By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | September/October 2010
Alert the media: Our storm windows have arrived. Yes, it took 10 months, but the prolonged rollout was unavoidable. Last winter's heavy snows took a toll on the roof, and our most pressing priority was repairing the bedroom ceiling. Then Jackson, an 18-month-old English setter arrived, and we put home improvements on hold until we were certain he could make it through the day without eating the couch. Now that the roof is repaired and the dog is settled, I can't believe we lived without storms for so long.
As promised by my colleagues at the National Trust, the house is dramatically more energy efficient. One day the place was a three-story colander; the next day, tight as a drum. Gone are the afternoons of northeasterly breezes blowing through the living room, or candles melting erratically on the dining table. Window frames no longer shake and rattle every time a thundershower passes overhead. Though I haven't seen our latest energy bill, the absence of constant humming from the compressor outside suggests that this year's air conditioning tab will be substantially lower than last's.
I have to give credit to Harold the carpenter, who persuaded us to go with interior wood storms in the first place. "You don't want to box in your historic wood windows with exterior units," he argued, "and you're not going to like the look of mounting hardware on the brick wall." The panels he fabricated fit snugly and unobtrusively. And thanks to a flush-mounted latch, we can pop them out to clean the glass or repair damaged panes. From the street you can't even tell we've made a change.
Perhaps the biggest bonus and best surprise about our latest home improvement is acoustic: We live just two blocks from a major commuting corridor, and suddenly the house is quiet—really quiet. When trash trucks rumble by, we don't even hear them.
I never considered removing and replacing our old windows (that would not have gone over well at the office!), but I did think about aluminum storms because they were cheaper and widely available. Taking the old-fashioned route turned out to be the right aesthetic choice for our house, and the knowledge that the storms will pay for themselves in energy savings only sweetened the deal.
You'll learn more about caring for historic houses in this issue of Preservation. And you can send questions about your home maintenance projects to our online help site HomeRx. (See PreservationNation.org/home-rx.) We'll look forward to hearing from you.
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