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When you’re nestled in your home, comfort is king. But what about when the energy bills creep up and you start to wonder where every dollar is floating away to? 

Enter energy-efficient windows—touted by contractors and homeowners alike as a must-have for cutting costs and conserving energy. Yet, as you gaze out of your current panes, questions shadow the decision: Are they worth the investment? Are they even worth the hype? 

This deep dive into the world of energy-efficient windows will strip away the myths and give both the information you need to help guide your choice. Let’s jump right in!

What are Energy Efficient Windows?

Imagine you’re in the market for new windows. You come across a term frequently used by every window marketing company: “energy-efficient windows.” What do these words mean? 

Essentially, energy-efficient windows are specially designed windows that help reduce your home’s reliance on artificial heating and cooling. They achieve this by trapping a comfortable climate inside, thanks to their superior insulation properties and multiple pane technology. 

Whether it’s keeping the summer heat out or preventing winter chill from creeping in, energy-efficient windows work year-round to improve comfort and lower energy bills. With their unique construction, they can really change how your home feels physically and financially. 

An energy-efficient window: 

  • Has two or more panes of glass with inert gasses like argon between them
  • Utilizes window frame materials that improve the window’s insulating abilities
  • Contains glass spacers that prevent condensation and reduce heat flow
  • Uses special coatings that reflect heat energy and enhance insulation 

In the next section, we’ll look at whether replacing your windows is a good idea.

How to Determine Whether Replacing Your Window is Worth it

Deciding to replace your windows is difficult, and it’s an investment that requires thoughtful consideration. Let’s explore how to determine if this upgrade is truly worth it for your home.

Replacing With Wood or Vinyl?

Wood and vinyl are the most common materials used for window frames. Both come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a quick look at both materials and their key differences: 

  • Overall Durability and Longevity: Wood windows can only attain a high-efficiency standard for 20 years, but vinyl can last for 40. This means that if you never replaced your wood windows in your old home, then you should definitely replace them right away.
  • Maintenance Time and Costs: Vinyl windows don’t have to be maintained like wood windows do. Wood needs to be resealed every couple of years to stay efficient.
  • Upfront Costs Per Window: Wood windows tend to cost most, but this is often because they need to be custom-made. A prefab wood window can cost the same as a vinyl window, but vinyl windows are cheaper overall due to their low maintenance.
  • Total Energy Efficiency: Wood is more efficient, but only if it comes in a double or triple pane. Insulated vinyl windows, however, tend to beat out most wood windows.
  • Return on Investment: If you’re interested in selling your home, get vinyl windows. You’ll see a 67% return on investment if you sell your home with new vinyl windows.
  • Turnaround Time: Installing vinyl windows is much easier because they’re more readily available and don’t require a custom order. However, wooden windows are harder to come by and often need to be made custom, increasing installation time. 

As a rule, it’s cheaper to invest in a vinyl window, but cost isn’t the only factor. Vinyl windows don’t always look great in an old home, for example. Even though vinyl can come in multiple different colors, it can’t truly imitate the grains or rustic feel of true wooden windows.

How Expensive are Window Replacements?

Window replacements are expensive, and there’s little way to get around that. The true cost of a single replacement depends more on the size of the window rather than the material used. 

However, custom wood windows are going to be more expensive than using custom or prefab vinyl windows. In the past, wood windows had pre-set dimensions that were used in homes, but these dimensions are different from modern vinyl windows. That means you’ll probably have to make a custom wood window to fit the space the old vinyl or wooden window currently occupies. 

Unless you want to make your window bigger or smaller, you’ll have to replace your window with something of a similar size. Poor quality (single-pane, no coating, poor sealing) windows cost anywhere from $200 to $3,000 each, depending on the size. High-quality (double to triple-pane, coating, great sealing, energy efficient) range from $700 to $30,000+. 

