Here's How Poorly Insulated Windows Impact Your Home

The ability to heat and cool our homes with the push of a thermostat button is something many people don’t give a second thought. But, a century ago, maintaining a comfortable temperature inside a house wasn’t so simple. In our world of modern conveniences, we tend to take our home temperature for granted — until it’s not so comfortable indoors.

Maybe you’ve noticed your house isn’t staying very cool during the dog days of summer, or perhaps you’ve been relying on socks and an extra sweater to keep warm when winter arrives.

There are many reasons a home might not be able to maintain a comfortable temperature. But poorly insulated windows are one of the most common causes of this problem.

Windows are more than decorative features in a home. A high-quality window can prevent outdoor conditions from impacting indoor temperatures. A high-quality, well-installed window will neutralize outdoor temperatures and prevent them from disrupting the indoor climate. Poorly insulated windows can drastically alter a home’s interior temperature and its occupants’ comfort. If left unaddressed for a long time, inadequate insulation can also raise energy costs and adversely affect the home’s structure.

What’s the impact of poorly insulated windows on energy efficiency and your family’s year-round comfort?

Heating Efficiency Is Lower

Inadequate insulation forces your heater to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature inside. Heat naturally flows toward cooler objects until the temperature becomes equalized — a phenomenon known as “radiation.”  A poorly insulated window isn’t strong enough to stop this flow, resulting in something called “conduction.” Conduction is what happens when heat travels through glass in search of cooler temperatures. If your home has single-pane windows, the heat created inside can pass directly through the glass, leaving only chilled air behind.

Have you ever rolled up a towel and put it along the bottom of a door or window to stop cold air from pouring in? Another reason badly insulated windows result in lower heating efficiency is “infiltration.” If your windows are older or improperly installed, there may be cracks along the window frame. These gaps can be conduits for warm air to leave, or for cooler air to make its way inside.

One of the most commonly known properties of heat is that it rises toward the cool glass. Once the glass cools the heated air, the resulting cooler air gets pushed toward the floor. Because of conduction — heat’s ability to pass through inadequately insulated glass — some of the heat that rises near windows often escapes outside.

Inadequately insulated windows make your home’s heating system work harder to keep up with the demand for warm temperatures. The heating system runs more frequently and for extended periods, increasing energy costs and straining its capacity.

Cooling Efficiency Suffers, Too

An estimated one-third of a home’s heat loss happens via its windows and doors. But heat loss isn’t the only issue improperly insulated windows can cause. Just as heat can leave your home via the windows during the winter months, it can enter your home in the same way during the hottest days of summer. All the heat coming in through gaps around the window frame or single-pane windows makes your home hotter and signals your HVAC system to work harder to keep up.

The result is that heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer are responsible for 25 to 30% of all cooling and heating use in residential buildings. That’s right — nearly 30% of your energy bill comes from unwanted heat loss or gain. That’s a lot of money to spend on air that isn’t keeping you comfortable. And, if you’re struggling to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, you’re wasting your hard-earned dollars on a system that can’t keep up.

Drafts Are Present

If you have to sleep in a knit beanie and wool socks to stay warm in the winter or strip down to a tank top and shorts to keep cool inside your home, drafty windows may be to blame.

drafty windows may be to blame

But look closely. Sometimes homeowners confuse conduction and drafty windows. Conduction happens when heat escapes through the glass. The result is colder air hovering around the windows that can feel like a draft. But “drafts” result from gaps and cracks that allow indoor air to escape and outdoor air to make its way inside.

If there are no visible cracks or gaps around a window, conduction is the likely culprit. You can buy thick drapes to pull over these windows at night to reduce the effect, but doing this during daylight hours reduces the amount of natural light in your home. And who wants that?

If, on the other hand, you see gaps or cracks around the window frame, drafts are interfering with your home’s ability to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Besides being uncomfortable, drafts can also make your heating and cooling system work overtime to maintain your home’s interior temperature. And, as we mentioned above, anytime your HVAC system has to work harder, you end up paying more in energy costs.

But higher energy bills aren’t the only potential expenses that come with an overworked HVAC. Parts inside the system may begin to wear down or break, resulting in unexpected maintenance charges. An overtaxed HVAC may also require replacement earlier than estimated, leaving you with the expense of a whole new system.

Humidity Control Becomes Impossible

Most homeowners pay more attention to the temperature on their thermostat than the humidity levels inside their home. But the truth is a home’s humidity levels can play a crucial role in the health and well-being of the family who lives there. If a home’s humidity levels are too low, its occupants may experience nosebleeds, dry skin, and dry eyes. If a home’s humidity levels are too high, allergens — including mold, mildew, and dust — can thrive, resulting in allergic reactions and, in some cases, severe illness.

What do windows have to do with humidity control?

Improperly insulated, drafty windows can allow moist air to escape, leaving your home’s humidity levels too low and your family vulnerable to the effects of dry air. At the same time, during warmer months, outdoor air typically has more moisture in it. Your home’s HVAC system should help remove excess moisture from the air and regulate the humidity inside. But if it can’t keep up with all the extra air coming in from outdoors — or all the air escaping through windows — it won’t properly regulate the humidity levels, either.

