How to shop for discount windows

July 18, 2011

Although you're shopping for discount windows, don't let the total cost be the sole determining factor in your choice. The word "discount" itself should not automatically mean "cheap and shabby." You're looking to strike an affordable balance. Three important considerations when shopping for discount windows:

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  1. Window materials
  2. Insulation features
  3. Window components

Decide on discount window materials

The first step in shopping is to evaluate materials options. Are you interested in matching the windows you have; are you seeking a change that might add affordability; or are you committed to upgrading? According to Consumer Reports, wood window frames make up nearly half of the replacement window market. However, fiberglass-frame windows are rising in popularity for their energy-efficiency and overall strength. The least-expensive replacement windows are sold with low-maintenance vinyl frames, and these are gaining a strong foothold in the marketplace. Shop around when gathering window replacement costs, and look at the range of materials available before making your final choice.

Insulation features and window replacement costs

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that you can save from 10 to 25 percent on utility costs, when replacing old generation windows. Still, given the estimated spend of $7,000 to $20,000 for a complete window replacement project, it will take years to recoup the cost simply in terms of lower energy bills.

Shop for windows that combine discounted materials costs with effective energy-efficiency. The industry rates replacement windows for U-factor, solar heat gain co-efficient, air leakage and sunlight transmittance that add long-term value to your home. There are also reflective coatings and tints available. Coatings can add 15 percent to your window replacement cost, however. Contact local retailers to determine the optimal window for your climate.

Shop for affordable components

You can cut your total costs by shopping only for window components that you absolutely need. For instance, if you choose wood replacement windows, you'll need to select aluminum or vinyl cladding that keeps out weather. Cladding prices vary widely. Replacement windows also come with double or triple glazing, the layers of glass that provide additional security and insulation. The greater the number of panes, the heavier the windows, which adds to materials and installation costs. Shop around for the best prices on insulation gas fills. Common types on the market include krypton and argon. If you don't need high-end gas fills for your climate, then you'll walk away with a lower sticker price.

Remember: High price doesn't automatically mean it's the best window. At the same time, don't take the lowest price, if it means you'll compromise on quality or comfort. Shop for discount windows that suit your climate, your checkbook, and your immediate and long-term needs.

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