I live in a cabin with many many large windows. They are beautiful, and were hand-done by the previous owner. I like the windows. I want to keep the windows. But the windows are single-pane and therefore the room gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The only solution to the insulation problem in my mind is to do a sort of alteration, adding my own windows on top of these (from the outside). It's sort of like making them double pane windows but the air space between would be much larger than real double pane windows.
I plan on making these external windows snugly fitting but hinged, so that I can open them and clean in between. Theoretically if they were superbly affixed, no dust and no moisture and no bugs would get in between the two windows. To me and my skill level it makes sense to side with imperfection and simply allow the windows to be on a hinge.
What kind of glass will be best? Can I find it somewhere for cheap?
What challenges will I run into with this project? Will it be very helpful to have a bit of air in between two windows versus the existing single pane windows?
If your layers of glass aren't properly sealed you will get serious frost buildup in the winter which will over time (probably not long) rot the wood surrounding the glass. Also, under the sun the glass can experience massive thermal gain which can cause failure of the glass itself.
I think in order to do it right you will meet to retrofit newer sealed units into your window openings. However that said the performance gains will be massive.
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Used to be common. They were called storm windows. I had to help grandpa change out the screens for the solid windows every spring and fall.
Check Craigslist if you are in the states, or a local Habitat recycling store--you can pick up old windows for free or nearly free.
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