Energy Efficient Windows: Costs and Benefits

new-country-french-homeAre your home’s windows working for or against your wallet? If they are older than 15 years or in a state of disrepair, it’s likely that your energy bills are much higher than they would be with newer, more energy-efficient windows. That being said, premium window replacement can be quite costly in itself.

Does the price tag of new windows outweigh the benefits of money saved on energy costs? The answer to that question is different for everyone. One thing we can say is that since Fort Worth’s hot climate makes it especially necessary for homeowners to keep the AC on during the summertime, putting energy efficiency on the back burner can mean “throwing money out the window.” There are basically two avenues to improving the efficiency of windows: 1) Repairs and efficiency upgrades or 2) Replacement.

Window Repair and Efficiency Upgrades

Any open spaces in or around a window are problems for a homeowner looking to save money on energy bills. Whether it’s a lack of insulation, window hardware damage or rot around the frame or sash, many efficiency issues can be solved with a little thought and elbow grease.

The easiest thing you can do to upgrade existing windows is to add weatherstripping and caulk to all open cracks and crevices (For more tips, read “How to Fix Drafty Windows“)

A note: Old (15+ years), badly rotted or broken windows are, in general, simply not worth repairing. The cost of extensive repairs can approach that of full window replacement and your energy savings will not reach their highest potential. But if your fairly new windows require a few repairs here and there, small upgrades may provide you a similar return to that of replacement.

Window Replacement

The 2 primary options for replacement windows are vinyl windows and aluminum clad wood windows. Generally speaking for the Fort Worth metro area, if your home is worth more than $500,000 and the homes around you are similar, then you should go with aluminum clad wood so as not to diminish your home’s value. Under 300,000, then due to cost considerations you would probably be fine, and wiser, to go with with vinyl replacements. Between $300 and $500,000 it could go either way, and really depends on how much you value aesthetics over cost.

The cost per window can vary widely. Whereas a vinyl window may cost $150, an alum clad wood could be 3 to 5 times that cost. The labor can also vary widely depending on the size, type of window, and amount of re-trimming is required (anywhere from $200-$800 per window). The good news about window replacement, however, is that you get back much of what you put into it, both in terms of energy savings and added home value.

Choosing ENERGY STAR qualified windows as replacements for existing windows can save a Fort Worth homeowner up to $330 a year in energy costs (ENERGY STAR© City Savings Estimates). These windows, though available in all different operating types  have some features in common.

  • Low Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). The SHGC tells you how well the window blocks heat from sunlight. It is measured on a scale of 0 to 1 and generally ranges from .25 to .80 (the lower the better).
  • Low U-Factor. The U-factor measures how well the window insulates and how quickly it transfers heat. Values range between .25 and 1.25 and energy efficient windows have a lower U-factor.
  • Low-emissivity (low-e) Window Coating. This thin, basically invisible glass coating controls heat transfer by further absorbing sunlight.
  • Low Air Leakage Rates. Certain types of windows (awning and casement, specifically) seal tighter than others and leave fewer opportunities for air to leak in and out.
  • Proper Installation. This is one of the most important energy-saving aspects of new windows. Without skilled, meticulous and strategic installation, even the most theoretically energy-efficient window will fall short.

The Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value report for the Dallas-Fort Worth area (www.costvsvalue.com) defines window replacement as the replacement of “10 existing 3-by-5-foot double-hung windows with insulated, low-E, simulated-divided-lite vinyl [or aluminum clad wood] windows.” According to the report, vinyl window replacement runs on average $12,890 with a $9,763 resale value (75.7% of cost recouped). Wood window replacement costs $16,207 on average with an $11,551 resale value (71.3% of cost recouped). This makes window replacement a worthy exterior remodeling project for the homeowner who wants to enhance their home’s value either for quality of life or resale.

Are you considering replacing your home’s windows? We here at Robinson Builders understand that it is a huge investment that requires a lot of careful consideration. We can help you think through the logistics of your exterior remodeling project and  find the best window replacement solution for you. Call or contact us today.

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