What you need to know about window replacement cost

July 08, 2011

What's one of the best investments you can make in your house? It's a home improvement project that can start paying dividends as soon as it's complete, and you may even be able to claim a federal tax credit for the upgrade. The best part might be that you could receive a pretty good percentage of your initial investment back when you sell your home.

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The improvement is installing Energy Star rated windows in your house, and when everything is factored in, your window replacement cost might be a lot less than you think.

Factors affecting window replacement cost

If you've been considering upgrading your windows but are concerned about the expense, you may not be looking at the big picture: When energy savings, possible tax credits, and potential return on your investment are added in, you might discover that you can't afford not to install new Energy Star windows in your home.

The U.S. government's Energy Star website estimates that the average home may be able to save about 7-15 percent on its annual heating and cooling bills by upgrading to Energy Star rated windows, and depending on where you live, you may be able to save even more.

Remodeling Magazine's 2010-2011 Annual Cost vs. Value survey estimates that a homeowner who upgrades the windows in a mid-range house may be able to recoup about 70 percent of their initial window replacement cost when the time comes to sell. This is a national average and your percentage could vary, but when you add in the applicable federal energy tax credit, it's difficult to come up with a good reason for not upgrading to Energy Star windows.

What determines an Energy Star rating?

Most window manufacturers submit their products to an independent testing company to get verification from the National Fenestration Rating Council in hopes of earning the ultimate award in energy efficiency--the coveted Energy Star rating. The testing company looks for five primary measurements:

  1. U-Factor: This is a measurement of the amount of heat allowed to escape through a closed window unit within an hour.
  2. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient: The SHGC is a measurement of the amount of solar radiant heat that passes through a window.
  3. Visible Transmittance: The amount of light transmitted through the window. It is on a scale of 0-1. Higher Vt means more light is allowed through.
  4. Air Leakage: A measurement of cubic feet of air passing through a square foot of window area. The lower the number, the better.
  5. Condensation Resistance: This is the ability of a window to resist formation of condensation on the inside pane of a window. It is on a scale of 0-100; higher is better.

The results required to earn an Energy Star rating can vary depending on which region the window is intended to be used in, but generally, the lower both measurements are, the more energy efficient the window should be.

Window manufacturers achieve good ratings by using double and triple paned glass, installing insulating gas between the panes, and using a reflective Low-E coating on the exterior surface of the glass.

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