Insulating Drafty Historic Windows

Frank Lloyd Wright loved windows. And there’s probably no one who understands this better than the architect John Eifler. He has spent decades restoring Frank Lloyd Wright homes for clients as principal architect for Eifler & Associates Architects.

And now he owns one himself: the Ross House in Glencoe, Illinois in the small 1915 subdivision of six homes planned by Wright’s attorney, Sherman Booth Jr. But most people knew it simply as “The Purple House” when Eifler bought it in 2011.  

It had heavy lilac trim around all the windows.

Eifler knows Frank Lloyd Wright windows from all the houses he has restored: they are casement windows that swing open – often made of beautiful stained glass – with wooden screens on the inside for summer. Since the second-floor windows of the Ross House have some classic Wright leaded-glass detailing, he didn’t want to cover it up in any attempts at insulating the drafty historic windows. He knew it would be impossible to retrofit them with insulating glass without destroying them.

He wanted a simple interior storm window.   

And when he heard about Indow inserts, he knew he had it.  He bought 15 to make the windows more energy efficient without altering them.

“That’s why we needed an interior storm to keep the beauty of these patterned windows on the second floor.”

After the install, we asked Eifler what he thought about the inserts.

“They are working well and I like the look – the brown color is a bit darker than our trim color, so they’re pretty invisible, and one can still see the exterior window sash, which is great. Our house is much less drafty and the geothermal furnace does not kick on as often, so it’s quieter.  Glencoe is pretty quiet to begin with, but the commuter train isn’t too far away, and we barely hear it now.”

Bringing the Ross House back to life

A classic Prairie-Style House, the Ross House had stood vacant for three years in what is known as the Ravine Bluffs Development. It had no heat, no running water. The exterior was covered in a plastic stucco that didn’t let the house breathe. At first, no bank would lend him money for a mortgage. But having worked on these houses for years, he understood what the Ross House could become and so he persisted.

He and his girlfriend Bonnie stripped the paint and acrylic plastic stucco and put on a new roof. They put in geothermal heating and cooling, all new plumbing, bathroom and fixtures.

The attention to windows is central to the draw of Frank Lloyd Wright homes, which are rooted in the Prairie School Architecture style with horizontal lines that evoke flat vastness of Midwestern prairies, the homes and buildings worked into the surrounding landscape whether it’s a bluff, hillside or waterfall. They always making use of natural light.  

“These are exciting properties,” Eifler said. “He looked at things much differently than other people. My house is only 1,800 square feet, but it’s a very open floor plan and comfortable. He was sensitive to windows and having natural light and views. All good things.”

The couple removed all 26 windows. They laid them on a workbench, took out the glass and used a heat gun to remove all the purple paint. Then they sanded and stained each one and put them back together. None of them have the art glass Frank Lloyd Wright was known for, but the second-floor windows have lovely ornamental mullions.

Hearing the Rain

The windows are central to the house: during warm summer rain storms, Eifler enjoys opening the second-floor ones, protected as they are from the deep eaves. The Indow inserts are easy to remove.

“They were original windows and we wanted to keep them that way,” he said. “The Indow inserts worked out well.”

Since Frank Lloyd Wright designed the entire tiny subdivision, Eifler has a house by the famed architect on either side of him as well as across the street.

“I think I’m the only one in the whole world.”

 Join us for the next Window Hero Webinar with John Eifler on Tuesday, August 15 at 11 a.m. PT

(1 p.m. CT) You can register here.

If you live in a place with hot summers, a white roof can make a huge difference. Think about it: in summer we tend to wear light-colored or white clothes – as opposed to dark ones – because they reflect heat more easily and keep us from getting too hot. White roofs have a similar effect, benefiting both our homes and the environment.

You can create a white roof a number of ways. Buy solar reflective asphalt shingles or clay, concrete or fiber cement tiles. Or paint an existing dark roof with a reflective white coating that has a solar reflectance index (SRI) as high as 90 percent.

Another important aspect of a white roof is that it emits thermal heat. A white roof can emit up to 90% of absorbed heat, maintaining a stable, cooler temperature inside your house. This increase energy efficiency, reduces utility bills and extends the life of your roof.

