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I feel silly asking this but I'm curious. =) When are storm windows necessary and under what conditions? I live in California (US) and we hardly ever get snow or freezing temperatures where I'm at. In addition, the rainfall is relatively mild (hardly any thunderstorms).

Also, I've heard people mention removing screens. Under what conditions is that necessary?

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In my experience (midwest winters), storm windows are generally more for extra insulation purposes than severe storm protection.

You can install exterior or interior storm windows, and they can be of varying degrees of sturdiness. For places that do have more extreme winds, you can buy windows that are engineered to absorb a hit from flying debris. I'm not clear on why you would wait until winter to install them in that case (post-hurricane season).

You remove the screens if there's a concern that wind can rip them out or snow drifts can tear the screen from the frame. As @Steve Armstrong points out, you could also remove them for cosmetic reasons since they're serving no purpose with the windows closed for the winter.

In your case (and my current home in Houston), I wouldn't think either would be a necessary winterizing task.

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If you're not going to be opening the windows during the winter, removing the screens is also a cosmetic thing, as they no longer partially block your view. –  Steve Armstrong Nov 19 '10 at 17:28
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Hail with strong winds can also rip right through window screens. –  auujay Jul 11 '11 at 16:52

Storm windows and doors add an extra insulating layer for older (usually single-pane) windows. If the weather ever gets cold enough or hot enough to be uncomfortable as an interior temperature, you could probably benefit. You would have to weigh the cost of installation against the benefits that you might get in your area to decide if they're worth it.

The Wikipedia article offers another benefit of storm windows that is probably very applicable to California:

Newer models of storm windows feature coatings that can help filter out more harmful ultra-violet rays that cause your carpet, furniture, and other objects near the window to fade. Some coatings can also block more sunlight or allow more through than a window normally would. A variety of mountings and manufacturing materials allow a home owner a wide selection in choosing the right fit for their house and the climate they live in.

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Good points. It's also generally cheaper to install storm windows than replace your existing ones with higher efficiency models. –  Steve Jackson Nov 19 '10 at 17:31

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