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Well-designed and well-built windows add value to your home’s appearance and functionality. Not only do windows create architectural flair that can make or break your home’s curb appeal, but these structural components also increase or decrease your home’s energy efficiency, which can have a direct impact on your bank account.
To help keep your home in optimal condition, it’s important to clean and maintain windows so they operate as intended – a way to let light in and keep cold (or heat) out.
Regular window cleaning is integral to proper operation of your windows. Not only does it allow more light into your home, but cleaning prevents the window components from having to work harder than they should (and potentially break).
According to the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, there actually is a ‘right way’ to clean your home’s windows.
If you work in the blazing heat, the cleaning solution tends to dry too quickly and become ineffective. To prevent this from happening, clean your windows on a dry, cloudy day. If that’s not possible, start this job on the shady side of the house and move around with the shade.
Before cleaning the glass, sweep dirt and dust from around the window frame. You can use a cloth or handheld vacuum for this job. This will prevent the debris from mixing with your cleaning solution and becoming a muddy mess.
If your window has a screen, pop it out and soak in hot, soapy water before drying and replacing later.
We may be tempted to forgo the glass cleaner – don’t. If your windows are dirty, you need a cleaner to remove the dirt, since water will just push it around. You can opt to buy a commercial product, or you could make your own using Good Housekeeping’s all-purpose recipe:
Homemade Glass Cleaner
Combine the ingredients and pour them in a spray bottle. If you have kids or pets, write the ingredients on the outside of the bottle for safety and store it in a safe place.
There was a time when old newspaper was the tool of choice for drying windows. Not anymore. Microfiber cloths are super absorbent and inexpensive, making them the best option for cleaning your windows.
However, you’ll want to skip the squeegee. While this tool is still the go-to for professional cleaners, you need to know how to use it properly in order for it to be effective. Neglect this and you could end up with a puddle of soapy water on your inside floor, or outside, killing your plants. To avoid this, stick to a microfiber cloth.
Good news! You only need to tackle this job once or twice a year.
One of the biggest causes of drafts in a home is not old windows – it’s air leaks. While these drafts are the enemy of a cozy home, they are easily remedied.
For air leaks around windows, use silicone caulking to close the gaps and seal the drafts. Start by using caulking rated for windows and doors, and a caulking gun to seal the gaps where your doors and window trim meet interior and exterior walls. This is one of the most affordable yet effective ways to lower utility bills and make your home more comfortable.
However, sealing air leaks won’t be sufficient if you have ice forming on your windows or condensation between the glass panes, or if you consistently have trouble opening and closing the window. If any of these problems occur, it might be smart to replace your windows.
The biggest way to increase your heat efficiency would be to replace single-pane windows. Often these older windows have an R-value of 3 (or U.40) – making them very inefficient when retaining heat. Replacing these older windows can save you as much as 20% on your heating and cooling bills.
The next step is to weather-strip the sash and to verify that the lock works and holds the railings and window firmly in place.
Then consider adding storm windows. For about half the price of a new window, you can get a storm window made for your current windows. According to the EPA, adding a storm window to a weather-stripped historic window can achieve essentially the same – and sometimes better – energy performance as a new insulated double-paned window. (And the storm window may also provide some noise insulation as well.)
For additional energy savings and better heat efficiency, consider security/storm windows that use low-E or laminated glass. While this option costs more than standard glass, the energy savings may offset the initial outlay, especially given that a 2009 English Heritage study found that using low-E storm windows reduced the amount of heat lost through windows by 58%.
If you need a quick fix, and repair or replacement is not an option, then consider a quick-seal for your windows. By installing a clear plastic film across the inside of your window, you can use dead air as a very effective insulator and increase your home’s heat efficiency. The kits are available at most hardware and big-box stores and contain a plastic film and double-sided tape. All you need is a blow dryer and you’ll have a nearly invisible plastic screen over your window.
When buying new windows, you’ll want to remember: High/Low.
New energy-efficient styles include double and triple-pane windows with Low-E coatings and Argon or Krypton gas fills. All of these styles will help to stop air and water leaks, keep out harmful UV rays from sunlight, and reduce energy bills.