why is so much cold air coming in?

dgmarieFebruary 8, 2007

This is a stupid question I know. I understand the concept of thermal exchange, however I am stumped as to a remedy for my cold weather problem: the extremely cold temps we've been having here in the midwest have resulted in waves and waves of cold air "flowing" from the bottoms of my casement (Norco circa 1996-7) windows. You can feel the cold air just leaking in. The windows are closed tightly. It isn't a breeze, just the cold coming through the thermal panes into the house. Do I have the world's worst windows? Is this normal in extreme cold? My kitchen, which is full of windows, is cold, the countertops under the windows are freezing cold. I thought thermal panes would have more insulation to them.

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"Is it normal?" Yes and no, depending on the brand, features, and installation. If it's 0° outside and 70° inside, single glazed with a storm window would be approx. 45° glass temperature on the inside of the house. Insulating glass, or a "thermal pane" as you called it, is about 44° at the center of the glass and only about 29° at the edge of the glass (because of the aluminum spacers that you have between the glass). So actually your glass is possibly less efficient than an old fashioned single glass and storm system, IF you don't have Low E glass, which may be the case. If you had in your Norco windows a Low E coating with Argon gas and aluminum spacers, then the center glass would be about 57° and the edge at 32°, so still pretty cold on the edge. If you had a "warm edge" spacer (which Norco didn't use back then) the temperature on the edge of the glass would bump up to the upper 30s. So in terms of actual glass temperature, you can feel cold transmission through the glass itself.

The second variable is the weatherstrip and drafts. If you look at your casement windows, check out the weatherstrip in the four corners. Their weatherstrip tends to shrink over time, allowing gaps in the corners leading to increased air infiltration. The solution there would be to replace the weatherstrip or goober up the corners with caulk.

Norco is (or was, since they don't really exist anymore since they were acquired by Jeld-Wen) one of the least expensive wood window companies out there and therefore has been a popular choice with builders. However, a possibility is that the windows are just fine, but the installation may be bad on all or some of them. If the windows were installed out of square (or the house has settled causing the same circumstances), that could lead to a significant draft.

I live in the midwest too and have been experiencing the same cold temperatures, but haven't felt any cold coming in as you had described.

So I guess the possible solutions would include 1) replace the glass with a better system (applicable only if you have clear insulating glass, which is grossly inadequate for cold climates); 2) Check for square installation and if out of square then reset the windows (easier said than done); 3) Check the weatherstrip.

I'd hate to suggest replacing your 10 year old windows, or putting up interior temporary shrinkwrap plastic. Neither of those steps should be necessary. The latter is sometimes done but I wince even to think about it. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 1:31AM
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replacing windows makes me shudder. I have a large home with 76 casement windows. Almost all of them are 5 feet tall. Using a meat thermometer (oh how hi tech of me!) I placed the tip on the wood at the bottom corner of the window. This is the inside corner of the interior trim moulding, not the actual wood of the window itself. It is -5f outside and the window registers 41 degrees. Does this sound normal or completely out of whack?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 9:22AM
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That sounds about right. Actually that sounds pretty decent for -5° outside. I would have expected lower than that on a casement. The two lower corners of the window frame where the frame meets the sash would be much colder than the center of the glass, or even the two upper corners. The main barrier at that area separating the cold outside from the warm inside is the weatherstrip, and even if the weatherstirip is fully intact it still allows a certain amount of cold conduction and air infiltration.

I like the idea about the meat thermometer - never thought of that. You can get a digital infrared thermometer from RadioShack for about $49 that would be much more accurate for that application. Just point the invisible beam at a surface such as glass or weatherstrip and it will tell you its exact temperature. Incidently, my ice cubes are -4° and a 60 watt lightbulb is 212°.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 5:31PM
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Thanks Tru Blue! I will have to keep that digital thermometer in mind for my techie husband! I taped the same digital meat thermometer to the middle of the glass of the casement window last night and it was 51F and about 2 outside. So I guess it is my southern bones thinking this old house is an ice cube!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 12:10PM
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If your house is very dry, it will feel colder too. When that furnace is really cranking, the indooor air gets really dry unless you have a humidifier. Ours has been awfully dry for quite some time. Same thing last year so DH decided to "fix" furnace humidifier. Now we can't even find all the parts so I'm wishing for spring and open windows. Sandy

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 2:53PM
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I have installed double cell insulating shades with side tracks on some new double pane windows. When I put a thermometer on either side of the shades, I found an 18 degree (F) difference when the outside temps were in the 5-10 range. Upon opening the shades in the morning, a blast of cold air came out from the area between the shade and glass. The shades are made by Symphony.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 2:06PM
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Insulating shades certainly have their place, but one thing to keep in mind, if you have dual pane windows with a LowE coating, is that the glass package is designed to work in concert with the heat in your home.

If you block that heat from contacting the glass - as with insulating shades - then you are allowing the glass to get much colder than it would otherwise and you are inviting condensation to form on that glass - even in a relatively dry environment.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 6:48PM
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I have new (3 years old) replacement windows with low e glass, but there is still air coming in the window. It is strong enough to move the mini blinds and curtains. I finally resorted to covering the windows with plastic (inside). The air coming in fills up the plastic. What should I do. It seems like I should not have this problem with new replacement windows...that is why I got them....Thanks

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 11:15AM
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