I'm looking to create or even just buy a product that can be mounted onto any single- or double-hung window where the user doesn't need a lot of force to open/close a window. This is for an elderly home where the windows are hard to open for the older folks. They don't have much strength to push up or down the windows. I was thinking of creating a hand crank linked to some gear teeth along the window to make it easier for them to open it. An electronic system would work too, but that would require running a power line or changing batteries.

Have there been any solutions for such a requirement? I'm sure it has come up for the handicapped and elderly.

  • Powered windows are a thing... but for homes they are mostly for louvered windows. Car windows go up and down but they have a kind of bulky and ugly mechanism. Jul 18 '16 at 21:13
  • Have you considered just installing casement windows, possibly motorized casement windows, which have a gear/crank system already designed into them?
    – keshlam
    Jul 18 '16 at 21:14
  • installing new windows is not an option as its a building in manhattan and thats not going to happen. it has to be cost effective wehre I can just install a device of some sort to an existing window. Jul 18 '16 at 23:26
  • @BenWelborn and I'm Super Not A Fan of using power to overcome mechanical resistance. I got a building with enormous garage doors. They were thrashed... dented, trammed, bent hinges, bent tracks, unopenable. So I disconnected the power opener and overhauled the doors. When I was done I could open the doors with 1 finger. The power opener only masked a fixable problem and wrecked the door by forcing it. Jul 19 '16 at 21:05

The wooden framed double hung sash design dates from a time when no elderly person was ever left alone long enough to open or close a window. Families were large and any oldster who wanted a window operated would simply whack the nearest youngster with a cane and croak out the appropriate orders.

Today the demographic age curve is quite different and there are not enough window operators to go around. I expect sash window easy-open aftermarket add-on devices to appear on the market any day now, as soon as us boomers form a significant market.

Meanwhile, I have two recalcitrant windows in my kitchen which are not only stiff but awkwardly placed above counters. Here is what I installed to operate them.

For each window, I used four pulleys (about 1.25"), two anchors (I used screw eyes), and a long cord. I attached one pulley and one anchor to the window frame top, one pulley to the inner sash top, one pulley to the inner sash bottom, and one pulley and one anchor to the window frame bottom. I rigged the long cord according to this schematic diagram:

while waiting for a better solution

Pulling down on the green section of the cord raises the window. Pulling down on the blue section, or up on the green section, lowers the window. The force advantage is 2 to 1.

The pulleys are actually on the center line; they are offset in the diagram to show the rigging. Pulleys 3 and 5 are turned, and pulley 4 is shimmed out, to bring the blue and green cords out away from the sash frame. The red cords are almost touching the frames.

(The cords are red, blue, and green only in the diagram. My actual cords are ecru.)

You cannot use small pulleys for this project because moving the window involves turning all four of them.

My wife and kids ridiculed this lashup when they first saw it, so I invited them to take up a collection and shop for other solutions. No takers so far.

  • you mean 3 to 1 I think, at least on the upstroke. Jul 19 '16 at 0:43
  • Pulling the 3..4 (green) cord down pulls the 2..3 cord up with no force advantage; pulling the 2..3 cord up shortens both the 2..3 and 1..2 cords giving a 2:1 force advantage. - Pulling the 4..5 (blue) cord down shortens both the 4..5 and 5..6 cords giving a 2:1 force advantage. Jul 19 '16 at 0:51
  • The rigging looks complicated but is really just two 2-part hoists facing each other via the direction-bending pulleys 3 and 4. Jul 19 '16 at 0:52
  • In response to Harper's answer, I hasten to add that my two windows are damaged beyond repair and regulation, and the pulley installation is a temporary fix until I can rebuild them. - In general, it is always better to bring equipment up to proper condition than to go out of your way to compensate for poor maintenance. Jul 19 '16 at 1:36
  • +1 for boomer ingenuity in the face of ridicule. If you could extend this scheme to simultaneously lower the upper sash I'd be even more impressed ;-) Jul 19 '16 at 10:16

The problem isn't sash windows. The problem is poorly maintained sash windows, by landlords who don't care and/or don't have adequate maintenance budgets due to rent control.

The most common problem moving them up and down is tram. The track becomes uneven from a combination of wear in some places, and paint buildup in other places along the track. As you push on them, the slop allows them to yaw (cock) slightly in the track, the corners dig in, bind, and you push harder, which exacerbates wear. The fix is to be mindful when operating the window, let off at the first sign of binding, and adjust how you lift so it goes up evenly.

Another problem is broken counterweight cords or wrong counterweights, possibly from the counterweight corroding away or different wood or glass used without correcting counterweights. This is not correctible, short of changing counterweights or an additional pulley system of some kind. And a broken/wrong counterweight on one side will make the tram problem extremely severe.

Another problem you see is missing felts or seals, which (along with single-pane glass) is what makes the windows so drafty.

If someone really wanted to maintain sash windows correctly, they could do so. They are an open-source design in which all parts are replaceable, and any competent carpenter can maintain them if they are paying attention. Any skilled woodworker can fabricate them, with alterations to accommodate double-pane if you want that. Weights, pulleys, ties, hardware are readily available. You bet the sash windows at the White House or the Vanderbilt mansion were maintained correctly!

  • I agree with you, and the OP should look into repairing and regulating the stiff windows. Any appliance for forcing the operation of a sash window should be considered a temporary stopgap. - However, proper maintenance of well-made equipment requires not only time and effort, but a certain amount of pride and emotional investment. And, if he doesn't own the property, he's going to look elsewhere for satisfaction. Jul 19 '16 at 1:38
  • I'd say when you're in a rent control situation, there's a certain amount of give and take about stuff like that. Sometimes you fix yourself what the landlord will not, or cannot, deal with, given his own practical limitations. Jul 19 '16 at 2:00

I have had good luck using this stuff, all over the parting beads and sides of frame and sash:

enter image description here

Of course, removing old layers of paint, repairing/replacing the sash springs/balances/weights, and a general tune up along with the stick lube greatly reduces opening and closing effort.

  • Butylene grease might be better for windows (depending of the material). Jul 19 '16 at 21:59
  • 1
    Back in the day, handymen who repaired woodwork, windows, and furniture carried a candle for this purpose. Jul 22 '16 at 2:59

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