Heat Island Effect

Urban areas tend to be hot. Not only are they covered in dark surfaces including roofs and asphalt, they also have a lot of people. And just a little vegetation and green spaces. All the dark surfaces absorb lots of heat and don’t reflect – or emit – enough of it.

The “urban heat island” effect, as it’s called, contributes to climate change by forcing people to use lots of energy to cool their homes. White roofs help solve this problem by absorbing significantly less heat, which in turn lowers the overall temperatures in the area. And those cooler temperatures also lead to less smog!

White roofs can save you money. Since they do not absorb heat, the interior of your house will heat up much less, reducing the need for air conditioning. Other ways to keep your house cool if you live in a hot climate is to use Shade Grade window inserts. They block solar heat gain through your windows. Both strategies will cut your energy consumption, reduce your carbon footprint and save you money.

White roofs usually last twice as long as black roofs sine they don’t absorb heat that can crack and warp them.  They have longer warranties and require less maintenance and repairs. Since they don’t have to be replaced as often, they reduce waste going to the landfills.

If you decide to paint your roof white, you should be able to do it yourself. But if you have never done any work on your roof, or the prospect makes you uneasy, consider hiring professional roofing contractors.

When the sun comes out, especially here in the cloudy Pacific Northwest, we all do a little happy dance. But that summer sun also comes with some harsh UV rays that can fade furniture and artwork. You may have asked yourself: do windows block UV rays?  They can with our Museum Grade window inserts, which we created since you can’t let the sun do its sun-thing unchecked!

It’s the reason we slather on sunblock, right? Summer sun can damage more than your skin. UV radiation goes right through your windows to fade furniture, wood floors, artwork and rugs. (And that’s a huge bummer because those items are expensive.) A single-pane window lets in 90 percent of UV radiation and a standard double-pane window 80 percent. 

Museum Grade window inserts block 98 percent of the ultraviolet radiation from damaging your belongings through your windows. 

So what is UV light anyway? The sun’s energy has three parts: ultraviolet radiation, visible light (think rainbow!), and infrared radiation. Ultraviolet radiation is invisible to the human eye and has the shortest wavelength of the three types. It can break down the chemical bonds present in dyes and plays a large role in changing the color of wood floors or fading fabrics and artwork. 

We thought it was so cool when the owner of a Case Study house, homes commissioned by Art & Architecture Magazine after WW II, used Indow inserts in the clerestory windows without curtains to help protect artwork from fading.  We’re in #26 and thrilled to be there.

Our inserts have gone in everywhere from the Homewood Museum on Johns Hopkins University campus to a family home in Hickory Creek, Texas where the sun was doing its sun-thing on the family’s artwork and leather furniture.

We like to imagine they all did little happy dances after our Musueum Grade inserts were installed! 

 

 

Any house built before 1978 likely contains lead paint. It was durable and marketed as a premium paint, and so homeowners happily coated the exterior and interior of their houses with it.

Back then people didn’t understand lead is a potent neurotoxin that can cause intellectual disabilities and permanent brain damage. The Lead Safe America Foundation notes that one in three American children under 18 years old today has had an unsafe level of lead in their blood in their lifetime – or more than 22 million children.

Today as people restore and renovate historic homes for modern life, they wonder: how do I safely deal with lead paint?

If that’s your situation, you’ll find our upcoming Window Hero Webinar with Catherine Brooks of Eco-Strip useful. She is a former board member of the Lead Safe America Foundation, which has a wealth of information for anyone living in a home with lead paint. She is an expert on how to identify and safely remove it.

“Anything you do with lead paint, you need to do it right or you’re going to poison someone,” said Catherine. “So many families with older homes don’t realize how dangerous it is.”

Catherine has long been involved in creating healthy, clean environments. Early in her career, she started one of the first recycling centers in Oregon. She later got an MBA and did private consulting for government agencies including the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

In the webinar, Catherine will talk about staying safe while stripping lead paint from historic windows. She’ll go over how to prep the windows and surrounding space, what to wear, and helpful tools including the Swedish-based SpeedHeater, which she sells. Catherine says the SpeedHeater is compliant with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Program.

Heat guns and open-flame torches can cause lead paint to vaporize and create dust. The SpeedHeater works more like a microwave, sending infrared rays into the paint and wood. These jiggle the molecules, and that friction creates heat that then causes the paint to separate from the wood. The paint becomes bubbled and soft – instead of turning into dust – and can be scraped off.

