Everything You Need to Know About Storm Windows

All across the US, it’s starting to get cold for real. And not thin-crust-of-frost-on-your-car-windshield cold. We’re talking serious, bone chilling frigidity. But if your home’s windows are starting to fail, you’ll be hard pressed to find comfort in the warmth of the indoors. But modern replacement windows can cost thousands of dollars when all is said and done, which just may not be in the budget, especially this time of year.

Storm windows offer a middle ground between freezing all winter long and purchasing brand new windows. A sort of “window for your windows,” storm windows can provide protection, better energy efficiency and improved comfort for older windows—at a fraction of the cost of replacements. Here’s what you need to know about them.

snowy home in the woods

What Are Storm Windows Anyhow?

The term “storm windows” actually covers a broad range of window coverings—from reusable low emissivity glass to temporary plastic films. But all of these options have the same basic goals: protecting your home from bad weather and improving the insulation of your existing windows.

Interior Vs. Exterior Windows

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make when you install your storm windows is whether you need interior or exterior storm windows. The difference between them is fairly self-explanatory: one is hung on the outside of your home, while the other sits inside. Most homeowners prefer interior windows to exterior—they’re easier to put on and remove. And they sit just inside the primary window, so they’re typically a little bit more energy efficient, as well. However, if you’re looking to protect your home from extreme weather, you may find that exterior is the way to go, since these units are often much sturdier than interior storm windows. Keep in mind that exterior storm windows are a lot more expensive, however. It may be worth your time to compare the costs to the price of new windows at this point.

What Types of Windows Are There?

Just like regular windows, storm windows consist of an outer frame that holds a sheet of insulating material. Frames may be made out of:

  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum
  • Wood

There are benefits—and drawbacks—to each material. Wood, for example, offers better insulation, but may warp over time. Aluminum is extremely durable, but won’t do a lot for your home’s insulation. Vinyl is fairly sturdy and more insulating than aluminum, but may fade or otherwise deteriorate in appearance after a while. Essentially, it all comes down to what you consider important in a window.

Likewise, storm window panes can be made out of plastic or glass. Glass, as you’d guess, is much more durable, but is also heavy and difficult to manage. Glass offers better visibility, but it’s fragile, too, meaning it can shatter in extreme weather. Again, it’s about your situation and what’s best for your home.

What Other Special Features Do They Have?

Storm window manufacturers produce specialized units that can be used to protect against a number of hazards. These inc:

  • Polycarbonate plastic or laminated glass. Both of these are resist shattering, making them a good option for security or for extra protection and during extreme weather.
  • Energy efficient coatings. Low-emissivity glass can improve your home’s energy profile and are often less expensive than new windows with the same energy ratings.

Other Things to Look For

To get your money’s worth, you’ll also want to make sure you windows have the following features:

  • Multiple positioning stops. This way you can control the amount of air you let into your home.
  • Quality weatherstripping. Weatherstripping around the windows reduces heat loss, which can lower your energy bills.
  • Predrilled holes. These make installation easier and protect the glass during the process.
  • Removable half-pane glass and half-screens. These are significantly easier to clean than non-removable counterparts.

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