Tuesday, May 17, 2011

These are Some Serious Windows

Working in the field of green homes is both a blessing and a bit of a curse. It's great to establish contacts with people that understand healthy indoor air and energy efficiency, but when you live in a 1920's house you realize there are a lot of improvements that can be made.

One thing we had done a few years ago when we finished our second floor was install some storm windows on the original windows in the master bedroom as I really liked the vintage glass and look. The storm windows helped a bit, but after several winters sleeping next to this cold surface, it quickly became apparent that we had to look for something that would perform better and be more comfortable for us. Especially since the windows take up the majority of the wall. So not only did we want comfort, but if I was going to buy windows, I want the best performing windows I can get while still keeping the historic look of the front facade of our home.

I spoke with Andy Scott from Energistics, who is both an energy rater (building science specialist) as well as a distributor for Serious Windows,. Who better to advise than someone who has the tools and training to make informed decisions about building performance? Andy helped me get the remodel-friendly and affordable vinyl option (Series 501) with mullions that divide the top sash into three panes of glass to help keep the historic look.

What makes these windows particularly good is a suspended film in the glass that helps reflect back unwanted heat from the sun - an important issue that is usually difficult to control for West-facing windows receiving afternoon heat. The windows have a U-value of 0.21, which means there R-value is 4.75 (1 divided by U-value = R-value). Even though they are vinyl, the frames are very well insulated (rare for vinyl windows). This is very good for a window.

Since we were adding windows, I also had Sustain-a-building install these windows. When removing the old windows, they took advantage of the work to dense-pack cellulose above and below the windows to help keep the room even more comfortable. It still amazes me that most homes built in the 1920's do not have insulation - energy must have been very cheap back then! Before installing trim, the guys used Great Stuff Window And Door Foam around the seams to ensure a good airtight seal.

We also recreated the craftsman-style built-up trim / crown molding used on our kitchen remodel and the nursery trim so the house has some good continuity now. Here's a nice detail shot for you trim aficionados:

The trim pretty much consists of 1 x 4's. The top casing piece has a small bullnose addition that wraps the 1x4, and then the addition of a crown molding piece above. A flat 1x3 caps off the crown for the finished look.

And the result if we take a step back in the room and admire the work? Absolutely stunning. We may not even get curtains (just shades) since this looks so good!


From outside, the windows are bit brighter than the "Craftsman tan" paint we used on the windows on the front porch so they do jump out a bit. I haven't yet decided if its worth painting the new vinyl to match or not, but for now its much better than the older brown that just looked like the windows faded into a black hole. The view from the street certainly looks much better, and I know we're going to be very comfortable next winter thanks to our Serious Windows!

5 comments:

Sandy said...

Wow! The windows look great, and they look like they belong. Great job.

Atlanta Roofing said...

Constructing a window, you should have placed shims on both the front and back side of the window where you put your screws in to make the surface between the window and the brick a solid continuous piece. Not to say you will have a problem with this but it ensures that when you tighten the window down it won't pull the frame crooked. Home depot id just trying to make it look easy so you go out and buy their windows and then when you try and install them and mess it up you call HD and have them send out one of their install crews You truly gave wonderful tips.

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