Replacement windows can do a lot for a home. They can make it more comfortable and quieter, lower energy costs and improve its appearance. If you have older windows that are difficult to open, open too easily, let in drafts or leak, then you might be thinking that you need to replaceme them. But replacing your windows is an expensive update — it can cost an average of $10,708 to replace 10 double-hung, insulated, aluminum-clad, wood-frame windows measuring three by five feet.
And, despite the hype about windows improving energy efficiency, they simply cost too much to pay for themselves within any reasonable amount of time. That doesn’t mean that installing replacement windows can’t be a sound financial move, but you need to know what you’re getting into first.
Know What to Expect in Terms of Energy Savings
If you’re hoping that new windows will make your home less drafty and lower your energy bills, you need a clear picture of what features in your home are responsible for leaks and energy waste. A home energy audit will cost you $500 to $1,000, but it’ll show you exactly where you’re losing the most heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. You might find that adding insulation to your attic or walls will save you more energy than replacing your windows.
In any case, a home energy audit will give you an idea of how much energy you can expect to save after window replacement. That way, you can make an educated decision about whether replacing some or all your windows will lower your energy costs. Perhaps you’ll end up replacing the floor-to-ceiling windows in your living room with low-emittance (low-e) windows that let in less heat in the summer while keeping functional older windows in other rooms.
Research the Types of Windows Best-suited for Your Home and Climate
While double-hung windows are the most popular choice in the United States, they aren’t the only one, and you may decide that a different type of window is best-suited for your needs. For example, if you live in a cold, windy climate, like Chicago, you may decide to replace your old windows with casement windows, which open on a crank and seal themselves tighter as they’re buffeted by cold winds.
Of course, you might be more interested in ease of cleaning and maintenance than in protecting yourself from blustery winter winds. Today’s double-hung windows tilt inward for easy cleaning. Vinyl or composite frame windows eliminate the regular painting and staining that old-fashioned wooden window frames require, but you may own an older home with old wooden window frames. Your local bylaws may even require you to maintain the original look of the home when choosing new windows. Educate yourself on the types of window, their benefits, and the different materials used for window framing before choosing the units you’ll install in your home. Chances are you’ll want to install different types and sizes of windows in different rooms, too.
Learn What Features Are Worth It and Which Aren’t
Windows are like anything else — you can spend as much money on them as you want, but paying more doesn’t necessarily mean getting a better product. Besides, you won’t get any additional boost in property value by installing high-end windows in a mid-range house. Casement windows tend to be the best in terms of quality, followed by mid-range double-hungs. While some features, like simulated divided light grills (SDLs) or windows that tilt inward for cleaning may be worth it for their convenience and traditional appearance, others, like triple-pane windows, simply don’t enhance the window’s performance by a measurable amount — unless you live in a climate where features like extra glazing or impact resistance are necessary.
Choose a Reputable Dealer
One of the most important parts of choosing new replacement windows is getting a good dealer. Don’t go with some fly-by-night dealership; choose a well-known, reputable dealer for your Chicago home window replacement. That’s because windows are only as good as the contractor who puts them in. The best windows will leak, function poorly and deteriorate rapidly if badly installed.
Look Into Repairing Old Windows
If you have wood-frame windows in your home that were installed before 1970, they may be worth repairing. Older wooden window frames were built with old-growth wood, which was more durable than the lumber available today because its slow growth allowed the wood to form a stronger, tighter grain. Problems like painted-shut sashes, broken pains and crumbling putty can be repaired for less than the cost of installing new windows, especially if you need to maintain the historic look of your home. Good storm windows can lower your energy costs almost as much as brand-new energy-efficient windows.
Replacing your windows is a big job, and it’s one that costs a lot of money to do well. Don’t go into it blindly. Do your research before you decide to replace your windows, so you don’t perform an update you’ll regret.