<<< back to article list

Windows and Options If You Have Crappy Ones

  • +1

Blog by Doug Ingersoll | August 21st, 2017

From Advantage Inspection Service -
Get The Best Value From Replacement Windows
You’ll see a lot of numbers floating around when you peer into the world of replacement windows. For example, the widely cited 2015 Remodeling/Realtor Cost vs. Value Survey reports that for a mid-range vinyl window replacement project, a homeowner is likely to spend $11,198 to upgrade their windows, recovering $8,937—or 72.9% of the investment—upon resale of the home. 

The Potential Energy Payback

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the average household spends between $1,500 and $2,500 annually on energy bills, and attributes about 45% of the expense to heating and cooling. With a window replacement project, selecting the right windows can have significant impact not only on the price of the project, but also on the potential for cutting energy expenses, which is especially important for those who intend to remain in their homes for years after the project is completed.  

But when it comes to replacement windows, one size does not fit all. Homeowners need expert guidance to select products that offer the best value for their budget, climate, and the orientation of their home with respect to sun and shade. They should also be careful to contract only with installers who are well trained, efficient, and guarantee their work.

Replacement Window Material Choices

Vinyl replacement windows are a popular choice due to their affordable cost and low transmission of heat and cold air through the frames. They require little or no maintenance, which should always be factored into the value proposition. There’s wide variation in the quality of vinyl windows on the market. More dimensionally stable vinyl frames have greater strength, and have joints that are welded. These features improve the potential for weather-tightness, energy performance, and lasting attractiveness.

Wood replacement windows are more expensive than vinyl but offer comparable heat/cold transmission ratings. Wood is a good choice for older, traditional homes and in historic districts where vinyl and metal are prohibited.

Composition or Fiberglass
Fiberglass replacement windows are comparable in price to wood windows, and they boast better dimensional stability than vinyl. They have inherently good heat/cold transmission resistance that can be augmented with foam insulation applied within voids in the extrusions.

Aluminum replacement windows are relatively inexpensive but have poor thermal transmission characteristics, especially when frames are constructed without a thermal break. However, they may offer decent value with the right glazing in warm climates.

Glazing (Glass) Choices
Along with selecting a frame with high resistance to thermal transfer, the right glazing can have an enormous impact on a replacement window’s energy-saving performance and, therefore, its long-term value. Glass by itself is not a particularly good insulator, but most replacement window suppliers offer a number of glazing options that can double or triple energy performance, in comparison to single glazing. Some of the typical options are shown in the table below, along with their overall heat-transmission coefficients (U-value), and their resistance to heat flow (R-value).  Lower U-values and higher R-values are indicative of better energy performance.


In addition to U-values and R-values, the solar heat-gain coefficient (SHGC) of glazing is an important indicator of a window’s energy-saving potential in both cold and warm climates. Higher SHGC ratings indicate that a window admits relatively more solar energy (heat) into the home—desirable in cold-winter climates for reducing heating loads—whereas lower SHGC ratings are desirable in warmer climates.

The best values in replacement windows can be achieved by understanding the numbers. It’s important not to jump to false conclusions, such as assuming that if a new window’s U-value is half that of an existing window, the home’s heating and cooling bills will be cut in half.  Be sure to research claims made by window salespeople regarding energy-cost reduction.

There are too many variables—such as the fluctuating price of energy, and anomalies in weather patterns—to predict energy savings with precision. But be confident that if you select products based on U-values and SHGC ratings that are appropriate for climate and orientation—and the installer can guarantee that he’ll address existing defects and weather-tight installation—you will certainly get the best possible value out of your replacement windows.