One of the first things I noticed about living in this house is that the upstairs is very difficult to keep cool. It has its own thermostat control, but it’s just hot up there much of the time. Here’s why: we have 22 windows that face west, right into the afternoon sun. And the stairwell acts like a huge chimney to funnel hot air right upstairs. So even on really cold days if the sun is shining, it will be 80 degrees upstairs.
West-facing windows make solar shades or low-e windows a must.
Consequently, we are on a mission to find a way to block some of the sunlight from those upstairs windows. A few options spring to mind.
- Solar screens
- Low-E replacement windows
I’m personally not enthusiastic about awnings because they block the upward view. We have a lot of trees at the back of our property, so we need to be able to look up to have a vista. That’s just me. I like seeing what the weather is doing and we get some fabulous sunsets. I’d hate to lose that.
Replacement windows present a couple of challenges:
- Double pane low-e windows are pricey. In researching them I learned about “unified inches” because that is how windows and screens are priced. Replacement windows in my area cost about $4.00 per unified inch (I’ll explain those below).
- The current windows are original to the house. They are 12 light windows made from “float glass”, a glass that has a wavy texture and contains some imperfections like small bubbles, grains of sand or other interesting items that also distort the view through the glass. So they are historic.
- They are also fitted with storm windows to make them more weather-tight, though at their current age they no longer seal so that is a dubious benefit, so it is harder to fit something like solar shades over them.
On the plus side:
- Replacement windows would eliminate the 12 small panes of glass and the wavyness of our current windows and give us an unobstructed, undistorted view of the world outside.
- They would also replace a number of cracked and broken glass panes we currently have.
- Storm windows would not be required. The ones we have are already pretty old, are not sealed anymore and some are loose from the windows. One has even fallen completely out!
- Another plus, replacement windows would open. Some of our current windows will not open due to being painted too many times, shifting of the house and other causes. How I love to open the windows on a pleasant day!
Let’s talk “unified inches” for a minute, because they are about to come up again. A unified inch is a unit of measure that is derived by adding (not multiplying, which gives you area) the width of a rectangle to the height. The resulting figure is then multiplied times the rate (price per unit) to determine the cost of a window, screen, or other flat surface. Here’s an example: most of our windows are 35″ x 65″. Adding those two numbers together gives us 100 unified inches. If you multiply 100UI times the rate of $4.00/UI, you get a price of $400 per window for a low-e replacement window.
Solar screens are much more cost-friendly, coming in at $.60 per unified inch (or $60 per window for our house). They come in different densities: 70%, 80% and 90%, indicating the amount of light and UV rays that are reflected and absorbed.
In addition to being cost effective, solar shades have additional benefits.
- They reduce or eliminate the UV rays that degrade fabrics and art works.
- You have a relatively unobstructed view out your windows.
- You get the light/heat reducing benefits of the shades even when the windows are open, unlike low-e windows where the light control goes away when the window is raised.
The difficulty is installing solar shades over storm windows. They will have to be custom manufactured. And, as mentioned before, the storm windows are not completely secure on the house, so that would need to be addressed as well.
We should be having someone come to measure the windows soon and I’ll update this blog on what we decide and how the installation process goes.