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drafty old farmhouses

Post in 'The Green Room' started by ditchrider, Aug 3, 2012.

  1. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I hear ya FB, but that is what we inherited with this old farmhouse too. And I don't regret one moment of improving on that misdirection. Every step of the way we benefit along with the house, which hopefully will long outlive us.

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  2. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Holliston, MA USA
    Intersting... I'm definately with Danno on this one, prefer to do as much as possible without removing orignial detail or ripping out old windows. Actually probably better that I got to this thread late as I usually stick foot in mouth big time ranting against vinyl.

    But anyway...

    As an example, in our house we did extensive caulking, weatherstripping, and blown in cellulose. No gutting, no window replacements. Ive kept records for 3 years and all that work alone has reduced our energy consumption from over 13 BTU/FT2/HDD down to the mid 9s BTU/FT2/HDD. And this is in a 200+ year old structure.

    Our windows are a mix of 100+ old wood counterweight double hungs (w storm), mid century vintage aluminum track wood double hungs (w storm), and some double pane windows in the newest part of the house (60s or 70s ?) of varying vintage. Of all those windows the old counterweight jobs operate the smoothest and with cheap v-strip vinyl and storm windows are completely draft free.


    As far as payback period... I think one thing that we often overlook is the embodied energy of building all the new materials and disposing of the old. Sure gutting every interior wall to spray foam will save you more on the heat bill than just blowing in cellulose. But is the total energy to do all that work -energy saved really less than the energy saved via just doing the cellulose? Same goes for windows, not to mention that old wooden single pane windows have a lifetime of basically forever with periodic painting and occasional reglazing vs. vinyl thermopanes that might last 30 years if your lucky before a seal breaks or something else goes that cant be replaces (asuming they even make replacemetn parts for it in 30 years). And all this effort to get maybe 1-2 R extra vs a single pane window with storm (R2)
  3. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Northern Maine
    I just have to reply here. What about the Low-E metal film on modern glass? Reflects long wave radiation back into the home in winter, although loosing some solar gain. With all this talk about old windows, I grew up in a circa 1922 Colonial, and you knew what the temp was by high the frost was on the inside of the window, yes with storms. Those counterweighted windows are still in that house and my parents still live there, frost and all. Baloon framed draftyness, ALOT of oil and wood has been burned there. But it is a beautiful house with lots of charactor, still with all the lathe and plaster covered with tasteful wallpaper, a B&B feel to it all.
    I am happy with my triple glazed windows and don't miss the condensation or frost. Oh and my mother came over once and saw me washing the outside of the window from the inside......lets just say she was a bit jealous. And no climbing on a ladder 20' with a storm window in the fall to replace those five screens that Dad put on in the spring after it was 85 inside and we couldn't open any windows. BTW I do have wood siding and wouldn't have it any other way on my house, vinyl ain't final for anything windows or otherwise, but it boes make some good sever pipe, PVC that is.

    TS
  4. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    For the low-E... well if you want you can get storm windows made with it. I have been cautioned though that in storms you have to be excruciatingly careful as finger smudges wont clean off the coating without some nasty solvent, whereas in an insulated unit they can put the coating on the inside to avoid that pitfall.

    The other thing about old windows and storms... I think a lot of people are used to windows that are not properly weatherstripped and the crappy aluminum triple track storms from the 60s/70s (that I'm dealing with) that dont seal well. If you tighten up the window a lot of those issues with frosting go away. You can do that on the primary window very easily and cheaply ( a couple dollars/window) with v-vinyl weatherstrip and a good modern storm like the Harvey s can be rather cheap ($100-$150/window) and seal nearly airtight.

