How to get fresh air and secure windows at the same time?
June 21, 2012 6:41 AM   Subscribe

It's very very hot today. My method of cooling the house is entirely fan based. I would like to be able to leave the windows cracked for the cats when I'm at work, and when I'm sleeping, but the first floor presents a security issue. What can you recommend to secure double hung windows?

I've looked around on line a lot. A lot of what is out there seems to be geared towards sliding doors. Metal things with screws, that don't really look wide enough, or shaped correctly, to hold onto a sash frame. A lot of sites recommend hammering a nail into the side of the frame, but I would prefer not to wreck the nice oak wood doing that. Also that seems like it might be a fire safety issue. I've seen at least one device (Burglabar) that seems like you glue it directly onto the glass. That makes me hesitate a lot. They're new windows. They cost a flipping fortune and I'd like them to last, if possible, FOREVER.

The windows are double hung, with six partitions on top, none on the bottom. I'd actually like to be able to leave the top's open, and the bottom closed, but anything at all that works at this point would be good.

What has worked for you, that you've been happy with, and hasn't infringed too much on the structure of the window?

I have tried to search for this on ask metafilter, but not surprisingly, I get quite a few Windows Security computer questions...
posted by instead of three wishes to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It depends on the thickness of the windows, but I've placed a piece of wood between the bottom window and the top of the frame so that the window only opens a smidge.

My new windows have little flippy things that do this for me (like the nail in the frame idea), but the wood worked okay, too.
posted by xingcat at 6:46 AM on June 21, 2012

You can get window bars with an interior safety release.
posted by exogenous at 6:48 AM on June 21, 2012

It depends on the thickness of the windows, but I've placed a piece of wood between the bottom window and the top of the frame so that the window only opens a smidge.

A good low tech solution, but I'd be concerned that the piece of wood could be jiggled out of position. Perhaps if it could be secured in place by tape or another better option I can't think of at the moment.
posted by fairmettle at 6:50 AM on June 21, 2012

Note that your house is likely to stay cooler for the cats (and for you, when you get home) if you open up the windows at night to pull in cooler nighttime air, then close up the windows in the morning and keep them well covered during the daytime. Because otherwise you're not pulling in "fresh air," you're pulling in hot, hot outside air.
posted by drlith at 7:22 AM on June 21, 2012 [11 favorites]

We've used the wood method as well, on occasion. As long as it's wedged pretty good, it shouldn't be very easy to jiggle free, but it depends on the window.

If you really can't find a way to leave the windows open, do you have ice packs (like blue ice from a cooler)? If so, you could leave them out for the cats to lay on/curl around if they are too hot. My own cats will seek out the bathroom tile or bathtub when they are too warm, but we used to use the icepack method when we had pet rabbits.
posted by cabingirl at 7:22 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had wood windows in another house. I drilled a small hole through both sashes at the same time from the inside of the house, with them open where I wanted them to be. Then I put a long nail in the hole. That way they cannot be opened any more unless I pull the nail out. The nail would be hard to shake out, but to make double sure you could use a screw that gets just enough bite.

The problem with using sticks (a 1" by 1" length) to keep the upper sash partly open is that a burglar could just pull the top sash all the way up and the sticks might fall. You could secure the sticks by screwing them into the frame. One of the problems with this method is that the upper sash might be to the outside of the lower sash, so the stick would be accessible from the outside.
posted by mareli at 7:25 AM on June 21, 2012

I have these flip locks on my window sashes. Closed, they keep the window from opening past a certain point. Open, the window slides past. Since they match the hardware already on my windows, they look better than a nail or the plastic baby locks, at least in my estimation. You can find lots of versions in various finishes with a search for "double hung window flip lock".
posted by donnagirl at 7:45 AM on June 21, 2012

There are two kinds of "open window locks" (that's what I've always called them) that I know of. Here and here. I've used both. They both work fine. I believe in some places, these are required by code.

In both cases, you nail or screw the hardware into the upper sash, and it has a movable part that can either block the lower sash or allow it to pass by, depending on the part's position.
posted by adamrice at 7:46 AM on June 21, 2012

The "ventilating locks" about halfway down are what we have in our house. Very handy. Swings to the side so you can open the window completely, and swings back so you can "lock" the window partially open. It's a permanent solution and doesn't detract from the looks or anything.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:48 AM on June 21, 2012

The drilled holes I mentioned above shouldn't go all the way to the outside!
posted by mareli at 7:50 AM on June 21, 2012

From the preceding responses, I see there are so many answers to this question. My windows have yet another kind of lock, its a spring-loaded wedge that keeps the windows from moving beyond them unless you press them in with your finger while opening.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:34 AM on June 21, 2012

Before you do anything, are you sure that your brand-new double-hung windows don't have security catches? Many of the newer windows double-hung I've seen have these built in. They're usually a small metal or plastic catch on the top window pane, a few inches from the bottom of that pane, that can be pushed/pulled out; when they're in the extended position, they keep the top pane and the bottom pane from moving more than a few inches relative to each other. One type I've seen is a small metal tab with plastic stoppers on the bottom that pivoted into place. In my current apartment, there are plastic tabs built into the frame of the top pane that pull straight out, but are normally flush with the rest of the frame.

If you're not sure what you're looking for, you could post a picture of the windows themselves and I (or some other MeFite) could see if your windows have this feature.

