Installing Storm Windows for Energy Efficiency

Written by B. Leslie Baird
Updated April 20, 2016
three storm windows in home
Angie's List member Eric D. of Chicago had three storm windows installed during a larger window replacement project.

Learn about the energy-saving benefits of exterior and interior storm windows, and which is best for you.

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Storm windows can reduce the amount of air that enters or leaves your home, improving energy efficiency. Installing storm windows has several benefits, but you should also consider the drawbacks.

Adding energy efficiency to your home

If you're not in a position to install new energy-efficient windows, adding an extra barrier will improve your overall heating and cooling efficiency. Studies have shown that storm windows reduce heating and cooling loss when added to less efficient older windows. If you can feel drafts around your current windows, you should notice an improvement in efficiency.

Interior storm windows

Interior storm windows are usually easier to install and remove, especially if they're installed above the first story of your home. This also will make cleaning the windows easier. Interior storm windows will not be exposed to the elements, which will reduce maintenance needs. This type of installation often provides a better seal and greater barrier against air infiltration.

Interior styles are available that allow the bottom half of the window to open for ventilation. Magnetic applications are a choice for quick removal and installation of the windows without using a permanent frame. Interior protection can also be as simple as adding an inexpensive plastic film or sheeting material designed for single-season use.

Exterior storm window installation

Exterior storm windows are a good choice in areas where high windstorms are common. The window help protect your main windows from storm damage.

Exterior installations must be equipped with drainage holes to allow moisture buildup to drain out of the bottom of the window frame. These holes do reduce the efficiency slightly, but minimize the possibility of damage to the interior window frame. Exterior styles are available with panels that are removable from the inside.

Potential drawbacks to storm windows

In most cases, you'll need to remove and store storm windows when they're not in use. This is an important issue to consider if the windows are heavy or take up considerable storage space. You may also face difficulties in operating the windows. Also, remember that the windows of your home provide a source of egress. If you choose a window that will not open, you have lost a potential escape route.

Additional storm window benefits

When storm windows are installed properly, the additional barrier can help reduce outside sound levels. If you choose laminated glass or polycarbonate plastic, this additional layer may offer more security against a break-in. Some types also are good options for those living in apartments. Using an interior storm window can help to reduce your heating and cooling bills without making a major investment in a property you do not own.

If you do decide to add windows, consider having them installed professionally. This is especially important with exterior window installation. If they're installed incorrectly, you won't achieve the maximum insulating benefits. Contact a reliable window company to discuss your options. 

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on March 7, 2013.

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