    The replacement window marketing "save $$$$$$ 50% on your heating bill" is a slight of hand that relies on two faulty assumptions they know must people will never check.
    1. They compare a modern triple glazed, argon low-E (R2.5 or R3) window to an old single pane window with no weatherstrip and no storm (R-1 if you are lucky)
    2. The "50%" savings is a savings of heat lost through the windows only. If you look at a typical old house like mine, windows account for maybe 10 or 15% of the total heat loss of the house. So the real savings is 50% x 10% = 5% !!
    Ask a window manufacturer to show you a lifetime cost comparison of a replacement unit vs a storm and prove the savings. I bet they cant, as most replacements will fail before they reach payback. An example:

    Lets say a single pane window = R1, a single pane with "good" storm = R2, and triple pane fancy replacement = R3

    In my house I have 14 windows that are double hung single pane with old triple tracks. Lets be generous and say they are only R1.5 as I know they dont seal perfectly, and lets also be generous and call the windows 15% of my heat loss. In round numbers lets call my yearly heating bill $1000 of natural gas (its less than that due to wood).

    Example 1:
    replace all my windows with real wood divided lite triple glazed units. What am I looking at? $500 per or more. So I'm invested at least $7000 into windows. That will cut my heat loss 50% through the windows so 50% x 15% = 7.5% reduction x $1000 = $75 a year saved.

    payback period = $7000 / $75 = 93 years
    And in reality, my payback period is actually never, because we all know these replacement windows wont last 93 years before seals fail or some plastic part of the track mechanism breaks that's out of production and cant be replaced.

    Example 2:
    replace all my storm windows with airtight Harvey tru channels to bring the windows up to R2. At an average of $125 per I'm invested $1750. That will cut my heat loss 25% through the windows so 25% x 15% = 3.75% reduction x $1000 = $37.50 a year saved.

    payback period = $1750/37.50 = 46 years
    Even this is not worth it financially in my lifetime, but I may do it to improve the looks of the windows and cut down on condensation and road noise.

    Even if I heated with oil and my fuel costs doubles I'm still looking at paybacks of 47 years and 23 years. And the numbers are worse if I take a loan and finance the new windows. And this is only my direct cost, we are not considering the life-cycle cost including disposing my old windows.

    Compare that to the blown in insulation job I did for under $1000 that will pay back in under 5 years!


    Good reading on windows:
    http://www.oldhouseguy.com/windows.php
    http://mysite.verizon.net/vze7aq8e/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/about_old_windows.pdf
    http://mysite.verizon.net/vze7aq8e/homewindowrestorationwork/index.html
    many many many more: http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1600&sid=d3b02090df4d0f491fec373ed87d5090
  5. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    BTW, for anyone who who owns an old house (and old can be however you define it), likes old houses or is just interested in learning about traditional building methods I recommend you come join us over at http://www.oldhouseweb.com/forums. I've learned a ton from those folks, and you will see a number of familiar names over there.


    Another good site for this stuff is http://historichomeworks.com however I just read so far, their forum is a lot more professional historic preservationist focused and I cant add anything they dont know...


    Oh and one final point - note that I am all for installing the best quality highest performance fancy new windows you can afford in new construction.. Its only old houses I'm talking about here.
  6. Danno77

    Danno77 Minister of Fire

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    While I'm not on OHW very much anymore, I have a thorough history of forum participation. Great people with a great cause, highly recommend the website.
  7. sesmith

    sesmith Member

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    Dec 11, 2009
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    187
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    Central NY

    Foam with stucco might work. It would change the character of the place (but you can't heat with character) and you'd have to frame out the windows. With some creative wood working, I could easily see it as a "tudor" revival, though the windows aren't quite right. You could add roof insulation by building up the roof and re-roofing. Looks like it's even steeper than 12-12...no way I'd ever be caught up there :) I'd have an energy audit done and get some estimate on savings before I ever went to the trouble of doing anything with the walls. I bet the roof would be cost effective though, especially if a newer roof is in it's future anyway. It would look nice with standing seam metal.
  8. Danno77

    Danno77 Minister of Fire

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    It IS steeper than 12/12 and three of the five quotes I tried to get for the roof wouldn't even give me a number because they said they wouldn't get up there. The picture is slightly deceiving, I think it's pretty tall, those windows on the first floor are about 6 1/2 ft tall, to give some perspective to the height.
  9. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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