I want to start by pointing out that winter in San Antonio is something that most Americans would like to flee to, not from. Having said that, we in San Antonio will feel the sting of much higher natural gas prices after cold winds finally arrive this far south. And for those of us in drafty old houses, the sting will be even greater. If you haven't done it after all these years, it's STILL not too late to take action to keep out the wind and keep in the heat. In my house, the windows are easily the worst culprit when it comes to heating (and cooling) inefficiency. They are big, single pane, and totally out of compliance with modern building codes. They sit so loosely in their channels that they shake and bang and rattle in any wind and allow frightening amounts air to pass in and out. Still, nearly all of them are original, and I think they are gorgeous. I wouldn't trade them for Pella double-glazed low-E windows if someone offered them to me for free (and nobody has). So an ongoing (Laura says never ending) project of mine is to add bronze V-type weatherstrip to the window sash channels. This old-fashioned V-type strip creates a far tighter fit. It cuts the draft dramatically and eliminates the rattle completely. You can nail the strips in place with little copper tacks or you might find a version that comes with double sided tape.

 

You can order V-type bronze weatherstrip cut to the length of your window sash. Expect to pay about $1 or less per linear foot. I got more than enough to do my entire house for $125. Compare that to more than $400 for ONE new Pella window. If you dream of buying fancy new windows to replace some old ones, remember that it will take years to recoup your expenses from energy savings. Note: These bronze strips also work on drafty exterior doors. Adding bronze weatherstrip to window channels is not too difficult for the do-it-yourselfer. You'll have to CAREFULLYtake off one interior stop to do the bottom sash and one exterior stop to do the top sash. Pull the window sash out to get access to the jamb (you can leave the sash on the ropes if it still has any-just raise it or lower it out of the way); attach the bronze strip to either side of the jamb (or to both sides, if there's enough gap); test the fit and function of the window; reattach the stop-not too loose, not too tight. Stand back and feel the warmth and coziness envelope you. Ignore scratch marks on the window trim where you were working on the stop.

For a much better discussion of the topic of tuning up old windows, as well as a list of suppliers, you read the online article in Old House Journal, "Strips and Storms."

Finally, I saw that CPS Energy and recent newspaper columns have included some helpful tips regarding gas heaters. They noted that a safe, properly adjusted gas flame should be "blue and steady, not yellow and dancing." What they didn't tell you was how to get your old gas heater serviced. Fortunately, just down the road from us on S. Flores Street is Warfield Smith Hardware, where they still service these old things. According to John at the store, they test the heaters, take them apart, clean the carbon build up from the burners (old cast iron burners are the best, he says), and revive sticky shutoff valves by cleaning them in an acid solution and then reseating and repacking them. Finally, they do a leak test, adjust the oxygen and check for carbon monoxide. So, stay warm, and stay alive this winter.

John Hartman