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We have an old tudor revival house in the Pacific Northwest. Our winters are mildly warm, but long. Our old house had insulation blown into the walls which may have done something... but the windows are still big, single pane leaded things, and there are a lot of them.

For about 5 months over the last winter we were footing $300/month bills to keep the place decently warm. We'd like an option that will be cost effective over another two winters, if not this winter.

  1. Ripping them out and installing new windows all around is too ambitious.
  2. Wrapping them in plastic is not possible because the plaster is sort of set around the sill in a quasi-adobe way/
  3. Is throwing on storm windows a good middle-of-the-road option?

I estimate we can do some if not all of them for less than $2K. Will that reduce drafts and heat loss? Would it pay off in the long run? And lastly, is it worth it to hire a contractor for a second eye and/or to measure out/order/install the storms at the turn of Autumn?

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You should have a thermography of your house to address where major leaks are (leaky windows and thermal bridges at least).
Best option, if you don't want to replace all windows, is, at least, to have the ones you already have, at least for north north/east side double-glazed.
Another effective, and not as expensive as double glazing, thing that help is insulating your roof from outside, if attic i living space, or just put some centimetres of insulation on attic's floor. Also you can go haunting for draughts and seal them with silicone.

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I live in the Northeast, where the winters are a lot colder than yours, and I can attest that storm windows are absolutely a valid option. Most of the houses where I've lived had old wooden single-glazed windows, plus storm windows. This combination works pretty well when it's installed correctly.

Whether you can install them yourself is a question I can't answer. It depends on how high off the ground the windows are, how big they are, how comfortable you are working on a ladder, how easy is it to set up a ladder by your house... (One possible compromise: do the ground floor windows yourself, and hire someone else for the upper floors.)

Something else to do this winter: get an infrared camera, and take some pictures of the outside of the house to figure out where you're leaking the most heat.

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