Replacing your home’s windows may make sense for many reasons, but money isn't one of them. Although insulated windows could reduce your annual heating bills by up to 15 percent, it would take decades to recoup the cost from energy savings alone. What’s more, new windows will lose 38-40 percent of their value when you sell your home according to the latest Remodeling Cost vs. Value report.
Instead, weigh the genuine benefits that replacement windows provide through improved personal comfort, convenience, safety, appearance, and damage control. But don’t miss an opportunity to get your insurance company to foot at least part of the bill if you have a legitimate hail or wind-damage claim. What looks like minor cosmetic dents today could lead to seal failure and fogged glass when the season changes.
When properly installed, modern insulated windows can banish uncomfortable drafts, hush traffic and airplane noise, enhance ventilation and privacy, speed cleaning and improve security.
Pocket-Style vs. Full Replacement Windows
Pocket-style windows with thin frames that fit inside the original jambs may be used when existing window frames are square, sound, well insulated and sealed. They reduce cost because interior and exterior trim are not disturbed and surrounding siding and wall surfaces do not need to be restored. When the old frames are bad, full replacement or new construction windows must be installed.
Some contractors remove the nailing fins from new construction windows that are designed to fit between the exterior wall sheathing and siding/trim and merely caulk the gap. Because caulk fails over time, the new windows eventually leak if the caulk is not inspected and replaced periodically. This can lead to wood rot, mold, insect infestation and drafts. A better approach is to remove the exterior trim or cut back the siding and add trim so the nailing fins can be installed as intended with self-sealing membrane tape installed over the rough sill and over the top and side flanges.
Weighing Window Styles
It’s common to replace windows with the same size and type of windows to maintain a home’s architectural style and minimize disruption to siding and interior finishes. However changing window styles can offer big benefits. Here are key characteristics worth considering for each window type.
Top pivot provides ventilation during precipitation and some privacy when opened if obscured glass is used.
Superior ventilation because it catches wind when fully opened to a right angle. Double of triple mechanical latches seal tightly.
Lower the upper sash and raise the lower one for superior ventilation and install a window air conditioner if needed.
Superior sealing but hard to clean and provides no ventilation.
One or both sashes slide to the side providing exceptional ventilation and egress but that cannot accept an air conditioner.
Less ventilation than with double-hung but offers superior sealing and maintains air conditioner option.
Window Construction Considerations
Window comes in four materials:
Metal is the poorest insulator. Rapid expansion and contraction with temperature changes stresses seals and joints.
This is the newest material. It combines the benefits of vinyl and wood. It’s strong, won’t rot, insulates well and can be painted, finished to resemble wood or left unfinished.
It offers the lowest price, insulates well, won’t rot and doesn't need to be painted. But colors are limited and fusion-welded joins are less attractive.
These window combine natural wood indoors and weather resistant/no paint skins outdoor in a variety of colors. They insulate well but can rot and swell if installed incorrectly.
The Right Glass
Most residential windows sold in Minnesota use insulated glazing units that incorporate two or three panes of glass. While triple-pane windows insulate better, than double, sound reduction is the real plus. If your bedroom overlooks a busy street or is near an airport, this could make a huge difference.
Glass may be coated inside or outside to reflect warmth inside in winter or to reduce heat gain from sun in summer. While this improves energy efficiency and comfort, it can reduce visibility. When privacy is needed, obscured glass or glass block is used.
Tempered or laminated safety glass may be used in and around entries for security or in large windows for safety in high wind.
Window Energy Performance
For maximum energy saving, choose Energy Star rated windows and make sure they are properly installed. Look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label that quantifies the U-rating and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGR). In our cold climate, a low U number and high SHGR number are best.
Double- or single-hung windows with sashes that tilt in for cleaning are ideal for high windows because you don’t have to climb a ladder to wash them. Simulated divided lights with between the glass or overlay grids are more energy efficient and easier to clean than true divided lights with multiple panes of glass.