If you have spent any time in the city of New Orleans or even its outlying suburbs on the West Bank such as Algiers, Gretna, Marrero, Terrytown, and Harvey; you have probably noticed a variety of architectural stylings of the historic and obviously 100-year to 200-year-old homes. When you view these homes as a current resident or as a tourist, you probably don’t think about what it takes to retrofit these homes during a home renovation, restoration, or new construction on an addition. If you did, you would be weighing the benefits of more modern systems that are energy efficient and more eco-friendly vs. trying to maintain the integrity of the historic architecture.
Specifically, when it comes to windows in historic homes, many homeowners and home buyers spend a lot of time going back and forth as to restoration or replacement. The ROI (return on investment) of replacing every window in the house with an energy efficient, low-E, double or even triple paned tinted window is approximately 10 – 12 years for standard-sized windows. However, the first dilemma in starting a historic restoration is that you are probably going to run into a lot of non-standard-sized windows in your new home purchase. If you go to custom order a bunch of different window sizes, you may not see a return on investment in savings from your electric bill for up to 20 years.
The second issue that you will have to face is that if your home is already listed on the National Register of Historic Place OR if you are interested in getting your home listed on this registry or need tax incentives for doing a historic renovation or restoration, you will probably have to reconsider using modern vinyl, aluminum, or wood framed window in the home altogether.
Finally, let’s consider what you are really getting when you decide to replace your existing wooden / glass windows in your 100 to 200-year-old home. The wood used in today’s construction is significantly less dense than lumber used in building 100 years ago in the Greater New Orleans area. The reason for this is that the trees had been standing for a much longer period of time because they may have never been cut. Because of this, the rings in the trees are closer together and much more dense than today’s treed lumber. Therefore, even though you may find windows that are more energy efficient that look the way you would like or need them to for your renovation or restoration, you may be trading durability for a perceived ROI benefit on your electric bill.
Before you make your decision, consider this: the wood casing for the windows on your historic home is much more durable than today’s wooden window casings. Also, the construction used to create the window frames themselves was a type of joinery that allowed the wood to expand and contract with the intense humidity of the New Orleans climate. Finally, today’s wood and even vinyl has been known not to be able to last through the direct rays of the sunshine in this southern region.
The glass that is used in your windows is actually a higher quality of glass than is used today as well. With the proper insulation, resealing and caulking, glazing, and other energy-smart tactics such as black-out shades and blinds, you can reduce the amount of heat loss in the winter and gain in the summer to fully enjoy the aesthetics of keeping an old world look for old town homes in New Orleans, Louisiana.