Are replacement windows worth the investment? Expert Info!

Replacement window

Written by John Wakefield – Owner of Artistry in Glass

New replacement windows will save you energy and provide greater comfort within the house. This much is true. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EnergyStar program estimates that the average U.S. home can save up to $366 a year when replacing windows.

Savings when replacing old windows
Annual savings when replacing old windows with new double-paned panels from

But are replacement windows really worth the investment?

The short answer is that windows will eventually pay for themselves in energy savings. But the length of time required for the windows to amortize is so long that the savings are essentially neutralized.

So the important conclusion is that replacement windows will not pay for themselves in energy savings in any practical sense.

Insider tips from a glass professional

Replacement windows do not pay for themselves in strictly economic terms – If you don’t believe me – jump to this section for an analysis of the figures.

Moreover, there are other, lower-cost methods to reduce energy losses through windows. Jump to this section for examples.

However, double-pane windows offer many benefits in addition to saving utility bills.

Study the benefits below and decide which are important to you:

  • Security – your old windows do not lock securely
  • Noise – double pane windows will reduce noise pollution
  • Comfort – Heat or cold radiating from an old window is uncomfortable
  • Drafts – Air leakage can bring dust and allergens into your home
  • Lighting – New windows can increase the natural lighting
  • Aesthetics – New windows may improve the appearance of your home
  • Danger – Old wooden window frames may contain lead-based paint
  • Environmental – Reduced energy consumption lowers CO2 emissions
  • Tax Credits – available in some states

Read on to learn more about these important benefits – if one or more are important to you then replacement windows will likely be a good idea.

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Why bother about windows anyway?

Windows have a significant impact on energy efficiency and environmental impact in homes. In Tucson, AZ, for example, old, single-pane windows in a typical ranch-style home make up at least 30% of solar heat gain, which in turn increases air conditioning costs.

Solar heat gain in typical Tucson house
Solar heat gain percentages in a typical Tucson house

Many of these mid-century homes still have single-paned windows that provide the least insulation, and allow substantial air infiltration and heat transfer between the interior and exterior.

Dual-pane and triple-pane windows offer significantly better thermal performance through the addition of extra glass layers that trap air and reduce conductive heat flow. Future posts on this website will explain the details – double or triple pane, air or argon fill, and the benefits of Low-E glass.

Save money by doing it yourself

Resourceful homeowners can make significant improvements by installing their own double-pane glass. Jump to this section for examples:

Analysis of non-financial benefits of replacement windows

If one or more of these excellent benefits is important to you – then new windows will probably be worthwhile (even if they do not “pay for themselves“).

Improved Security

Double-pane replacement windows enhance home security by providing increased durability, improved locking mechanisms, noise reduction, and options for impact-resistant and tempered glass. These security features, combined with other home security measures, can help protect your home and provide peace of mind for you and your family.


Double-pane windows are generally more durable and impact-resistant than single-pane windows. They are less likely to shatter upon impact, making it harder for potential intruders to gain access to your home by breaking a window.

Improved locking mechanisms

When you replace your windows, you can also upgrade the locking mechanisms. Modern double-pane windows often come with advanced locking systems, including multi-point locks and reinforced hardware. These features make it much more difficult for burglars to force open the windows.

Replacement windows have secure locks
Replacement windows have secure locks

Impact resistance

Double-pane windows can withstand various forms of impact, such as severe weather conditions (e.g., hail or strong winds), which can help prevent damage and maintain the integrity of your home’s security. These benefits are especially important in coastal areas, susceptible to hurricane damage.

Noise reduction

Double-pane windows offer significant noise-reduction benefits compared to single-pane windows. This noise reduction is due to their construction, which involves two panes of glass separated by a layer of air or inert gas.

Double-pane windows reduce noise
Double-pane windows reduce the volume of noise entering your home

The primary reason double-pane windows reduce noise is their ability to insulate against sound. The two layers of glass create a barrier that hinders the transmission of sound waves from the outside to the inside of your home. This insulation effect reduces the impact of noise pollution, making your indoor environment quieter and more peaceful.

Customized solutions

You can further enhance noise reduction by customizing your double-pane windows with additional features, such as laminated or acoustic glass. These specialized glass types are designed specifically for noise reduction and can provide even greater sound insulation.

Improved comfort

Double-pane windows offer increased comfort in your home due to their superior insulation properties compared to single-pane windows. They do not simply reduce your energy bills but also make your home more comfortable.

Reduced heat and cold through windows

Your new double- or triple-pane glass allows you to sit close to your windows without feeling hot or cold.

A high U-factor stops heat entering during hot summers
A high U-factor stops heat from entering during hot Arizona summers
U-factor is very important in cold climates
A high U-factor stops heat from leaving your house during cold, Minnesota winters

Argon-filled double-pane windows

The most popular and economical way to increase the U-factor is to purchase windows with argon fill. The higher density and lower thermal conductivity of argon is explained in this comprehensive post.

