Striking a balance: window replacement cost can offset rising energy bills

March 20, 2012

Despite a warmer American winter in 2012, energy costs are expected to rise. The Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) predicts increased heating bills to homeowners who use heating oil and propane to warm their houses. The cost of electricity is predicted to rise as well, according to forecasts from The U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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The reason for higher energy bills this winter is pegged to rising fuel prices, passed along to consumers by utility companies. Fuel oil users will pay $200 more on average this winter for heating their homes, while homeowners heating with propane could spend as much as $245 more during the coldest months. USA TODAY reports that electric bills have risen every year, increasing bills by $300 annually during the last five.

Potential savings through replacement windows

You may now be seriously considering whether replacing leaky household windows can offset rising heating bills. Two governing factors are linked to the kind of windows you have today and the kind of replacement windows you choose for replacements. Let's start the process by examining your potential savings.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you can save up to $465 a year in energy bills, if you currently have only single-pane windows and replace them with ENERGY STAR-rated products. If your home is outfitted with double-pane, clear glass, you can save $111 a year by switching to insulated windows.

Your total window replacement cost depends on where you live. Region not only affects the total potential savings, it impacts energy bills. Door & Window recommends that you consider your climate when evaluating replacement windows based on these seven factors:

  1. Humidity
  2. Extreme highs and lows
  3. Heavy rainfall
  4. Fire-prone conditions
  5. Mild weather
  6. High winds
  7. Low humidity

Evaluating replacement windows

Read labels carefully when looking at new windows. U-factors -- which determine how much heat is lost through the window -- are critical in northern climates. Shop for windows with U-factors in the 0.30-0.31 range to keep heating costs down.

If you live in the south, you probably won't need windows with U-factor ratings lower than 0.60. For the rest of the states, check with a local window contractor to find an energy-saving rating from 0.30 to 0.60.

To get a positive return on your investment, you'll need to balance purchase and installation costs against long-term savings. The trend in electric utility bills has shown a steady climb for half a decade now. Variables in your final window replacement cost include frame materials (vinyl vs. wood), total number of window panes (glazing), tints and e-coatings.

If you shop wisely, you should find protection against the bone-cold chill of winter -- and for your pocket book.

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