| energy-saving q&as
Windows Should Seal Out Cold, Protect Fabrics and Art
By KEN SHEINKOPF
QOur family room always feels drafty no matter
what season it is. A few of my neighbors said
it sounds like it’s time to replace the windows.
Anything else we should check first before making this
big expenditure? — A.M., Lisle, Ill.
Ken Sheinkopf has been
working in renewable
energy for 25 years
and knows where to
find the answers to
AAbsolutely. Before you do anything else, examine
the installation of your current windows. If there’s
not a tight seal where the sash meets the frame,
you’re going to have some serious air leakage problems.
Even the best windows can’t stop air leakage if the sashes
don’t sit properly in their frames.
Hardware stores are full of easy-to-use, low-cost
caulking and weatherstripping materials, and if the windows don’t seal properly you ought to be able to fix the
Keep in mind that even if your home was well built and
the windows were properly installed, frames can shift and
distort over time as the home settles. Settling opens up
cracks and weakens the seals around window
and door components. This is one reason I
advise homeowners to periodically do a mini
energy audit of their homes, checking for gaps
or cracks in the exterior walls where unwanted
air can flow. Look especially at openings where
pipes and wires come into the home. Inspect
the exterior door frames.
You also need to check on the window
frames. Repairing or replacing window frames or their
exterior soffits can often take care of a problem at lower cost
than replacing the windows outright.
But if you find that you do need new windows, I urge you
to get good ones. It’s wise to invest in windows suited to
your climate. There are very few home improvements you
can make that will have an impact on indoor comfort and
energy savings as big as windows will give you.
You should also get on line and visit the Home Energy
Saver at http://hes.lbl.gov. It’s one of my favorite sites for
finding out how to make a home more energy efficient. The
site lets you compare your energy usage to other homeowners in your community, and after you enter details on your
house, it suggests a variety of improvements that can lower
your energy bill. You can even put in the payback time you’d
like to get on your energy-reduction investments, as well as
the level of efficiency you’d like to have. The site also offers
suggestions on improvements in terms of all the major
home energy users — your heating and cooling systems,
water heating, major and small appliances, lighting and various miscellaneous uses. In your case, pay special attention
to the information on windows. Take the time to input as
much detail on your home as possible, and you will be very
pleased with the great feedback you’ll get on windows.
MARCO MACCARINI/IS TOCKPHO TO.COM
As an older home settles,
window frames can distort.
Check window sashes and
frames for drafts around
Got questions about
home energy usage
and renewable energy?
Send them to ken@
ases.org. Not all questions can be answered
personally, but watch
for yours in this column
and his syndicated
column, “Home Energy
Source,” appearing in
hundreds of newspapers nationwide. Or see
solartoday.org for more
“Ask Ken” Q&A.
QA neighbor came over yesterday and told me
that the matting on a large picture in our living room was the wrong color for the picture
and frame. After looking at it closely, I realized that the
picture has faded terribly over the years. I then moved
some cushions on the sofa in front of it and could see
noticeable differences between colors that were covered by the pillows and those that were exposed. Any
ideas on how to stop this fading problem without keeping the drapes tightly closed? — C.K., San Diego
AThis is a problem most homeowners will find if
they look closely at the furniture, art objects and
other home materials exposed to sun through
windows and sliding doors, on uncovered patios, and even
Materials vary widely in susceptibility to sun damage.
Factors affecting this include their fiber content, yarn, fabric
construction, finish and dye methods. Products exposed to
strong sunlight can, over time, visibly warp, fade unevenly in
color and suffer other kinds of problems. Sometimes there
are no visible problems but the material’s strength and abrasion resistance have been greatly weakened.
For drapes, choose fabrics that will hold their color. If
you’re buying furniture, and durability is the prime need,
then ask for materials that will stay strong and abrasion-resistant rather than just focusing on the colors. It’s not just
the sun itself that can cause damage to your artwork and
fabrics, but also such factors as indoor humidity, fumes and
all types of airborne contaminants that can get indoors.
Talk to the sales staff before buying products since
making the right choices can be very difficult. A fabric that
may hold its strength and versatility when placed in the
sun may not do well at holding its color, while another
material that doesn’t fade in sunlight may have its abrasion resistance significantly weakened instead. Think about
where the material will be used and what you want from it,
and choose wisely.
For art and photos, stop by an art gallery or do-it-yourself
store in your neighborhood and you’ll find a wide variety
of non-glare and museum-quality glass designed to protect framed artwork. It looks transparent but its coating
screens out most of the frequencies that contribute to aging
of materials. You can do some other things to keep the sun
from hitting furniture and home objects, ranging from high-quality window films (these can be applied to any window),
specially coated window glass, insulated windows and a
variety of operable window shades. To really do it right, you
need to spend some money on high-quality glass, since even
though conventional windows will absorb a great deal of the
ultraviolet light, the small amount that passes through can
cause damage to textiles and other materials. ST