Choices, Choices, Choices
Well, you basically have three choices: bite the bullet and spend the extra money on heating and cooling your home, rebuild your current windows or ditch the old ones for new, energy-efficient replacement windows.
For example, my home is a cedar plank, 1926 bungalow. It has the original wood and double-hung windows. One winter day, my girlfriend asked why I was wearing a sweatshirt and hat while watching TV in my den. I told her to sit on the sofa in front of the windows, and she’d find out soon enough. Her answer was, “You need to buy new windows!”
Is The Cost Justified?
That can be tough. My next door neighbor advised me not to install vinyl windows on an historic cedar-plank home. So, I called one of the high-end wood replacement window companies for an estimate. When the salesman counted the number of windows in my little, 1,300-square-foot bungalow, he smiled from ear to ear. Twenty-three windows would cost $17,000 to replace.
Well, I flipped. There was no way I was about to spend that much money, which I didn’t have to spend in the first place. Doing the math, I figured that I’d save an average of about $1,000 per year in energy costs with new windows. So, I’d break even on the $17,000 investment in 17 years. I sincerely doubted that I’d live in the same house for another 17 years, so no sale.
If you’re like me, and you need new windows but you don’t want to break the bank, you have options. Here’s a breakdown of the replacement window market.
Vinyl-Framed Windows Cost Less
The most affordable replacement windows are vinyl. Modern vinyl replacement windows are not only affordable, but due to their design, they’re also energy efficient. They generally cost about half of what wood windows would cost. One slight drawback of vinyl for some is the limited color choices.
Wood Is Most Wanted
Wood windows are still the Cadillac of replacement windows. They add a great amount of beauty, but with that also comes a higher price and additional maintenance. Wood windows need paint and/or varnish to maintain their finish and protect them against the elements. Some companies, like Andersen and Marvin, offer wood windows clad with vinyl or aluminum on the exterior. This offers superior protection on the outside, and you have the option using interior paint, stain or varnish to match your decor. But, of course, the vinyl or aluminum-clad wood windows are more expensive than wood alone.
Tough, but Cold to the Touch
Aluminum-frame windows offer obvious benefits right off the bat: They’re affordable, durable and maintenance free. As for energy efficiency – not so much. The metal conducts heat and cold, and the window frames are even cold to the touch in winter. Most window professionals recommend aluminum-frame windows only in warmer climates.
Between Wood and Vinyl
Newer to the market are windows made from fiberglass or polyester resins. These windows are energy efficient, paintable and fall between wood and vinyl in cost. These factors make them both desirable and affordable for most buyers.
There are additional energy saving features you should be aware of when buying replacement windows. Double-glazed windows, often filled with inert gas between the panes, can cut your energy bills dramatically. And they’re even more efficient when a low-energy coating is used.
Ready to purchase some new replacement windows? No? Well, don’t forget to wear your hat and sweatshirt in the house this winter!
Do you have a unique story about your windows? What was your best replacement window solution? Tell us; we’d love to know!
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