Draft reduction

Due to their superior insulation properties, double-pane windows are less likely to develop drafts around the window frames or between the panes. This means you won’t feel cold air seeping into your home during the winter or hot air infiltrating during the summer, enhancing your overall comfort.

Heat loss or gain by infiltration through cracks in the window assembly
Heat loss or gain by infiltration through cracks in the window assembly

Improved lighting

Larger or strategically placed windows can bring more natural light into your home’s interior, making it appear brighter and more inviting. This can have a positive impact on the overall feel and aesthetics of your living spaces.

Visible Transmittance (VT) is the amount of visible light that is transmitted
Visible Transmittance (VT) – the amount of visible light that is transmitted

Aesthetic improvements

Replacement windows can significantly improve the aesthetics of your home by enhancing its overall appearance and curb appeal. Here’s how they can contribute to a more attractive and appealing look:

Fresh, clean appearance

Old, worn-out windows with cracked glass, peeling paint, or damaged frames can make your home look neglected and outdated. Replacing them with new windows instantly provides a fresh and clean appearance, making your home more inviting and well-maintained.

Customized designs

Modern replacement windows come in a wide variety of styles, materials, and finishes, allowing you to choose a design that complements your home’s architectural style and your personal taste. Whether you prefer traditional, contemporary, or something in between, you can find windows that match your vision.

Bay windows Frederick Robie House
Robie House windows by Frank Lloyd Wright – should NOT be replaced!

But remember that historic styles should be respected to maintain the authenticity of your home.

Frame material options

Replacement windows are available in various frame materials, including vinyl, wood, aluminum, and fiberglass. Each material offers its own unique look and can be customized with different colors and finishes to blend seamlessly with your home’s exterior.

Matching Hardware and Accessories

You can choose hardware and accessories that complement the aesthetics of your new windows. Options include decorative handles, locks, grids, and trim. These details can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to your home’s overall look.

Improved window treatments

New windows provide an opportunity to update your window treatments, such as curtains, blinds, or shutters. Coordinating these with your new windows can enhance the overall visual appeal of your home’s interior and exterior.

Pier mirror between windows

Danger from lead in painted window frames

Most old window frames (pre-1970s) were painted with poisonous lead-based paint. Peeling and chipping paint is extremely dangerous – especially to infants and children whose brains can be seriously damaged by lead. For general information on the dangers of lead – study this post from Artistry in Glass

Lead is poisonous

Lead in paint (together with lead in gasoline and water pipes) has been a major cause of brain damage in children. Study this post about leaded (stained) glass for more information.

Dangerous old windows may well be the number one reason to purchase replacement windows. Do not neglect the health of your children.

Environmental benefits

In this era of climate change, every citizen has a duty to contribute to a solution – you can feel better by:

Increasing energy efficiency

Double-pane windows improve insulation, reducing the need for heating and cooling. This leads to lower energy consumption and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, which helps combat climate change.

Longer Lifespan

Double-pane windows often have longer lifespans than single-pane windows, reducing the need for frequent replacements and the associated environmental impact of manufacturing and disposal.

Lower Carbon Footprint

By using less energy for heating and cooling, you lower your home’s carbon footprint, contributing to a greener and more sustainable environment.

Tax Credits

Tax credits and incentives can change over time, so it’s important to check the most current information with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or your state and local government. Here’s what was available as of my last update:

Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit

According to the IRS, the maximum credit you can claim each year is $1,200 for energy property costs and certain energy-efficient home improvements, with limits on doors ($250 per door and $500 total), windows ($600), and home energy audits ($150). Follow this link for details.


Energy-efficient windows that meet ENERGY STAR criteria are typically eligible for federal tax credits. To qualify, windows must meet specific energy efficiency standards. Follow this link for details.

State and Local Incentives

In addition to federal tax credits, many states and local governments offer their own incentives for energy-efficient home improvements. These incentives can include tax credits, rebates, and low-interest loans. Check with your local utility companies.

Do it yourself – ideas for the handy homeowner

A large part of the price of replacement windows is the cost of installation labor. A handy homeowner can order double-paned glass and install it herself:

Low-E, double-pane glass can be ordered in customer sizes from online companies, through Amazon. For more reliable service, consider ordering from your local glass retailer.

Even if double pane glass is beyond your skill level – there are numerous ways to improve the insulation value of your windows.

Magnetic Window Insulation kit, Heavy Duty Window Insulation Film with full frame magnetic strip coverings to keep cold out. Stay warm in winter and cool in summer(56″X 35″)

The Economic Benefit of Replacement Windows

The EPA EnergyStar program says that changing your windows can save you between $101 and $583 per year. However, this estimate is based on replacing single-pane windows, which are less common now. For double-pane windows, the savings are lower, at $27 to $197 per year with EnergyStar-approved replacements, not new windows. The argument is weakened because the savings numbers are usually the highest possible, while the cost of the windows is often minimized. It’s important to remember that these figures are per year. According to the EPA, the most you can save over 30 years, which is the length of a typical mortgage, is $17,490. This estimate is for New England homes that replace single-pane windows with double-pane windows. However, after 30 years, those windows will likely need to be replaced again.

