Q: We bought our home in 1995, when it was 2 1/2 years old, and the windows have not been changed since then. The original crank-style wood-frame windows seem to be letting more street noise into the house than before. I’m sure I’m not imagining this. I understand that the space between the panes of glass were filled with gas originally, but I’m thinking that must be gone because we now get internal condensation between panes. Will new windows make a difference?
A: New windows might reduce street noise, though it’s hard to tell how much. The space between glazings in modern windows are often filled with argon gas because it offers better thermal insulation properties than dry air. But as you’ve discovered, the seal between panes can fail, letting moist air in to replace the argon. The kind of internal window condensation you see is a visible sign of this problem.
The difference in street noise you hear may come from increased traffic levels over time, or from areas around window frame seals that have developed leaks. A little gap can allow large amounts of sound indoors. If you’re cautious, you might try a few replacement windows on the street side of your home, just to see if you notice a difference in sound levels. If you decide to go ahead with window replacement, choose a model of window that meets the CSA A-440 standard for air and water tightness. Triple-seal casement windows are one design that keep weather and noise out particularly well. If you’re Canadian, an organization called WindowWise (www.windowwise.ca) lists approved window manufacturers. If you’re in the US, click here to check out the National Fenestration Council and their approved window products information.
One more thing . . . if new windows do reduce the amount of outdoor air leaking into your home, this could increase the level of indoor humidity in your place during winter. If this increase is large enough, then running condensation could develop on the interior side of your new windows, even if this didn’t happen before. A considerable portion of homeowners who get new windows find that it increases window condensation. This isn’t the fault of the windows. In fact, it’s proof that they’re doing a better job than the old ones keeping drafts out. The solution is the installation of a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). This gives you the fresh air you need, without losing heat through leaky windows.
Click below to watch a video about window condensation and why it happens in cold climates.