Have you ever thought about replacing the windows in your home? If so, then you’ve probably considered the benefits: they can make your house look better; they can make your house more comfortable; they can make your house quieter; and they can save you money. If you are considering upgrading your home and want it to look better, or if your current windows are in very poor condition, then replacing your windows is probably a good idea. However, if the main reason that you are considering replacing your windows is to save money and are thinking about splurging on new double paned windows, then you should probably read this article.
Many sales people and websites show you how much money you can save by replacing your windows. They tell a good story, but in many cases, the actual savings are less than projected, and it often takes decades before you can break even on the money that you spent to replace your windows. Let’s look at some numbers.
The Environmental Protection Agency EnergyStar program estimates that the average home in the United States that has single-pane windows can save between $126 and $465 per year by replacing all windows with double-paned windows. If the home has older double-paned windows and replaces those, then the EnergyStar program estimates that between $27 and $111 can be saved. In the Central Texas area, the EnergyStar calculator shows the maximum possible savings to be $335 annually when replacing single-paned windows, and $82 annually when replacing older double-paned windows.
Another study showed that replacing your windows can cut your home’s energy loss through your windows by as much as 50%. A home will typically loose 30% of its energy through windows, therefore, your heating and cooling bill can be lowed by as much as 15% (50% x 30%). Keep in mind, that that 15% is only the portion of your utility bill that is used for heating or cooling your home, it’s not 15% of your total bill. As an example, If the cooling and heating portion of your utility bills is $2000 a year, then you could save about $300 annually. This is about what the EnergyStar study showed.
If you replace your windows with cheap windows, or if they are not installed correctly, then you will lose out on much of the benefit of replacing the windows in the first place, so it doesn’t make sense to go cheap. Unless you are able to do it yourself, you will easily spend $450 – $1000 for one properly installed window of reasonable quality. So, at the very low end (and I think you would be hard-pressed to get a quality installation of a decent window for $450), you would spend $4500 to replace ten windows in your home. If you save $300 per year on your utility bills, then it would take 15 years for the windows to pay for themselves. If you go with better quality windows and spend $750 per window, then the break-even time would be 25 years. Either way, that’s a long time to recoup your investment. Obviously, the condition of the existing windows, energy costs, possible tax rebates for energy improvements, etc. can affect the savings, so the break-even time can be shorter or longer than my example above shows.
One other thing to consider when trying to decide if you are going to take the plunge and purchase new windows for your home is the value that they add to the home. Studies show that replacing windows will increase the value of your home by 70% – 80% of what you spend on the windows. So, if you are going to sell your home and not even get to enjoy the new windows for long, then you should recoup much of your money when your home sells. If you have no plans to sell your home, then the increase in value is only on paper and doesn’t actually help you.
In summary, if your windows are in really poor condition and you can feel air coming in around your windows or you feel like you’re in a refrigerator when you are near a window on a cold day, then I think it would be a great idea to replace your windows. If you are replacing your windows both to improve the look of your home and to get some cost savings on your utility bills, then, by all means, do it. However, if you are replacing your windows just to save on your energy bills, then realize that it may be many years before you see those savings, so… Do your homework. Talk to people who have had their windows replaced and see what their actual savings were. Work with a reputable company or contractor who knows what they are doing. Have the facts. Be a smart consumer.
This article was written by Mike Morgan, certified home inspector in the Central Texas area.
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