Energy Star and NFRC logos
The Energy Star and NFRC logos are your guarantee of authenticity

In a paper for the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, a cost/benefit analysis was done on window replacement and reported by Spruce. The analysis studied a two-story brick home in Nashville, Tennessee with 20 windows. The cost to replace all the windows was estimated at $8,000, which is considered a very low estimate. According to the analysis, it would take 70 years for the energy savings to offset the cost of the windows. This is beyond the warranty and practical life expectancy of most windows, as well as the life expectancy of the homeowner.

Federal Trade Commission chimes in

Consumer Protection Agency censors dishonest window salesmen

Five companies that sell replacement windows in numerous states will have to stop making exaggerated and unsupported claims about the energy efficiency of their windows, and how much money consumers could save on their heating and cooling bills by having them installed, under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission. The settlements prohibit the companies from making these types of deceptive claims.

The FTC’s complaints (reported in Feb 2012) allege that the five companies engaged in deceptive practices by making unsupported energy efficiency and money-savings claims – in some cases, that consumers could cut their energy bills in half by using replacement windows alone. The companies named in the settlements are Gorell Enterprises, Inc.; Long Fence & Home, LLLP; Serious Energy, Inc.; THV Holdings LLC; and Winchester Industries.

Conclusion – replacement windows will not “pay for themselves”

While windows will eventually pay for themselves in energy savings, it takes too long for the savings to be practical. Replacement windows will not pay for themselves unless the cost is very low, the current windows are single-pane and not energy efficient, and the climate is extremely cold.

You are urged to do the math for your own home, using your best local estimates of window costs.

If you are handy and can install your own windows – the payback time will be much shorter.

Educate yourself (knowledge is power)

The EnergyStar/NFRC label that is placed on new windows is a very valuable resource. Make sure you understand the complex numbers shown on this label by studying this amazing post.

Maker information on Energy Star label
Maker & window information on the Energy Star label

Remember – you should refuse any windows that dealers deliver without an original NFRC label!

If you cannot afford replacement windows ……

Improving the energy efficiency of old windows when you cannot afford replacement windows is a practical and cost-effective approach. Here are twelve measures you can take:

  1. Caulking and Weatherstripping: Seal any gaps or cracks around the window frames with caulking or weatherstripping. Focus on areas where air infiltration is most likely, such as where the window frame meets the wall. This helps prevent drafts and heat loss.
  2. Add Window Film: Apply window film to the glass. Low-E (low-emissivity) films can help reduce heat transfer and improve insulation. Some films also provide UV protection and glare reduction.
  3. Install Draft Stoppers: Use draft stoppers or draft snakes at the bottom of windows to block cold air from entering your home. These can be made from fabric, foam, or other insulating materials.
  4. Hang Heavy Curtains: Thick, thermal curtains can provide additional insulation. Close them at night to keep warm air in and cold air out. During the day, open curtains to let sunlight in for natural heating.
  5. Window Insulation Kits: Plastic window insulation kits are affordable and easy to install. They create an extra layer of insulation by adding a clear plastic film over the window.
  6. Use Window Sealing Tape: This tape is designed to seal gaps and cracks around window frames. It’s particularly useful for older windows with deteriorating glazing or putty.
  7. Install Storm Windows: Storm windows are an external addition that creates an extra layer of protection against drafts and moisture. They can be either interior or exterior storm windows.
  8. Apply Rope Caulk: Rope caulk is a flexible, sticky sealant that can be applied to seal gaps and cracks around window frames. It’s easy to use and remove when needed.
  9. Insulate the Window Well: If your windows have window wells, insulate them with foam board or insulating blankets to reduce heat loss.
  10. Regular Maintenance: Keep your existing windows in good condition by repairing or replacing damaged glazing, seals, and weatherstripping. Proper maintenance can extend their lifespan and effectiveness.
  11. Use Window Coverings: In addition to curtains, consider using blinds or shades to provide an extra layer of insulation and privacy.
  12. Window Draft Stoppers: Draft stoppers for the window sash can help reduce drafts without covering the entire window.

While these measures can improve the energy efficiency of old windows, keep in mind that they may not be as effective as modern, energy-efficient replacement windows. However, they can make a significant difference in reducing drafts, heat loss, and energy bills until you can afford to upgrade to new windows.

Learn all about energy-efficient windows in these posts:


I was an exploration geologist and University Professor working in Botswana, Zambia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Portugal, and other countries before opening Artistry in Glass in 1986. In my more than 35 years of experience, I have brought my technical abilities as a scientist to the trade of glasswork. During this time I have become an industry expert in glass and glass-related skills. Watch out for special insider tips developed from my detailed knowledge of the glass business.

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