Window walls and French doors cost the most, but the most homes have double-hung or sliding windows. Since the average home has 8 windows, a typical American would pay $11,200 to $19,200 + labor to replace every window with an energy-efficient equivalent.

How Much Would You Save Per Year?

If you notice that your house is hard to heat or cool, your windows are difficult to operate, or they are cracked and/or leaking, then there’s a high chance your home isn’t energy efficient. 

But do windows pay for themselves in energy savings? That depends on a few things: 

  • The cost and quality of the windows: Energy-efficient windows will last a lot longer than low-quality, non-efficient windows. While they cost a lot more, energy-efficient windows will be with you longer, making them a more worthwhile investment.
  • The quality or condition of your previous windows: It’s estimated that you can save 12% on your energy bill per year if you switch to energy-efficient windows. You would also save money on repairs and maintenance, as poor-quality windows tend to leak and attract mold. If the water damage is bad, you’ll have to replace your drywall.
  • The window’s warranty: Some contractors will give you an installation warranty, and many brands will offer guarantees on their windows specifically. If anything goes wrong, you can replace your windows for free, meaning you get more life out of them.
  • The maintenance on the rest of your home: High-quality, energy-efficient windows can extend the life of your HVAC system, as it won’t need to work as hard. This will also reduce the need for expensive space heaters or portable air conditioners.
  • The health and wellness of your family: Low-quality windows don’t dampen noise and can cause a draft and mold accumulation. If you can’t use your window properly (i.e., can’t open it), it’ll impact your home’s ventilation. All of these things could impact the health of your family, which may cause an increase in medical bills. 

If you only look at the cost of replacement vs. how much money you save on energy, then replacing your windows isn’t worth it. However, if you consider the maintenance and possible health conditions that could arise from non-energy efficient and poorly installed or ventilated windows, replacements are more than worth it, especially if your windows are broken.

What is the Age of Your Home?

Vinyl windows have been around since the 1920s, but they started to become popular in homes around the 1970s and 80s thanks to the invention of replacement vinyl windows. Still, if your home was built before the 1980s, there’s a high chance you have single-pane wooden windows. 

Wooden windows are more insulating than vinyl, but since most vinyl windows come as double or triple panes, replacing a single-pane wooden window with a double or triple-pane vinyl window is more energy efficient. This is because more energy is released from a single-pane window than a double or triple-pane, even if the single-pane window has an excellent seal. 

If you have an old home with single-pane wood windows, then it’s worth it to replace them with either a wood or vinyl window. If you bought a new home (made in the past 10 years), then it likely comes with double or triple-pane windows, so there’s no need for a replacement. 

However, if your vinyl windows are single-pane, are cracked or leaking, or don’t have a heat-absorbing coating, then replacing your windows could be a good option. 

With that said, it may be worth it to apply weather stripping, repair any noticeable cracks, or paint on a low-emissivity coating over your windows to see if this fixes the problem.

DIY or a Professional Replacement?

When looking at costs, then a DIY replacement is the clear winner. If you hired a professional, you’d need to pay for the windows themselves and the cost of labor. With that said, there are many great reasons to hire a professional installer, especially if you’re a construction newbie. 

A poor installation job can cost you time and money, as you’d need to call a professional to fix the problem. If the problem isn’t fixed, moisture could accumulate in the window, causing mold and structural issues. An improper window seal would affect your home’s energy efficiency. 

You’d also need to obtain the permits yourself, and many homeowners aren’t familiar with this process. Installers can also create or find custom products and offer warranty protection. 

Most importantly, a professional can install the window safely. If you’re replacing a window in an old home, there’s a possibility that lead dust or asbestos could be released. In the end, paying that extra cost is often worth the effort if you aren’t a trained window installer.

In Conclusion…

As the sun sets on our illuminating journey through the realm of energy-efficient windows, it’s your turn to reflect on your home’s needs and potential savings. Let’s not just peer through the glass but see beyond it—to a future with reduced bills and enhanced comfort.



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