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Windows are the most visible, yet commonly under-appreciated components of older and historic homes and buildings.

While being very beautiful, original historic windows also serve a great purpose – they impart a building's inside-outside connection. They provide ventilation and light, and can function as emergency egress. Above all, they offer clues to a building's history because they are integral aspects of architectural design.

However, despite all of these attributes, windows are an easy target and are all too often blamed for energy loss. Commonly, people jump to replace their historic windows because companies promise that their replacement windows will not only save them time and money, but that their products and services are the "green" thing to do. In fact, a thriving industry has grown around the perceived need to replace rather than restore.

Have you ever wondered why there are no replacement fireplaces? Fireplaces with ill-fitting or missing dampers leak more heat than windows do, but salesmen don't leave flyers for new dampers in your mailbox, do they?

One reason why it is tempting for homeowners to replace their original historic windows is because they can immediately see a difference when a window is replaced. And, even though a project like sealing air leaks will ultimately save more energy than replacing windows, there is relatively low demand for air-sealing services. As Tom Kenny, manager of C&O Conservation, has said, "I provide something that is invisible."

Go to the following link on the National Historic Trust's website for the textbox's frequently asked questions which are intended to not only inform and inspire, but to demonstrate how you can keep your old windows, achieve energy efficiency, and be "green" throughout the process.

Why do the original windows of my older home matter? What do they contribute to my home?

For so many reasons, the original windows of older and historic homes and buildings are what make them places that matter.

Consider it this way: If you had a beautiful piece of art that was custom designed, crafted by hand, made from native old-growth wood, and imbued with clues to its age and crafting traditions, would you throw the authentic piece in the dumpster if a simulated plastic version suddenly became available?

Seems ridiculous, right? However, this is precisely what people all over the country are doing when they rip out their historic wood windows and replace them with new windows.

Windows are character-defining features of any home. Everything from their size, placement, proportional relationship to the wall space, style, and materials contribute to how a building looks and feels. Just ask historian and author James Garvin, who has said that "any historic building with its original sashes and glazing therefore retains a higher degree of architectural integrity than a comparable structure in which the sashes have been replaced. Where original sashes survive, their preservation should be a paramount concern of the building's owner."