If you just changed windows on any home, you would make a significant difference in how the place feels and looks. Other than just being a visual element, windows are responsible for the energy-efficiency of the place since about 30% of all heat leaves your home this way. Thicker windows can also reduce the noise entering your home from outside and provide you with greater privacy. Lastly, windows determine how much natural light your home receives.
Still, replacing windows is an expensive investment, even if it is a necessary one. Fortunately, it has one decent alternative – insert windows, also known as storm windows. So, what’s the difference between these two window types, and what’s there for you? Here’s how you can determine that.
Table of Contents
1. What is the Difference?
A window replacement is usually a process that involves removing your old windows and installing new ones.
Now, windows are construction elements and are, by default, prone to erosion. This means that a new window will always be better than an old one; however, things are even more one-sided when you consider that people often replace windows with a better version.
If they’re installing new windows, homeowners usually do not lower the quality. This means they often buy windows with more glass panes and a superior frame. These windows are often stronger and sturdier than the old ones and have better energy, efficiency, etc.
According to some estimates, switching to double-glazing windows (from single-pane) can save up to $250 per year.
Before carrying on with the comparison, we must specify what is a storm window?
A storm window is an additional (insert) window that you place over your old window to compensate for some shortcomings. By adding an extra window, you’re improving the insulation of the place, boosting its energy efficiency, and protecting your window from various elements. After all, a storm window goes outside, protecting your windows from rain, snow, hail, and flying debris.
2. Factors to Consider
The first thing you need to consider is the factors that go into this equation.
You start with cost. A replacement window will be far more expensive than a storm window. Strom windows are basically designed for people who can’t afford a new window installation but need to improve their current situation. With a storm window, you get more energy efficiency, a quieter room, and more on a budget.
It’s not just the cost of the window but the installation and the fact that you have to remove the old window to install a new one. The process lasts longer, and replacing a window takes longer.
In terms of energy efficiency, the difference will not be that great. While a new double-glazing window may save you a fortune, a storm window won’t give you much worse results. Just consider what increases the energy efficiency of the window. Also, if you’re aiming for optimal energy efficiency, potentially even powering your entire house as efficiently as possible, window replacement is a clear choice.
Regarding maintenance requirements, it comes down to how you look at these things. A storm window can be removed, cleaned, and put back in place, while a replacement window is maintained just like any other window. The problem with a storm window is that you now get one more thing to clean and inspect.
3. Climate Considerations
Depending on the climate, an argument must be made for either of the two. For instance, if expediency is the issue (you need to make a replacement before the next heating/cooling season), storm windows are definitely a better option. This is because you don’t have to wait for the season favorable for replacement and won’t expose your home while performing the project.
In cold climates, double- or triple-glazing windows can make all the difference in the world. While expensive, their ROI is incredible since they tend to pay themselves off. Also, it’s worth considering that they do increase the overall value of your home. Storm windows, on the other hand, have no such effect on the resale value of the object.
In hot and humid climates, both storm windows and replacement windows offer a similar level of protection. If you have an indoor AC blasting, you want as little of this power lost as possible.
Now, in mixed climates (like continental climates, where you have huge temperature amplitudes over the year), there’s a strong argument to be made for storm windows. Why? Well, because you can remove them at your own behest, but there’s really no reason to do so. Replacement windows will do just as well since they keep your home cold in the summer and warm in the winter.
If the area is known for strong winds and severe weather conditions, storm windows provide direct protection, while replacement windows need to be of extra quality (to avoid being damaged).
4. Historic Homes
Ultimately, if you’re living in a historic home, chances are that you can’t just outright replace a window. In some cities, there are areas with homes built in a traditional style. Since these homes are major tourist attractions and landmarks of the city, their exteriors don’t belong just to the homeowner.
If you want to change anything that drastically changes the exterior, you have to look for a special permit, a permit that’s hard, if not impossible, to get.
Even if you get a permit to replace windows, you might be limited in terms of style and color. You can’t just put vinyl windows on an authentic colonial home.
In these scenarios, storm windows may be your only choice. As we’ve already described, they do everything regular windows do – boost energy efficiency, keep your home quiet, etc. On top of it all, they’re cheaper and don’t require an extra permit. In this scenario, they’re the only way to improve the energy structure of your home.
Ultimately, everyone’s situation is different. There are three things that you should focus on before anything else. First, you need to consider your budget. Can you afford a window replacement? The second one is the local climate. Is there a significant difference in your own region? Finally, is your home a historic building? Based on these three alone, you’ll have your answer.