That said, I would also try pursuing drlith's advice above. Your apartment warms up primarily because warmer air comes in from outside and because the sun shines in the windows. If you close the windows, draw the blinds, and make sure that your appliances are consuming as little power as they can (i.e., put your computer to sleep), you might be surprised at how cool your apartment stays during the day.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:48 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ventilating locks / security catches / baby locks that keep windows from fully opening are awesome, and I'm never living anywhere without them ever again. I have built-in security catches on my windows that I leave locked pretty much all the time, and they absolutely did once stop an attempted burglary. This actually happened on a coldish day when my windows were closed, but a couple of them weren't fully locked; the would-be robbers took all my window screens off and systematically tried to open all of my windows, but could not get the unlocked ones to open past the security catches, so they gave up and went off to steal home electronics from somebody else.

If I were in your position and didn't have built-in catches, I would just buy some nice-looking ventilating locks like the ones suggested by clone boulevard. They are totally worth the holes in the wood.
posted by BlueJae at 9:03 AM on June 21, 2012

My Dad secured all the windows in my house with pieces of wood in the runners for sliding doors and a hole drilled through the wood/metal frames to slide a big old nail in and out as needed. Not the most hi tech solution but my first house was in a dodgy neighbourhood and they worked. You can get posh store bought ones as others have suggested.

From someone that survived 40 Australian summers with no air conditioning. Cool your house down at night with windows open and fans to draw in the cool air, then shut your house up during the day to keep the heat out, as well as turning off all heat producing lights etc you can think of. Opening windows will actually make your house heat up to outside temps faster. Keep the door to your bathroom open as cats/dogs will go lay on cool tiles in there when it gets hot, and for some reason bathrooms always stay cooler longer than any other room in a house. Make sure they have lots of fresh drinking water available during the day. Then when you get home wait until inside the house is hotter than outside then you open up the house to let in the outside air.
posted by wwax at 9:19 AM on June 21, 2012

Response by poster: Johnny Assay: I'm not entirely sure they don't have security catches. In fact, my first assumption was that they did, but if so, I'm just not getting it.

They are Anderson 400 Series Woodwright Replacement windows, and at the top, they do in fact have plastic doohickeys, which you can slide down, and which allow you to sort of pop the window open so that you can was it more easily. I screwed around with the plastic for quite a while, trying to position it so that it would not let me open the window, but could never find a position that worked. Not sure if I am being dense, or if it just wasn't meant to work that way.

Or, maybe I didn't look past that set of plastic doohickeys for other ones.

I will not be home until later, but can take a photo then!
posted by instead of three wishes at 9:39 AM on June 21, 2012

Response by poster: *wash* it more easily.
posted by instead of three wishes at 9:40 AM on June 21, 2012

I lived in a place where it would routinely get above 90 degrees in the summer and we didn't have air conditioning and I can tell you from painful experience that opening your house during the day will not do what you're going for. The best way to keep your house cool is to button up the house tight in the morning and get blackout curtains for any windows that get direct sun. (We nailed fabric to a hard to reach, oddly shaped window even.)

When the sun goes down and it starts to cool off, use your fans to create a cross breeze through your house. Have one fan in the window pointing in and on the other side have one pointing out to pull the hot air out. If you can leave windows open over night. In the morning the air in your home should be relatively cool -- that's when you close everything up and close all the blinds to keep the sun and as much hot air out as possible.
posted by Kimberly at 10:19 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here is the link to those windows on Andersen's site. (Lovely windows, btw!)

They mention a Window Opening Control Device at the bottom of the Standard Options tab. Is that the widget that controls the tilting?
posted by WowLookStars at 10:38 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: WowLookStars: There is no such widget on my windows. And, I am fairly sure that it was not offered when I got them - about a year and a half ago :( )which is sad! But, if it is a control made for this model, maybe it can be added!

Instead, there plastic wedge shaped gadgets that sit at the top of the window. You slide them down til they fit up against the frame, and then use them to pull it forward/out.

they look like this.
posted by instead of three wishes at 11:11 AM on June 21, 2012

I have cylinder locks drilled into my bottom sash, with little metal cylinders inserted into drilled holes in the top sash (even a raw, drilled hole would probably work).

The nice thing about this is that there are extra cylinders drilled in 3" above the "closed" position so that I can lock the window in a cracked position.
posted by zvs at 11:36 AM on June 21, 2012

(You can sort of see what I mean here)
posted by zvs at 11:38 AM on June 21, 2012

Listen to Kimberley. To keep your house cool, ventilate with fans all night, and lock the house up tight all day. Your insulation and roof will do a better job at keeping the cool air inside cool than you think; opening your windows is like turning a heat vent on inside the house.
posted by ellF at 12:00 PM on June 21, 2012

Yeah, the security catches I've seen are usually separate from the catches that allow the windows to tilt out for washing purposes. The "Window Opening Control Device" is pretty darn close to the ones I've seen on other windows. The frames in the places I've lived in the past have always been metal or plastic; I've never seen them attached to wood frames, though obviously it does happen sometimes (as the Anderson website attests to.)

But again, it'll probably be better to just close up the apartment. Seriously, give it a shot before you purchase and/or install anything. It does make the apartment darker during the day, of course, but your cats won't care.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:13 PM on June 21, 2012

Response by poster: We decided to go back to the manufacturer on this one, since the security widgets on the Andersen site can be retrofitted to the windows in question.

Might be overkill, but without some type of device, we can't crack the windows open safely at night to ventilate, as is being suggested! Since these are made for Andersen's, we are hoping they will be the best bet.

Thanks for spotting them, WowLookStars!
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:00 AM on July 11, 2012

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