Besides potential health issues, high indoor humidity can also damage paint, wallpaper, and the trim around your windows, resulting in the need for more expensive repairs.

Not Sure If You Have Poorly Insulated Windows? Here’s How to Tell

Catching a glimpse of sunlight through a gap around the window frame or feeling a breeze coming through a closed window may indicate a need for better insulation, but the signs aren’t always that obvious. To determine whether your windows are keeping you comfortable 365 days a year, ask yourself these questions.

1. Do My Windows Open and Close Properly?

A high-quality, properly installed window will open and close smoothly. If you find it difficult to open or shut a window, it may be too old to correctly insulate your home. Or, the installation may have been to blame. Aging windows or ones with broken seals can be a significant source of energy loss in the home. If you were the one who had these windows installed, you can consult your owner’s manual for troubleshooting instructions or call the installer for information. You might not have this information because the windows were in the home before you bought it. In that case, a service call to an experienced window manufacturer can help shed some light on why your windows aren’t opening and closing properly.

2. Is the Caulking Around My Windows Smooth?

Caulk seals gaps between the window frame and the house during the installation process. An uneven, messy caulking job may signal the presence of cracks around the window frame. A poor caulking job may also signify that the installer cut other corners during the installation process. If you notice this around one window, start checking the others. Odds are that more of your windows have this problem.

messy caulking job

3. Are There Gaps Between the Windowsill and the Frame?

A correctly measured window shouldn’t have gaps between the window’s frame and its sill. A gap below the window is an excellent indication of shoddy installation and resulting heat loss.

4. Are There Signs of Water Damage Around My Windows?

Bubbling wallpaper or paint, visible mold, pooling water, and foul smells can all be signs that water is leaking around a window and causing damage. Over time, excessive water damage can undermine your home’s structure and generate enough mold to cause health problems. If you spot — or smell — signs of water damage around your home’s windows, they lack adequate insulation.

5. Is There Fog Between Windowpanes?

It’s normal to see condensation on the inside of a windowpane in the kitchen after you’ve boiled water on a cold day. But if there’s condensation between the layers of glass in your window, a seal has broken or that window lacked proper  installation. In either case, this moisture is a reliable indication that the window is no longer providing proper insulation for your home.

Fixing Your Windows to Improve Your Home

If poorly insulated windows are causing problems, it’s crucial to address them immediately. Putting it off will only increase the potential for damage and the amount money spent on energy costs and HVAC repairs. What steps can you take to improve your windows and repair any damage?

Fixing Your Windows to Improve Your Home

1. Identify the Problem

If you’ve gone through the checklist above, you probably have a good idea of which windows are the culprit. If you live in an older home, the problem may be extensive enough that it’s time to replace all the windows. But if your home — and its windows — are newer, you may be able to identify a specific window that’s causing issues and have that one repaired or replaced.

2. Seal Cracks or Gaps

If you find cracks or gaps around a window frame, applying a smooth, even seal of caulk can fill the cracks and eliminate drafts. As a general rule of thumb, if you have one window with a poor seal, check for this problem around all your windows. In some cases, a messy or incomplete seal is a sign of a faulty installation job that can run throughout the entire home. If you find a gap between the windowsill and frame, a professional installer can help fix the problem.

3. Invest in Quality Windows

In some cases, a window may be beyond repair. Older windows, especially, don’t hold up in today’s energy-efficient world. Even those that are in good shape won’t provide the efficiency that’s ideal for modern homes. If you live in a house with older or poor-quality windows, investing in double-hung windows from Homespire Windows and Doors can provide the energy efficiency — and long-term savings — you’re looking for. When you replace old, improperly insulated windows with newer ones, you’ll reap the benefits of insulated windows and recoup your investment. An investment in quality windows from Homespire Windows and Doors, backed by a true Signature Warranty, can ensure you purchase the last set of windows you will need as long as you own your home.

4. Hire Professionals for Installation

These days, it only takes a quick internet search to find instructions for many different kinds of do-it-yourself home repair projects. While it may be tempting to save a few dollars and repair or replace your windows yourself, you should know that window installation isn’t your average DIY project. Professional installers have access to specialized equipment, training, and knowledge the average homeowner lacks. Plus, when you purchase windows and installation services through an experienced professional, their products and services come with warranties that guarantee the windows’ quality and the work behind them.

Enjoy the Best Window Insulation With Homespire Windows and Doors

With 25 years of home improvement experience, Homespire’s priority is providing products that improve the quality of life for every customer. We thoughtfully design all our products, then hand-assemble them at our Pennsylvania, facility, helping you keep your home at a comfortable temperature year-round. When it comes to knowing how to insulate windows and protect your home, Homespire’s goal is to ensure each customer is happy and satisfied. Our windows are built to last, and even the installation is covered by our true Signature Warranty. Don’t just buy your next set of windows. Invest in the last set of windows you’ll need as long as you own your home.

Enjoy the Best Window Insulation With Homespire Windows and Doors

Ready to cut energy costs and upgrade to high-quality, energy-efficient windows? Schedule a free, in-home window analysis with us today.