iron baseboards, just like radiators, have a high specific heat and keep warm even if the thermostat is satisfied, while slant fin will cool off very quickly. So I would suggest that you do a heat loss calculation for each room based on wall and window area, etc., and then calculate how many BTUs your baseboard can provide per foot at a certain differential between the hot water and the desired room temperature. You can google "cast iron radiators", and the web site gives you literature on btu/hr for available products. Also, when I googled heat loss calculator, I found that Slantfin has an iphone/ipad app that allows you to input room data and it calculates heat loss.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 10:53PM
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A few very quick points:

Are you sure there is a plaster finish coat anywhere? Houses of this era often had none. The intention was wallpaper forever. Another common occurence was a finish coat only in the "main" rooms and rough coat plus wallpaper elesewhere.

A friend who has been dealing professionally with old house restoration for many, many years uses this rule of thumb for air sealing and insulation: first attic, second basement, third doors, fourth windows.

A dirt basement floor is very common, but can often lead to moisture problems. This is something to keep an eye on. Anything you can do to prevent air infiltration in the basement will be a significant help. Stone foundations can be sealed from the inside with gunite or shotcrete sprayed on. Perhaps there are foam products that both seal and insulate which can be applied to stone as well.

Old fashioned cast iron steam radiators produced radiant heat which makes people feel warmer than the primarily convective type heat of baseboard heaters.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 6:12AM
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Clarion/geller - Yep hot water heat not steam. I will try and do a check to see if the baseboards are sufficient for the rooms. They are slantfin and covered in dust (acts as an insulator right?) and in two rooms they ran the carpet right up into it preventing any convection at all!

I guess I should clarify a few things. The house is not freezing cold, and feels plenty warm while the radiators are on. But as you said it is only November and the fact that during the day it was feeling colder than I expected worried me about the winter coming up. We have an automatic thermostate that was installed as part of the energy audit we had done. They had it programed to only get up to 68 when we would be "home" and down to 58 or 60 when we were not (clearly we have adjusted it to our needs). From the summer weather we know that the house takes a while to change temperature, it seemed to like to hold onto the heat even if the temperature outside had dropped... so we worried about letting the house house cool down so much at night or during the day and it never really heating up? Maybe that's crazy though.

68 just does not feel warm in this house, I need the thermostate at 70 to feel like I don't need a blanket on. But the thermostate does not seem to be a very accurate measure of the actual temperature of the house, and that room runs warmer than the rest. But once that thermostate shows 66/65 it feels cold without layers and moving around, my fingers feel cold. I must admit my 5 year old frequently runs around the house all day naked and NEVER complains that it is cold, I had an internal thermostat like that as a child and didn't think it was worth the hassel to put a coat on unless I would be outside for 30 min or more, no matter how cold it was!

We also both work from home, and the kids are home from school after 3 so as a family we spend a lot of time at the house where we wanted it heated... again makes me worried for the winter bills.

My main question I think really was getting at prioritizing ways to improve the efficiency and comfort in the home this winter. Everything with this house seems overwhelming at times. It was in VERY GOOD condition, except it is 115 yo and even if the PO did maintain it in many ways and spend money "restoring it" there are still so many things that need doing! From a finance standpoint the house maxes us out a bit, so we have to go slow improving things! Then I see the list of things and my head spins :0

But the advice on here has really helped! Seal leaks! cover windows with anything to increase comfort, check sizing capacity of rooms and see where that gets us this winter and keep chugging away :) Oh and put cozy long johns on the christmas list ;)

I am also going to move our wall clock/thermostate around the house to get a better gauge of the colder rooms and what the house averages out to since the living-room thermostat seems unreliable.

akamainegrower - 3 of the 4 walls have a finish coat, and the nook I tackled also had a finished coat everywhere. It seems that at some point maybe they did some modification and didn't bother with finish coats on those walls as they knew they would just paper over it. I believe the original floor-plan was remodeled with in 15-20 years of it being built.

I also think the convection

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:43AM
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I have a 150+ year old house & although I'm in the mid-Atlantic where the temps are balmy compared to yours, keeping the rooms above frigid can be a problem in the dead of winter. We found out over the past 20 years that the automatic thermostats don't work for us - it takes much too long for the temps to stablize if they've been low all day & by the time the house warms up, it's time to go to bed, etc. We set a temp of 67 or so & put the thermostat on 'HOLD' & the rooms stay relatively comfortable. Also, be sure your thermostats are set for the air temperature instead of the wall temperature (my 10 year old Honeywell is like that but I don't know if the newer ones are - definitely NOT something useful in an old house with solid brick walls).

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 7:04PM
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We found out the same thing when we got all new automatic thermostats: It takes so long to bring the house up to temp that it wasn't worth lowering them! We aim for 65 when home and active. We turned them down to 58 when at work/asleep the first year. Cold!

The second year we just turned them down a degree or two when at work/asleep and the bill was equivalent, but the comfort much greater!

Again: It is much easier and cheaper to insulate yourselves than the whole house! (not that you shouldn't try).

Advanced project for another day: We eventually re-did our entire thermostat/zone system. Where once we had 3 zones for each floor (= 3 thermostats), we zoned all of the important rooms individually. Now we have around 9 thermostats and control the rooms as needed/used. The new thermostats are great fro this because you just plug in the new desired temp and the amount of time to keep it, -and after that it reverts to schedule.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 7:19PM
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When we did our remodel, which included removing some hot water radiators and adding a zone with underfloor radiant heat, the contractor said that set-back thermostats are not optimal for hot water heat, for the reasons given above. In addition, if you have slant-fin baseboard, you have convective heating rather than radiant heating, which requires hot water all the time. If you have a combination of cast iron and slant fin, another approach is to leave the pump on 24/7, so that way the circulating water can redistribute heat from the radiators to the slant fin, making temperatures more uniform around the house.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 9:54AM
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