But staying safe goes beyond using the right tools. Catherine will give a full picture of what it takes to safely restore a beautiful old home.  The EPA also has a great “Before You Renovate” document that should be consulted. Among other things, it lists safety equipment and best practices if you are a Do-It-Yourselfer. 

Join us on Thursday, May 25 at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT) for Indow’s free Stay Lead Safe webinar, which you can sign up for here. We love connecting with others who take comfort in things like worn floors and old-growth wood windows that physically link us to the past!

At Indow we firmly believe that business can be a positive force for good. It’s the reason we’re working to make the built environment more energy efficient to fight climate change. And it’s the reason we partnered with our local Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization to launch We Hire Refugees. It’s an initiative designed to rally the business community to declare that refugees strengthen our communities, businesses, and country.

The idea for this started last April when we were struck by the negative political rhetoric surrounding refugees. It didn’t reflect the refugees employed at Indow who are among the finest people we know: Myo, Myo-Naing and Khin, who are from Burma and Ahmed who is from Iraq. They are working to build their lives in a new country after fleeing oppression and war.

Having a stable job is key to successfully integrating into the U.S. Even though refugees undergo rigorous background checks and are fully authorized to work when they’re granted entry, it can be hard for them to find jobs, the cornerstone of a stable life in the U.S.

The We Hire Refugees initiative reads in part:

We, the undersigned, believe hiring refugees makes our communities stronger and our companies more competitive. We know refugees are often highly skilled and have strong work ethics, in keeping with a nation built by hardworking immigrants. We know refugees often become valuable and loyal team members. They become one of us.

But beyond that, we know that the world is going to see an increasing number of refugees as climate change continues to cause rising seas and drought. Look at Syria. A severe drought – worsened by climate change  – contributed to the Syrian conflict and its refugee crisis. Over time, rising seas and increased floods and drought will displace more people and so it’s incumbent on the world to be open to helping and welcoming refugees.

We understand that not all businesses are in a position to hire refugees. But it’s still possible to sign the declaration and use the We Support Refugees or We Welcome Refugees digital badges provided on the site.

Please join us in supporting refugees!

Wsteamroller-print-400x308hat can you do with lightweight acrylic sheets?

Well, you can make window inserts that create a more energy efficient built environment. That’s what we do.

Turns out you can also use them to make steamroller prints! What, you ask, is a steamroller print?

You paint a picture on something like a piece of acrylic, lay a piece of paper over it, then a blanket and and then drive a huge steamroller over it all to create a monotype which is a one-of-a-kind print. Put a fresh piece of paper over that painted acrylic and you can get a second “ghost” print that’s lighter, more ethereal.

We love that the oh-so-utilitarian acrylic we use to make window inserts can also make steamroller prints and are happy to supply acrylic for the Portland Art Museum’s “Miller Family Free Day” where artist Jane Pagliarulo of Atelier Meridian will be helping kids and adults make their own prints from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 30. 

Jane is a veteran print maker who has been making monotype prints for 35 years. She has a fancy etching press in her studio, which she uses to etch copper although she has etched acrylic too. She squeegees the ink into the etched lines and wipes away the excess with a stiff material called a tarlatan and then runs it through the press to transfer the image onto paper.

‘“It’s more fun to do it with a steamroller,” she said.

None of this would be possible without the invention of that heavy machine and we have Louis Lemoine of France in 1860 to thank for that, FYI.

And we have Andy Warhol to thank for inspiring this family free day at the Portland Art Museum because it’s all in celebration of the exhibit of his screen prints that opened Oct. 8: Andy Warhol: Prints from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation.

If you go, though, be sure to stop by and see the Corita Kent “spiritual pop” exhibit. She was a nun who began screen printing in the 1950s and eventually began incorporating the Los Angeles cityscape into her biblical work which transformed “the mundane into joyful messages of hope and calls to action.”

And be sure to make a steamroller print! If you do, take a picture and email it to [email protected]. We’d love to post it!

