The Eyes of the Soul

Victorian Homes - - Contents - By Mer­rie Deste­fano

Learn how to in­crease the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of your home while pre­serv­ing its his­toric­ity.

When it comes to Vic­to­rian ar­chi­tec­ture, the porch is the Wel­come mat.

This is where fam­ily mem­bers gather af­ter din­ner or lunch to re­lax and in­ter­act with the rest of their com­mu­nity. With a sim­ple hello, a Vic­to­rian home­owner can eas­ily en­gage passersby and strike up a con­ver­sa­tion. The porch is an ex­tended liv­ing space, both well-used and beloved.

But if the porch is the wel­come mat, then the win­dows are the eyes of the soul. Long, floor-to-ceil­ing lengths of bub­bled glass let sun­light in­side and al­low those in­doors to view the land­scape. Of­ten dressed with lav­ish drap­ery and win­dow shades to keep out the glare of sum­mer sun or propped open to let breezes cir­cu­late, these lovely por­tals can let in more heat or cold than you want.


There comes a point in time when nearly ev­ery Vic­to­rian home­owner has to ad­dress the ef­fi­ciency of their win­dows.


There comes a point in time when nearly ev­ery Vic­to­rian home­owner has to ad­dress the ef­fi­ciency of their win­dows. Beau­ti­ful or not, there’s much to be said for pre­vent­ing win­ter drafts and sum­mer sun.

True, if you want to keep your his­toric win­dows, you can weather-strip and paint the wood to pre­vent rot. On top of that, ad­ding his­toric storm win­dows can of­fer pro­tec­tion in cold cli­mates. But even with these precautions, you may end up with warped, bro­ken win­dow frames, cracked glass or win­dows that refuse to open. As a re­sult, your en­ergy bill can be 10 or 20 per­cent higher be­cause of your drafty win­dows. If this is the case, you can re­duce both your cool­ing and heat­ing bills by in­stalling more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient win­dows.

An­other in­stance when you may need to re­place your win­dows is if your home has sur­vived a storm. Hur­ri­canes, tor­na­dos and high winds wreak havoc on his­toric homes. Vic­to­rian houses have been around for more than a cen­tury, and they’ve seen their share of cli­mate change—much more than the mod­ern home down the block.


If and when you de­cide it’s time to get new win­dows, you may also want a change in ap­pear­ance and func­tion. You might be in the process of building a new back­yard deck and de­cide to re­place your back door with a pair of el­e­gant French doors. Or you might want an ex­tra bank of win­dows to brighten your dark kitchen.

Some com­pa­nies, such as Marvin Win­dows and Doors, un­der­stand the de­sires of those who own his­toric homes. Aes­thetic preser­va­tion and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency should be the goal. By pump­ing in­su­lat­ing gases, such as ar­gon or a kryp­ton/ar­gon/air blend, be­tween panes of glass, Marvin achieves a high level of ef­fi­ciency in win­dows.

Whether you opt to keep your orig­i­nal win­dows with all their Vic­to­rian-era charm or re­place them with new mod­els is your de­ci­sion. There are cer­tainly good rea­sons for both meth­ods. What’s im­por­tant is that you’re happy in your turn-of-the­cen­tury home and that you can keep it warm when the win­ter winds blow.

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