Have you ever noticed your windows making unusual sounds? These might be the popping or cracking noises that result from the glass expanding and contracting at a different rate to the surrounding frame. On the other hand, you might hear a high-pitched whistling noise – especially on windy days.
In some cases, this latter sound can be particularly annoying – especially if you’re looking to enjoy a moment’s peace when relaxing indoors during severe weather. When the wind gets to a certain velocity, the sound can be shrill and high-pitched. So what causes this sound? And, more importantly, what can be done to prevent it from being such an annoyance?
What causes windows to whistle?
Naturally, before we can solve the problem, it’s worth considering what’s causing it. If you’ve ever blown across the top of a bottle, then you’ll have produced a whistling sound. The harder you blow, then higher in pitch the sound becomes. Since the air is travelling faster, it will bounce around the inside of the bottle more frequently. This increase in frequency means that the sound we hear sounds higher in pitch.
The same thing is happening when the wind blows across your windows, or down your chimney, the wind is passing through a small space, bouncing from side to side as it goes. The gap is providing a sort of resonating chamber for the wind to bounce back and forth across.
We can reduce the volume of the whistling sound (and indeed, the amount of any other sound coming through your windows) through a number of steps. The first and most obvious is to identify any draughts. If the sealant has shrunk or deteriorated over time, leaving gaps around the windows, then the sound will be able to get through (and so too will the cold wind that’s causing the noise).
If you discover significant draughts, then replacing the sealant around the edges of the glass will often address the problem entirely. If you find that things still aren’t adequately soundproofed, then you might consider replacing the entire window. Double-glazed windows offer far better soundproofing than their single-glazed cousins. This is thanks to the spacer bar, a quality window frame, and an inert gas filling – when combined they prevent the vibrations of one being transferred to the other.
Problems with old sash windows
Old sash windows tend to be more prone to creating unwelcome whistling sounds than other sorts of windows – particularly as they age. Over time, a wooden-framed sash window may begin to warp and shrink, leading to gaps forming. These gaps can allow air to pass through, which as well as being terribly heat-inefficient, will cause that unwelcome whistling sound.
This shouldn’t, however, be an issue with modern sash windows, due to innovations in both the manufacturing and installation methods.
The problem isn’t necessarily restricted to wooden windows, either; even modern uPVC windows aren’t immune to developing issues that can prevent them from entirely closing. It’s worth double-checking that your windows can form a tight seal when they’re shut, with locking clasps fully engaged. If this is done, and yet a gap still persists, then you will almost certainly need to replace the gaskets around the edges of the window or potentially the whole window.
Gaps on the outside of a window
Gaps might be found on the outside of the window. If the silicone seal is incomplete or damaged, then sudden gusts of wind may find their way into gaps around the frame. If you’ve got storm shutters, then these might also vibrate during strong winds – especially if they’re not properly installed.
Gaps inside a window
The space between the window aperture and the window frame can also contribute to the howling noise we hear. Hollow spaces can act as amplifiers, causing quiet sounds to get louder (think of the body of a piano or acoustic guitar). When a new window is installed, the installer will fill any gaps with expanding foam insulation to prevent this noise from occurring.
Unwelcome sounds emanating from your windows are almost always the result of air leakage and therefore the components of your window vibrating where they shouldn’t. To eliminate this, it’s essential to first identify exactly what’s causing the problem. In most cases, whistling is the result of wind passing through a slight gap in the window – and anything that can be done to close that gap will help to eliminate the whistling. Filling hollow spaces and securing things into position will help reduce the noise – so be sure to do so.
With a little bit of work, you should end up with a set of windows that function properly – without generating an unpleasant racket when you’re trying to get to sleep!
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