When I sit on the couch in the evening, it feels as if gale-force winds are blowing through my drafty windows. What can I do to take the chill off ? — J.F., Bridgton, ME
It’s all about drafty windows — they’re responsible for up to one-third of total heat loss in a home. And I know windows. My husband owns Window Master, based in Dublin, New Hampshire (603-563-7788; windowmasternh.com). If you have double-hung windows on weights and pulleys, Window Master has a kit that allows you to retrofit the windows by installing a vinyl jambliner and insulating the weight pocket. The bonus here is that not only will you be warmer, but you’ll be able tilt the windows in for easy washing (no more ladders). I know this works because we have it in our home. If you are not handy, you should have help from a carpenter.
Insulated drapes can act as a barrier to drafty windows and warm a room by 5 degrees. Lenox, Massachusetts-based Country Curtains (800-456-0321; countrycurtains.com), carries 15 styles that range from $27 to $148 per pair or per slider panel. A terrific window shade with even more insulation is made by The Warm Company (800-234-9276; warmcompany.com). The four-layer system includes your choice of fabric plus air-trapping fiber layers and a magnetic edge that forms an airtight seal to eliminate drafts.
Heat loss from drafty windows also comes from single-paned glass and air leaks around the sash. A single-to-double conversion process was developed by New England engineer Jim Conachen. His Bi-Glass System is a patented technique that routs the existing sash and replaces single-glazed panes with insulated (double-paned) glass. This appeals to owners of historic houses where replacement windows are not appropriate. Pricing varies with the individual house but ranges on average from $450 for a one-over-one window to $1,000 for a multilight Palladian. 800-729-0742; bi-glass.com
— Polly Bannister, Yankee Home Editor
I don’t want the expense or noise of an air conditioner, and I need to cool the house only on occasion. What’s the best alternative? — D.V., Norwalk, CT
The most efficient option is a whole-house cooling fan. Here how cooling fans work: The fan pulls cool air from outdoors and moves it throughout the house, pushing warm air out through the attic. On the hottest days, turn the fan on in the morning and evening (the coolest times of a summer day, when the temperature outside is lower than inside the house). This type of fan can keep an entire house comfortable on the amount of electricity it takes for an air conditioner to cool only one room.
In addition to saving you money, a whole-house cooling fan lets you systematically cool specific rooms. Just open the windows first to pull a greater proportion of cool air through, and close the windows partially or fully in low-priority areas.
Determining the correct fan (24- to 36-inch diameter) for your space is as simple as figuring the square footage of living space and matching it to the manufacturer’s size recommendation. Note that if you have a medium to large house, a belt-driven fan will be much quieter than a direct-drive model (blades attached to the motor shaft). Many contractors recommend W.W. Grainger’s fans. At grainger.com, type in the keywords “whole house fans” to see tech specs and coverage in square feet. A 36-inch-diameter, two-speed, belt-driven fan that will cool 2,300 square feet lists for $284.25.
After publishing this answer, Yankee home editor Polly Bannister heard from NH Public Utilities Commissioner Clifton Below who has more information on whole-house fans. Scroll down to see his suggestions.