Window-Hero-Webinar-Series-Irie-SearcyDo you live in an old home? Many of us here at Indow do and so we understand the glorious aspects as well as the challenges, which can include energy loss.  To save energy, you can do several things that will also make your old home more comfortable: air seal gaps and cracks in your windows, doors and crawl spaces, improve the insulation in your attic and walls and replace outdated heating and cooling systems.

In our Window Hero Webinars, we usually focus on restoring and preserving historic windows. But those historic windows are always in old, often drafty homes that are difficult to make comfortable once the cold weather sets in. So we’re going to address the whole home in this upcoming webinar as we all prepare for cooler weather. And what better organization to talk about the whole home, than the nonprofit Enhabit here in Portland, Oregon. Enhabit educates and connects homeowners with home performance contractors who know how to make an old drafty home as comfortable as can be.

Enhabit takes into account more than just how to save energy and create comfort. It considers health and safety too and educates people on hazards like radon, earthquake vulnerability and mold.

Join us Thursday, Sept. 15 when home performance advisor Irie Searcy will give the next free Window Hero Webinar focused on your entire old home. She will give advice and answer questions.  

  1. When: Sept. 15, 2 p.m. (EDT), 11 a.m. (PDT)
  2. Where: Sign up for the free webinar here.

 

Enhabit has a nifty guide for people considering buying an older home with lots of things to think about to ensure it’s as energy efficient, comfortable and safe as possible.

Like what, you ask? 

Like:

  1. Cracks and gaps
  2. Uninsulated or poorly insulated.
  3. Outdated heating and cooling
  4. Radon
  5. Moisture buildup
  6. Allergens and air contaminants
  7. Asbestos
  8. Lead paint
  9. Vulnerability to earthquakes

 

That covers a lot! And since weatherization projects almost always have owners of old homes wondering what to do about their drafty windows, that brings to mind an excellent report done by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab, Saving Windows, Saving Money: Evaulating the Energy Performance of Window Retrofit and Replacement.

It’s important to read if you have thought at all about replacing your windows in the name of energy efficiency. The report demonstrates that it’s possible to retrofit old windows so they perform like high-end replacement windows at a fraction of the cost.

indow3-blog-title

In the post-Brexit era of political hostility towards global treaties, we must reconsider our approach to dealing with climate change. Brexit revealed that the economic stresses climate change is sure to induce will undermine political support for mitigation measures that can be portrayed as harmful to a country’s economy.

When seen through this lens, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (Conferences of the Parties, or COP21) accord has three fatal flaws. First, there is no enforcement mechanism. Second, the committed actions do not go far enough. Third, the entire framework could unravel if any major country departs dramatically from its commitments.

It’s far too easy to contemplate failure scenarios. A country like China could try to escape a politically destabilizing economic crisis by reverting to inexpensive fossil fuels. Or the United States could fast forward destructive policies such as Keystone XL. There is little the community of nations could do in such scenarios, risking the tenuous progress made under Paris. Given the rapidly mounting consequences of carbon emissions, the world cannot afford stumbles like that.

Fortunately, there is an alternative path that would move the world decisively towards a low carbon future. The good news for the planet and for those suspicious of international treaties is that much can be achieved through unilateral action by the United States of America.

The first step would be for Congress to pass legislation that would institute a carbon tax that starts at $16 per ton and increases annually over 20 years to $50 per ton. To address concerns about the U.S. staying economically competitive, Congress would pass an import duty on manufactured goods from countries without an equivalent carbon tax. The import duty would phase in one year after the carbon tax and would increase in parallel. Similarly, U.S. companies that export goods to countries without an equivalent tax would receive a carbon tax credit so they can price their goods competitively. As other countries phased in their carbon taxes, the U.S. would lower its import duties and export credits for goods exchanged with those countries.

The import duty tax and export tax credit would initially be set so the U.S. did not put its manufacturing industries at a competitive disadvantage. If other countries do not follow our lead, after five years our government and other participating countries could ratchet up the pressure by raising the import duties and export credits.

Prior to passage, the U.S. would reach out to the other countries to invite them onto a similar track. While it’s no longer a unipolar political world, the U.S. is unquestionably a super power of consumption. If just the U.S. and the European Union or China reached an accord on this framework, they would exert sufficient economic leverage to encourage a critical mass of other countries to follow.

