Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Cloudy

56°F

Portland

Cloudy

Humidity: 80%

Wind: 15 mph

  • 27 Nov 2014

    Rain 56°F 53°F

  • 28 Nov 2014

    Rain 54°F 39°F


GREEN DILEMMA: New window or a window insert?

On average, drafty windows account for about 30 percent of our home’s energy loss. So what's the most sustainable way to make those ubiquitous single-pane double-hung windows more energy-efficient and resistant to the Northwest chill? Sustainable Life compared two options: buying and installing new windows and Indow Windows, interior inserts pressed onto a window's frame and invented by Portland entrepreneur Sam Pardue.

Energy efficiency

Indow Windows give a single-pane window double-pane performance. Depending on the window's condition and a host of other factors, an Indow Window can perform even better than a double-pane window. Indow Windows perform as well as replacements in terms of eliminating drafts. But replacements have an edge in R value, or radiant energy passing through, with an 80 percent reduction in energy loss compared to 50 percent with an Indow Window. Triple-pane replacement windows are even more energy-efficient. Plus, when new windows are installed, the window casement is typically insulated, further improving its energy efficiency.

Advantage: Replacement windows

Cost

A new 3-by-4-foot triple-pane wood-framed window could cost $800 to $900 installed, while an Indow Window of the same size runs $240. In some cases, Indow Windows cost as little as one-tenth as much as a replacement window.

Advantage: Indow Window

Waste

Manufacturing new windows creates more waste and uses more materials than a handmade Indow Window. And if old windows remain in place, they are not heading for a landfill. Then again, in reuse-recycle Portland, some tossed windows could be reused in a greenhouse or chicken coop.

Advantage: Indow Window

Aesthetics

If your window is in serious disrepair with peeling paint, dry rot and such, an Indow Window won't fix that. But some homeowners love their old window's wavy-glass, wooden panes and the character they add to a home. Replacement windows just don't have the same charm and might not look right in an older historic home, especially if they're vinyl. Then again, new windows can be built to replicate any older one to keep that character intact. But it will cost you. A lot.

Also, a new window's U value — what makes that better weatherization possible— may darken the natural light, though few would notice it.

Advantage: Toss up. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Convenience

Replacement windows are a permanent fix to your window woes. However, new windows can take about six weeks to make and install, not to mention the pain of having your old windows removed — a process that could disturb lead-based paint on window trim if your house was built before 1978.

Indow Windows take about two weeks to make and seconds or minutes to install. They are not permanent windows but can be left in year-long, because they also keep homes cooler in the summer. For air flow, you'll need to pull on a small safety strap, which releases the top part of the insert. You'll get that breeze but will need separate screens for pest control. Also, if you're using them seasonally, you'll need a place to store them, like under a bed wrapped in sheets.

Advantage: Replacement

Carbon footprint

The materials used in Indow Windows are more sustainable than those in new windows. Both options are built to last, but since the Indow Window was launched just two years ago, it's too soon to say exactly how long. Both options also save fossil fuel by reducing heat loss at least by half, though new windows trim more.

Advantage: Tossup

Verdict

It's a battle of comfort versus cost, and every homeowner has a different set of circumstances to consider. But Indow Windows offer most of the benefits of replacement windows at a fraction of the cost, with less waste.

Winner: Indow Windows

Sources: Consumerenergycenter.org; Mike O'Brien, retired green building specialist for the city of Portland; Sam Pardue, creator of Indow Window; indowwindows.com; Tom Carroll, administrative coordinator and former home performance insulator with Neil Kelly; Ken Wheatley, sales consultant with Neil Kelly.