How Much Money Can I Really Save with New Windows?

One to the most promoted benefits of putting new windows into your home is Energy Savings.  There isn't an article online or window advertisment anywhere that doesn't promote the savings you will see from window replacement.  But any smart consumer should be a little skeptical of these claims and should ask themselves, "how much energy can I really save?"

Before we go any further let's address why saving energy is important.  In 5 simple words, More Money in Your Pocket.  When your home and the components of your home are more energy efficient, heat and cold from the outside have less of an effect on the inside of your home. 

The walls of your house act like a temperature barrier, the better the barrier the less outside temperature effects the inside.  When this happens the mechanisms that regulate the temperature in your home, your furnace and air conditioner, need to be activated less.  By not having to turn on as much they use less natural gas and electricity to run.  The short term, direct results of this is lower energy bills every month of the year.  The long term, indirect effect is less wear and tear on your air conditioning and furnace units, helping them last longer and need less maintainence.

When you think about the temperature barrier of your home, your walls, you realize that the weak link in the system is the windows.  If all of your walls were solid, insulated structures they would be pretty energy efficient.  But from time immorial homeowners have put opens in thier walls to let in light and fresh air.  

Early windows were simply openings in a wall with shutters.  Eventually, to get the benefits of light and some protection from outside wind and temperture, homeowners would cover wall openings with wax paper soaking in oil.  Eventually glass manufacturing technology developed so windows could be made of glass.  At first as little panes in a wood lattis, then in one sheet covering the entire opening. 

The evolution of the window described about took literally hundreds and hundreds of years.  But like all modern technology, the evolution of window products has sped up dramatically.  With improvements like triple pane glass units, multiple layers of low-e heat energy reflective material on the glass, improved polymer frame material, and non-temperature transmitting glass pane spacer products, windows today are incredibily more energy efficient than windows made just 10 or even 5 years ago.

All window companies today will tell you how efficient their windows are.  In fact, some companies used to make claims and guarantees that were so good that they raised red flags with local consumer groups and state attorney generals.  50%+ energy savings were being advertised and guaranteed by several large replacement window firms.  That is, until cases were brought against them by government watch dogs and they were forced to stop making these claims.

So back to our original question, how much energy can you save with new replacement windows?  The true answer is that there is no exact answer.  In reality, there is no way to predict how much the energy efficiency of your home will improve by changing this one variable. 

Believe it or not, 50%+ energy savings are actually possible with new windows.  The reason that companies that made this claim got into trouble is that they made the claim as if it were a fact.  Their ads and sales force matter of factly stated that a homeowner will cut their energy spending in half.  The problem was not every homeowner was achieving this high level of energy improvement.  Some would achieve 50%, some would achieve 40%, other 30% or less.

The reason for the differences?  The fact that there are many factors that effect the energy efficiency of a home.  A homeowner with really old, really inefficient windows, obviously would see bigger improvements compared to folks that were replacing newer, more insulated window units. 

Beyond the windows themselves, other factors contribute to the overall efficiency of a home.  Factors such as wall thickness, wall insulation value, attic insulation amount, efficiency of heating and air conditioning units, use of appliances and other energy using devices, and even human behavior (eg. leaving lights on, not turning tvs off) all effect the only way most homeowners can measure the efficiency of their home, their monthly energy bill.

However, even though it is hard to determine what the exact effect on energy efficiency that new windows will have on your home, all experts will agree that upgrading to a better window product will make a positive difference.

Keep in mind, improving the efficiency of your home and lowering your energy bills is only one of the benefits of window replacement.  Whether you save 20% or 52% off of your energy bills, there is still a savings.  Combining this benefit with the other benefits of replacement windows like property value increasing, functional improvement, a better maintained home you can be proud of, new features and design options, etc., makes changing out those old windows for new a no brainer. 

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