Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Heat Goes On

Some time ago I put up a post about my old house mentor/friend Shannon Kyles, and her mission to save heritage wooden windows, by demonstrating their cost-efficiency. Their aesthetic and historical appeal is unassailable, but folks do cave in before the vinyl salesman's promises, and the daunting prospect of the not inconsiderable work involved with repairing or even rebuilding wooden windows. Shannon has made several instructional videos and there are more to come; here's a link to Shannon's YouTube video In Praise of Older Windows, demonstrating that "restored wooden windows are every bit as efficient as replacement windows" (S.Kyles)

 Shannon uses an infrared camera to do thermal mass readings to help owners make informed decisions about energy conservation issues in old home restorations. Yesterday, on a brilliantly sunny minus 20 degree day, I revisited Alex Fida's new old house in Picton, and got to watch Shannon and Alex survey the Regency wooden windows, and the Gothic Revival front door, the wide entry doorcase, with an infrared camera

The yellow part of the infrared image of a window shows the warmest, the blue areas indicate coolest, providing accurate information about heat loss, and what needs doing to prevent it.

Outside, we shuddered in the cold, still gobsmacked at the beautiful distinctive architectural elements, while Alex and Shannon evaluated areas of good heat retention and heat leak. Data? You bet. An informed and aware homeowner? Ditto.

The more we looked, the more we saw. The beautiful rippled effect of the early window glass with the snow sparkling outside, was a stunner. One pane of glass bore a swoosh like a spoon mark on cake batter - the final flourish of the glass pourer onto the sheet of cooling poured glass?

How could anyone toss that kind of beauty and history into architectural salvage - or the dump?

Shannon has sent links to three more videos in the series In Praise of Older Windows, which she is creating with the assistance of Andrew Skuce. Shannon demonstrates the relative thermal efficiency of old wooden windows over modern vinyl replacements, and argues forcibly for retention of original windows to preserve the heritage character of older homes.

The second video features a visit to an Edwardian gable-front house with its high-performing 110 windows.
In the third video of the series, period window expert Alan Stacey explains the parts of wooden sash windows, and how to maintain them (or replicate them) to meet or exceed the thermal efficiency of modern replacements.
The fourth video talks about the heat that can be maintained by simply installing curtains.


  1. I couldn't agree more with your statement about tossing away built heritage (like an historic pane of glass). Its frightening how callous and cavalier some people are. I'm ridiculously biased, of course, but I really feel like those people have something missing in their souls. Its not just a lack of compassion for history, for architecture, or for one's cultural touchstones, but a fundamental deficit for nurturing something along. I just can't understand how people treat built heritage sometimes.

  2. Well put Mark. Not likely to be much disagreement among the good souls who visit ancestralroofs!