Operating an Upper Sash

Many people don’t know the upper sash of a double-hung window was originally intended to be pulled down.  Indeed, every double-hung window contains 4 sets of ropes, pulleys, and weights.  You can only see the ropes and pulleys belonging to the lower sash because the stiles of the upper sash conceal its ropes.  But, lo and behold!  As soon as the upper sash is pulled down – presto!  Another set of ropes and pulleys is revealed.  Pretty cool, huh?

When the original wooden screens and storms were abandoned in favor of aluminum combination windows, a pane of glass was normally parked in the upper half of the double-hung window, leading to no possibility of ventilating through the upper portion of a window.

Eventually many upper sashes became painted shut – either from the inside, the outside or both.  Sometimes they were painted shut without being fully retracted leading to problems with the sash lock.

So why bother making your upper sash operational?  Well, here are a number of very good reasons:

Air Flow

Fresh air can enter your house through the bottom of the window, and hot air can be vented through the top.  This dynamic creates a great air cycle that can keep a house cool even on moderately toasty days.  Exhausting the hot air through the top of the window is great for houses without air conditioning, and is especially useful on the upper floors of a house where it can feel quite stuffy.

Great for Kids and Pets

Some dogs and cats like to pounce or scratch at an open window.  This can lead to irksome screen repairs.  Also, children have been known to push against the screen of an open window.  This can be quite dangerous – especially on the upper floors of a house.  With the top sash open and bottom sash closed, you can have ventilation as well as security.

Burglary Deterrent

With a lock on a bottom sash, you can lower your top sash for ventilation and have your bottom sash secured shut.  This scenario may cause a would-be intruder to look elsewhere.

Privacy and Ventilation

Perhaps the coolest of all reasons is a great blending of old technology and new.  In the heyday of the old wooden double-hung window, top-down window shades did not exist.  Now, however, they do.  If you aren’t familiar with these ingenious contraptions, they allow you to either raise your window shade from the bottom, or lower it from the top.  This means, you can have your bottom sash closed and your top sash lowered, plus your window shade lowered from the top giving you privacy as well as ventilation.  All of those prying neighbors spying on your fabulous soirées?  Now, that is ancient history.

Of course utilizing an upper sash can only occur when it is accompanied by a full-screen storm window – either the original full-length wooden screen, or a modern aluminum combination storm window with a full-length screen option.

One drawback to making an upper sash operational is that it isn’t as energy efficient as it was when it was painted shut.  Afterall, you’ve created gaps where air can leak.  (Of course, painting shut your bottom sash will also lead to greater efficiency!)  But rest assured, a high-performance storm window can alleviate much of this associated heat loss.


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