Windows being cold to the touch in the winter is not an odd occurrence, but it is possible that an underlying issue is causing this and also causing your energy bills to rise. Whether the problem is the installation or the type of window, there are feasible solutions to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
1. Poor Window Installation
Double and triple pane windows are far better at insulating against extreme temperatures than single pane windows. Their improved design cannot do its job, though, if the windows are not installed properly.
Improper installation can involve several scenarios, and in order to remedy the situation, it is important to know which issue is present in your windows.
One version of improper installation is the window getting stuck and having to be forced open or closed. Because of this difficulty in opening and closing the window, it is likely that the window will not close all the way, and therefore allows cold air to leak into the home.
It is also possible that there are noticeable gaps between the frame and the wall.
Water damage can also occur in poorly installed windows, which can show itself through dampness or even mold on the windowsill or along the window frame.
Fog can also be seen in between the panes of your double or triple pane windows. This indicates that the seal between the panes has broken and your windows are no longer functioning at their best.
If the window is having difficulty opening or closing, this may be a simple problem that can be solved by lubricating the tracks. If lubrication doesn’t seem to be working, there may be an obstruction caused by poor installation.
In this case, the obstruction may be able to be easily removed, but if the obstruction is as a result of the window being broken, the window may have to be repaired or replaced.
If noticeable gaps are present between the window frame and the wall, this could mean that the window is the incorrect size. If this is the case, a correctly-sized window must replace this one.
If a draft is felt near the window and the window seems to be correctly sized, the window may have been caulked poorly or too long ago. In this case, the seal can be repaired with caulk.
In a scenario where there is dampness and mold, the culprit is most likely poor leveling or broken/poorly installed flashing. Faulty leveling would involve re-leveling your window through the insertion of a shim (after the trim has been removed) and broken or poorly installed flashing would require replacement with new flashing.
If there is fog between the panes of your double/triple pane windows, the seal between panes is broken and the glass of the window, not the entire window, must be replaced.
2. Bulky Frames Don’t Seal Well
Even if your double or triple pane windows are installed properly, some aspects of their installation may cause the windows to be fairly cold.
Large PVC window frames often don’t seal well around a standard window. These gaps in sealing due to the bulky nature of large PVC window frames can cause air to leak through. This then causes the frame itself as well as the glass of the window to be very cold to the touch.
PVC or not, any sort of bulky frame may cause gaps in your window’s seal and therefore lead to cold windows and frames.
This is a similar issue to one detailed above, where the window is improperly sized to the window’s opening in the home.
If you are finding that the problem is not just one or two windows, but instead every window that has this bulky frame, then it is very likely that the problem lies in the frame and not in the window itself.
The hope is that the gaps around the bulky frame can be sealed by adding more caulk, but if the gaps are too large or there are too many in each window, adding more caulk is not a feasible solution and the frames may have to be replaced.
Reframing your window with frames that are not as bulky would be ideal for limiting the cold that can cool your windows as well as your home. Reframing would also be simpler and less expensive than replacing a window that is still functional.
3. Weatherstripping Needs to Be Replaced
Weatherstripping is a great way to make your home more energy-efficient, but if the weatherstripping around your windows is damaged in some way, then there may be a noticeable change in the temperature of the window and the surrounding area.
Reasons for the deterioration of your weatherstripping often include natural degradation due to age and wear, but it can also be negatively affected by pests. The causes can also depend on the type of stripping you used.
For example, self-adhesive foam tapes often lose their grip over time. The foam can also begin to flatten and may fill gaps less readily than when the stripping was new.
Rubber and vinyl stripping tends to dry out and become brittle and cracked. It also often loses its shape and effectiveness over time.
Spring-metal-V-shaped stripping tends to bend, crack, and may shift its position if there are missing nails.
There are a few ways to find exactly where your weatherstripping must be replaced. One includes physically checking the window’s weatherstripping to look for damage. Another includes holding a small flame around the seams of the window to check for leakage of air.
When the broken or missing weatherstripping has been identified, the repair process is fairly simple.
With a pair of scissors, cut away and remove the faulty weatherstripping. Then you can cut a piece of equal size to replace the faulty strip and attach it.
