I felt compelled to write this post after a series of unrelated experiences over the past few weeks. It all started with another blog. There is a woman that does incredible things re-purposing old items and constructing new items and she writes a blog about it. My mother follows her blog and occasionally shoots me a link to a project she has completed that I might appreciate. I assume her audience spans most demographics but would guess that they all at least have an appreciation for old things in common. She recently posted an entry voicing her guilt over considering replacing her old wood windows in her home. My mother told me that perhaps I should provide comment on it.
As I browsed through the comments, I was caught a bit off-guard. The resounding response went something like this: “Toss ‘em, no guilt.” Most alluded to the superior energy efficiency of the replacement window, which is common knowledge of course. Obviously I am aware that this view exists but for some reason I thought it was an ignorance that was slowly but steadily dying. I figured many had noticed the variety of lawsuits over the years against window manufacturers over false information regarding energy efficiency. Or perhaps they have heard commercials from large manufacturers trashing vinyl windows and not daring to touch old windows. Even better, maybe they read the Consumer Reports article from August 2014, which started by saying “Forget what the ads say. Saving money on your energy bill is not the reason to replace your windows.” Clearly, the propaganda from the window manufacturers over the years has proven to be far more insidious and stubborn than I had originally thought.
A few days after reading that blog, I sat in on a historic windows seminar conducted by the folks at Traditional Building. The two speakers were Robert Loversidge, an architect with extensive experience in historic preservation, and Chick McBrien, the Senior Architectural Project Manager at Marvin windows. It was a generally decent presentation covering what to do with old windows in old buildings. At the end I asked a question just to see what response I would get. I asked, “In terms of energy efficiency, how does a restored and weatherstripped original wood window paired with a new wood or aluminum storm window compare to a replacement double-pane wood window?” The response from Loversidge I will paraphrase but went something like this: Obviously we have a wealth of data about new window energy specs but we have only in the past 5 years started to receive information regarding old windows. But based on my experience and the data I have seen, the original window/storm combo if anything might be more efficient because it has a greater mass of air between the two glass panes than a replacement window. Chick, the representative from the new window industry, who was surprisingly objective throughout the seminar did not argue and remained silent.
Why is the truth so much harder to spread? There is a dearth of evidence out there refuting the energy efficiency myth but very little seems to be getting through. I try my best to stay partial when discussing the replace/restore dilemma with people. I generally feel that if it is their home then they should be able to do what they want with it. But I will not stand by while people make decisions based on false or misleading information.