It’s officially the first day of summer, although this means little to those of us living in Florida who visit the beach, swim and ride bikes year round. How long were you able to go this spring before you turned on the air conditioning? Do you open your windows at all during the pleasant winter months that Florida offers? We recently installed a shed at a lovely, well kept historic home that was not marred by modern replacement windows, but where all the historic wood windows had been caulked shut. When I looked at the neighbor’s house, they had done the same thing!
It blows my mind that someone would live in a house where none of the windows open (disclaimer: I’ve never lived in a historic house where all the windows opened). For one, it’s a big safety issue. By code, every bedroom must have a secondary means of egress in case of emergency. With an inoperable window, you’ve removed that important safety feature. I know I always made sure that the windows in my children’s bedrooms are in working order.
Secondly, by caulking all the windows permanently shut you’ve automatically made your home reliant on mechanical systems year round for both outside air and temperature control. This is not energy efficient since Florida has so many pleasant days that require no AC or heat, allowing you to turn off that noisy energy hog. To top it all off, you are increasing the air pollution within your home because the air exchange rate of mechanical equipment is much less than a breeze blowing through your windows and doors.
I am assuming that people were told that their windows were leaking air and that their ac system would work better if the windows were sealed. While leaky windows do let cool air escape, there are better ways to address this issue while still allowing the windows to operate. A properly maintained historic window will have a tight seal when the latch is closed and can even have weatherstripping installed to further reduce infiltration. And there are many better ways to improve the energy efficiency of historic homes that will prove more effective, and less dangerous than caulking your windows shut. Over the next few month, we will offer a series of blogs, entitled “Practical Ways to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Historic Home” will address some of these methods. In the meantime, open your windows and doors and let the fresh air in.