Windows That Work With Your Wallet

Replacing old windows makes your house more comfortable and comes with a small savings bonus.
green_0401_energy_windows

green_0401_energy_windows

By: Karin Beuerlein

Windows that are more than 15 years old can be keeping your home from prime efficiency and better comfort. Replacing them with energy efficient models will keep your house much more temperate and reduce the workload on your HVAC system. Still, don't expect to recoup your initial outlay quickly.

Keep in mind, windows don't offer the return in energy savings that some home improvement projects do. Most likely, you'll see only a 7 percent to 15 percent reduction on your monthly bill, and models can net you as much as 35 percent. Homeowners who see savings at the upper end of the range have highly inefficient windows, such as single-pane clear glass windows, and are located in warm climates where energy costs are primarily related to cooling.

You should consider replacing your windows to make your house more beautiful and comfortable, not to save money. Given the substantial price tag, you won't recoup your investment through energy savings for many years, if at all. If you're planning to sell your house, you can expect a 60 percent to 70 percent return on your investment in increased home value, but in these uncertain times, that number is highly dependent on your local real estate market.

Choosing New Energy Efficient Windows

Windows aren't a one-size-fits-all product in terms of energy efficiency. In warmer climates, it's more important that windows reflect heat in the summer. In colder climates, the best windows act as insulators in winter, trapping heat inside the house.

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) labels windows according to scientific measurements known as U-factor (which measures how well a window insulates) and solar heat gain coefficient (which measures how well it blocks heat from the sun). The measurements are for the entire window system, including the frame, because different frame materials such as vinyl and wood affect the window's performance.

If you want to dig deeper, check out the Efficient Windows Collaborative's Window Selection Tool. You can also research window technologies such as glazing, frames, low-emission coatings and gas fills to see what combination best suits your needs.

But if you want a shortcut to finding windows that will trim your energy bills, just look for the Energy Star label above the NFRC measurements. The Energy Star label uses a map to highlight the geographic areas where the window meets Energy Star standards.

Installing Windows Yourself

Labor is a substantial part of the cost of a window replacement project, starting at about $150 per window and going up with the level of difficulty involved. Therefore, if you have reasonably advanced carpentry skills, you'll see significant savings if you install your windows yourself. But incorrectly installed windows won't make your house more comfortable and they definitely won't give you the energy savings you want. So don't be tempted to cheap it out if you aren't sure you're up to the task.

Also be wary of contractors who charge rock-bottom rates for window installation. As with any major remodeling job, always check references before you sign on the dotted line.

Next Up

Cost-Efficient Window Solutions

Keep the drafts out and your energy bills lower with these tips to stop air leaks around your windows and doors.

Save With Home Insulation

Addressing leaky ducts and adding attic insulation can save you significantly on your energy bills.

The Benefits of HVAC Upgrades

Upgrade your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and streamline your energy bill with these tips.

Smart Thermostats That Save

Learn why programmable thermostats are a smart way to save on your heating and cooling costs.

Smart Appliance Upgrades

Be proactive about appliance replacement, and don't wait until your old machine stops working to upgrade to an energy efficient model.

The Perks of Solar Powered Attic Fans

Before installing solar attic fans, learn more about the benefits they provide, including comfort and modest energy savings.

Cash In on LED Lighting

LED lamps may be costly, but they'll save you money in the long run.

The Value of Geothermal Heating

Geothermal heat pumps are expensive, but they pay big dividends in energy savings.

Lower Bills With Low-Flow Faucets

Don't let your home drain your pockets. Consider low-flow showerheads and faucets as a money-saving solution.

Choosing Energy Efficient Windows for Your Home

Consider these four factors that can affect a window's performance.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.