Regardless of whether you are having issues with your double/triple windows being cold, it is still recommended to check up on your weatherstripping once a year, preferably in the spring or fall. Routine maintenance can prevent the loss of heat and infiltration of cold around your windows and doors.
4. Conditions Too Extreme for Double Glazing
Although double-glazed windows are ideal for the average homeowner, for the homeowner that lives in an extreme and/or fluctuating climate, double glazing may not be enough.
If you live through harsh winters, your windows are freezing, but the problem does not lie in the fact that the windows were improperly installed, poorly sealed, or the weatherstripping is damaged, then the problem may lie in your window type.
The main differences between double glazing and triple glazing lie in the cost as well as the insulation.
A double pane window could cost from $385 to $850. A triple pane window could cost from $550 to $1,085. When changing out all of your double pane windows for triple pane, this higher cost for triple pane windows becomes a significant investment.
On average, a double pane window will deflect 90% of energy and allow 10% into and out of your home. A triple pane window will deflect 97% of energy and allow only 3% into and out of your home.
With a 7% difference in insulation, and when living in an extreme or changeable climate, you will see a significant change in your energy bills.
The initial installation will surely be expensive, but as the years go on, you should save a significant amount of money in energy bills, and your windows should no longer be cold.
The way to upgrade double pane windows is to replace them all with triple pane windows.
This is a significant investment, so it is important to explore your options and not go through the process too quickly.
Although contacting several contractors may take up a lot of time, knowing your options will only benefit you in the long run. It is wise to look up reviews for the contractors as well as the windows they are offering since a “better deal” for triple pane windows may compromise their quality.
When you have done the appropriate amount of research, you are prepared to go through with the installation, and the bill makes the project look far too expensive, just know that your energy savings will increase with each year, and your home will be better protected from the cold.
As an alternative to triple-glazing, you could also investigate the cost of installing vacuum-sealed panes. These are double pane windows, but they are better insulators than double-glazing because the gap is void of all air, so heat cannot be transferred from one pane to the next.
5. Double/Triple Glazing Has Failed
If your double or triple pane windows have performed just fine in previous years but just recently, the area around the window is rather cold and there is condensation in between the panes, it is likely the problem lies in the double or triple glazing failing.
For the most part, double and triple paned windows can handle a wide range of stressors, including extreme temperatures, humidity, as well as repetitive opening and closing. Even if one seal starts to break, the other seal (or other two in the case of triple glazing) can handle the insulation for a while.
The lifespan of a double or triple paned window can span from about 10 to 20 years, and as their end approaches, its components begin to wear and break down, which can result in failure of the glazing.
Other causes other than age include improper drainage around the window or water retention in the window’s frame. Constant direct contact with sunlight can also cause the panes to expand, contract, and eventually weaken and break down.
This failure of the seal weakens the double or triple pane window’s ability to keep heat from leaving the home and cold from entering the home. It could surely cause colder temperatures in and around your windows.
In most cases, the cheaper option to repair your window’s seal is to replace the glass, not the entire window.
It is wise to call a few specialists to see if they are able to just replace the glass and see what their prices are.
Upon inspection by the professional, they will be able to tell you if the rest of the window can be saved. If it cannot, you will most likely have to replace the entire window.
In most cases of a seal failing, though, the rest of the window can be saved and you can save money by simply replacing the glass.
6. Panes Will Be Colder Than Inside Temperature
If your window feels cold to the touch, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with your windows. Even double or triple paned windows will allow some of the coldness of the air outside to the inside.
For example, for a double paned window with argon gas in between its panes, if the temperature outside is about 0 °F and the temperature inside is about 70 °F, the glass will be a temperature of about 56 °F.
This is colder than the air in the home, but also much warmer than the outside air. For a window without glazing, the temperature of the window would be closer to the outside temperature. If you are suspicious that one of your windows is not, in fact, double paned, then you can test it in a number of ways.
It is also important to note that no seal is perfect. Even triple paned windows are only about 97% effective as far as keeping warm air in and cold air out in the winter. Triple paned windows are the most effective option, but are certainly not perfect.
Colder temperatures around an area that has access to the outside are natural. As long as the installation is carried out correctly, weatherstripping is undamaged, you have the right windows for your local climate, and the seal is undamaged, there should be nothing to be worried about.