Replacement Windows: Is the Value Worth the Cost?

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If you’re like most people, you have enough projects on your home improvement to-do list to fill whole pages, but you’re not made out of money. When you only have a certain portion of your budget to devote to repairs and renovations, you want to be sure that you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. That means sussing out which repairs will make it worth your money—which isn’t always immediately obvious.

For instance, you may think that a major improvement, like a kitchen or bathroom remodel, would be a sound investment—would wouldn’t want a luxury whirlpool tub or a built-in glass cooktop? While these kinds of renovations do add to your home’s value, for the money you’ll spend, they’re not as smart an investment as a more practical update, like a window replacement.

Of course, the market value is just one way of looking at an investment. If you consider your home’s energy efficiency when you purchase new windows, they offer potential savings on your monthly utility bills, as well. And beyond monetary returns, efficient windows can add to your home’s overall comfort, too—a value that’s immeasurable.

measuring window

Window Replacements Fetch High Returns on Your Investment

Overall, replacement windows are worth the money you’ll spend on them—you’ll recoup about 70 to 80 percent of your costs on your home’s market value. So if you spend $400 on a new window, you can expect that to increase your home’s value by $280 to $320. To give you some perspective, replacing a home’s entry door returned around 97 percent of the initial investment, while adding a sun room returned just 52 percent. Very few improvements recoup 100 percent or more of their costs.

The specific value of your window replacement depends on your area’s market, as well as what kind of window and the type of window frame you choose to purchase. If you’re looking for a good buy on a budget, you may want to go with vinyl frames—they’re cheaper and offer comparable energy efficiency to fiberglass and composite frames, and are much more durable than wood. Wood frames clad in aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass are also rated highly for attractiveness, but these tend to cost more.

The window type will also affect the cost. There are lots of different windows styles, ranging from custom architectural pieces to sturdy double-hung models, but the most popular kinds are casement, double-hung, and single-hung, which typically also offer the best values. Casement windows, while slightly more expensive, do tend to keep out drafts and cold air better than double- and single-hung windows, so they’re a smart buy if you live in the chilly north. Single-hung windows, on the other hand, are cheaper, but are less popular than double-hung windows because the top sash is inoperable, which makes them less functional and harder to clean.

If energy efficiency isn’t your top priority, however, one trendy choice is the installation of large picture windows. These feature a wide, single pane of glass so you can get a clean, uninterrupted view of the outdoors from your breakfast table or living room. Their simple design also makes them a nice complement to modern architecture. The asking price for picture windows is about on par with casement windows, ranging between $300 and $550.

Another attractive choice popular with many homeowners is to convert the windows into a set of French doors. It’s an affordable way to get more light into your home, which goes over well with buyers, who are looking for more openness in home plans.

If your frames and sills are still in good condition, however, the cheapest way to replace your windows is to make a partial repair. A pocket replacement is made to fit within your window’s existing frames, rather than installing a new outer frame and sill. However, bear in mind that a pocket replacement may not be as energy efficient as total replacements, as there may be gaps between the frame and replacement pieces.

windows white house

Efficiency Updates Offer Energy Savings—But Their Exact Value is Up for Debate

As we mentioned earlier, your home’s market price isn’t the only kind of value offered by replacement windows. When done right, windows also stand to save you money on your energy bills. And actually, that goes hand in hand with your home’s valuation, because buyers tend to jump on homes that have lower electricity bills, particularly in areas with high energy costs, like those in the Northeast and California.

Exactly which energy efficiency features offer the best value is a matter of some controversy among window professionals. However, one thing they generally all agree on is that single-pane windows, which offer no insulation between the glass panes, are leaky and inefficient. If you have these installed on your home without storm windows, you could be losing up to 20 percent of your home’s heating to the outdoors, according to the Department of Energy.

On the other hand, double-pane models, also known as insulated or double-glazed windows, have two layers of glass in each window, which helps to slow drafts and reduce energy leaks. Many of these are filled with an insulating gas, like argon or krypton, that absorbs winds before they can penetrate the interior of your home. These windows are almost always more expensive than single-pane windows, sometimes costing 30 to 50 percent more. While double-hung windows will save you money on your heating costs—particularly if you have old, leaking single-pane windows—most experts agree that those savings are not enough to completely recoup the costs of new windows plus the cost of installation, particularly if you will be replacing multiple windows in your home. However, when you combine double-pane windows with advanced weatherstripping techniques, such as the use of double-sided adhesive tape in the place of silicone or putty, the overall savings will be significantly higher.

Another matter of some debate is whether or not ENERGY-STAR certified windows are worth the cost. These windows, which have been rated by the Department of Energy and the EPA for high energy performance, represent a savings of anywhere between $27 to $465 per year on your energy costs. Generally, if you live in an area with extremely low or high temperatures, you’ll see the most difference in your energy expenses, particularly if you’re replacing outdated single-pane windows.

Those savings may not be enough to completely earn back the cost of installation; however, when you factor in government incentives, the price is much more competitive. The federal government currently offers a tax credit for ENERGY-STAR certified windows, which is worth 10 percent of the cost of the windows, up to $200.

For homes in warmer climates, however, another option is to purchase windows with spectrally selective low-emissivity coatings. Argon-filled double-pane windows may help with heating, but they’re less effective at reducing cooling costs. Low-e coatings, on the other hand, reflect air conditioning back into a home’s interior and reduce overall solar heat gain by up to 70 percent. Low-e glass is definitely more expensive; however, the price has come down in recent years. For instance, a standard Low-e window from The Home Depot now costs under $400.

Other Benefits of Efficient Windows

Of course, the cost of windows is not the only way to measure their worth. More efficient windows will also keep you more comfortable, as well, which can be a value all on its own—who wouldn’t want a cozier and warmer living room?

Additionally, The Department of Energy has found that replacing outdated single-pane windows has a positive environmental impact. The energy saved in heating and cooling offsets up to 6,205 pounds of CO2 emissions—the equivalent of 317 gallons of gasoline!

Taken as a whole, the higher market value, energy savings, and increased comfort level of new windows make a strong argument for a replacement project, particularly if you have outdated, inefficient windows. With that in mind, it’s time to check one home improvement project off your list!

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