Compliance could be monitored through technologies inspired by the various, successful nuclear arms control regimes. Satellite sensors can now monitor carbon emissions on a granular scale.

These new taxes would generate considerable revenues that should be used first to address the economic dislocations they create. Give coal miners and others in carbon extraction industries vouchers for retraining. Next, reduce income taxes. Finally, we should know that even if we adopt the most aggressive decarbonization strategies possible, the genie is likely out of the bottle. The planet faces rising seas and increasingly chaotic weather that may displace hundreds of millions. We must help these climate refugees.

The response to climate action encapsulated in the Paris accords will reduce only at the margins the terrible consequences of our carbon-based era. There is no time for hopeful half-measures that will easily be destabilized by the climate-caused economic and political dislocations we already know are certain to come.

The 70 percent of U.S. citizens who accept the reality of climate change should know there is a viable path forward away from our current, tragic trajectory. The presidential election season is the time to demand action at town halls, in social media and at the ballot box. It’s time we put onto the agenda the practical, available steps to ensure future generations remember us with gratitude, not scorn.

Sam Pardue is the founder and CEO of Indow in Portland, which works to make “the built environment more energy efficient.”

shutterstock_199558004It’s hot in many parts of the country.

Real hot.

And extreme heat can be brutal, especially if your body has gotten use to refrigerated air. And let’s face it: many of our bodies have. Air conditioning is now just so common. In a few short decades, we’ve created a society that relies on it (raise your hand if you’ve ever had to put a sweater on inside in July!) because for a long time, we’ve been building our homes and commercial spaces without considering things people used to consider when they built: a structure’s orientation to the sun and winds, the number and position of windows, deep eaves, porches for cooling off, nearby trees that could provide shade. Instead, we built quickly and inexpensively and now, well, many of us are stuck with buildings that give us trouble when it’s hot.

Hot weather is here to stay  

The heat dome currently broiling a wide swath of the nation is straining air conditioners and running up electrical bills. If you don’t happen to have air conditioning, we have some ideas to help you cool off. If you do have air conditioning, we have some ideas that will ease the load on the grid and help you save money.

Keep these ideas on file, because the hot weather isn’t going anywhere. Last year was the hottest on record and broke the last record by the largest margin ever: the global land and ocean surface temperature in 2015 was 1.62 F above the 20th century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As the planet warms and some areas experience intense heat waves, how people cool their homes will have a tremendous impact on energy use and CO2 emissions that contribute to climate change.  

In his groundbreaking book, Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and finding new ways to get through the summer), Stan Cox explains that energy consumed by home air conditioning in the U.S. doubled between 1993 and 2005. It jumped another 20 percent by 2010.  Using air conditioning to cool our buildings and vehicles creates an estimated half a billion metric tons of CO2 per year.

“As the planet gets warmer, air conditioning is going to surpass heating as a force of greenhouse gas emissions,” Cox told Indow in an interview. “You don’t have to have that level of cooling to be comfortable, but if we relax what we’re aiming for . . .  it opens up other possibilities.”

Ideas to beat the heat

Below are a number of strategies that will keep a person’s air conditioner from working too hard and that will save money. Some of these solutions will help people cool off immediately – even if they don’t have an air conditioner – while others are more involved. The U.S. Department of Energy has done a lot of research on cooling strategies.  Here are some ways to cool your home.

1.Close and shade windows during the day to keep out the heat and non-visible infrared radiation. 

2. In climates where the evening cools down, try for a “chimney effect” which relies on convection: open windows on the first floor or basement and windows at the top of the house on a second story. As the cool air moves through the room, it absorbs heat from the air and exits through upstairs windows.

3. Take advantage of double-hung windows once the day starts to cool: open the sashes at the top and bottom so hot stale air can escape the top while the opening at the bottom draws in cool air.

4. Place a bowl of ice cubes in front of a fan to cool down.

5. Sleep in the basement if there is one.

6. Don’t turn on stoves or ovens – grill outside instead or prepare food that doesn’t need to be cooked.

7. Use our Shade Grade window inserts to minimize solar heat gain.  They work beautifully. 

8. Use an attic or whole house fan at night to draw cool air in through open windows. 

9. Air seal and insulate the ceiling from the attic.

10, Plant deciduous shade trees on the west and east sides of the house.

11. Paint your roof white.