Replacing windows carries a large bill—some estimates range from $4,000 to $20,000, depending on your house as well as the types of windows and casements you invest in. It’s common knowledge that replacing old, drafty windows with modern energy-savers will cut your energy bill, but will that alone cover a five-figure investment?
Sliding Windows vs. Casement Windows
Let’s start with some basic options. First, there’s how the window opens. Many homes in the U.S. were built with sliding windows that push up to open.
Today there’s also casement windows, which swing outward, usually with a crank. These tend to seal better against the elements.
Double-Pane vs. Triple-Pane Windows
Today’s high-performance replacement windows are either made up of dual- or triple-pane windows with the space between the panes filled with either air or an inert gas, such as argon.
Double-pane windows are usually cheaper than triple. They don’t insulate as well, but the calculations—whether the added expense is worth the extra pane—often come down to specs and preferences for each individual house and homeowner.
Both double- and triple-pane windows are a huge improvement over old-fashioned single-pane windows.
The Best Window Frame Material
If you just want new glass, you may not need to replace the window frames of your house. But if you do, options abound: wood, vinyl, aluminum and fiberglass. How to choose?
Consumer Reports found wood to be the most expensive option. Vinyl costs the least and doesn’t need painting, but it has the most limited palette. Fiberglass is up to 15% better at insulating than vinyl, but will also come at a higher cost.
Aluminum windows are notorious for acting like radiators, bringing unwanted heat from the outside into the room. They also conduct cold in the same way as heat, so must be specially protected with “thermal breaks,” to compete with vinyl windows for energy efficiency.
In the end, vinyl represents a balance of looks versus cost for your house and budget.
ROI on New Windows
Yes, new windows will save you money. You will save money on your energy bills, and it’s a project with a pretty good ROI when it comes time to selling your house. Just don’t expect miracles.
The annual “Cost vs. Value” report from Remodeling magazine found that homeowners who replace their windows with vinyl versions will recoup just over 78% of their investment when they sell. The return hits above 79% for wood versions.
Some of the ROI data remains anecdotal, but it is still worth noting. Also, if you live in an older home, and many houses in your neighborhood have new windows, you might want to replace them so your home remains competitive.
Money aside, there also is something to be said for sitting by a warm fire on a cold winter night—and not feeling the icy chill from drafty windows on your neck.