Straight Talk Articles

Clearing up the 4 main Benefits of New Windows
April, 2020

Dear Pat and Brad:  The windows on our house are old and a little beat-up. We get a chill when we stand near them in winter. Do you think it’s worth getting them replaced? – Grace

Dear Grace: Prepare for sticker-shock when you get your first bid for replacing your windows.  As you recover from the shock you should consider a number of possible benefits these windows could provide. 


Here’s a little checklist we’ve put together to help make sure you cover your bases.


Benefit 1: Comfort

The chill you feel near your windows in winter is likely due to radiant heat loss.  When you’re near a cold surface, such as a window in the winter time, you can feel chilled even if the air temperature in the house is over 70 degrees. Your body is much warmer than the surface of the window, and heat radiates from warm to cold.(1)  The inside surface of an inefficient, single pane window will be much colder on a winter night than that of a double or triple pane window.   


A completely different approach to improving comfort is window coverings.  Curtains and blinds are very effective at reducing radiant heat loss in the winter and can even block some unwanted heat gains in the summer.


Another aspect to comfort is the sun.  If you have cold winters but lots of winter sunshine, you might enjoy the comfort and warmth of the sun streaming through your windows on a cold clear day.  If that’s the case, you should take this into consideration as you ponder window replacement.  Some windows are better at letting the sun’s heat into the home than others.


Benefit: 2: Appearance and Function

Since your windows are old and beat-up, new wood- or vinyl-framed windows can act as an exterior facelift. But if you owned a vintage house with classic wood windows, vinyl replacement windows might look out of place. It’s possible to buy new windows that match the style of some old wood windows, or you could decide to apply a little elbow grease to get them back into shape. Wood windows, even if they were built before 1960, could last the life of the home.(2)


Windows can provide ventilation, which sometimes improves comfort more cost-effectively than air conditioning.  Windows also need to be cleaned occasionally.  If your existing windows don’t provide ventilation or they are hard to clean, replacing them could solve these problems.


Benefit 3: Resale

The one energy efficiency measure almost every prospective home buyer notices is the windows.  We often hear that window replacement is good for resale value. A 2019 study by the National Association of Realtors found that on average, across the US, installing new vinyl windows cost $22,000 per home and increased resale value by $16,500. Wood windows gave lower overall results at a higher cost. Only 4% of realtors said the new windows helped close the sale.(3) It sounds like increased resale value alone might not be reason enough to justify replacement.


Benefit 4: Energy Savings

Homeowners often believe that the best way to reduce energy use is to replace their windows, but this is rarely true.  Advertising for new windows sometimes suggests much great energy savings than the new windows will deliver.  The amount of energy you save depends on the efficiency of your existing windows and the efficiency of the windows you replace them with.  An energy auditor can estimate the savings, but every audit I’ve seen has shown that there are much more cost-effective energy efficiency investments than replacing windows.


On average, according to ENERGYSTAR, replacing single-pane windows in a 2,000 square foot existing house with ENERGYSTAR windows will produce an average savings of $125-$340 a year, depending where you live. At this rate it will take a decade or more to pay off your initial investment.


Replacing your windows can provide a number of benefits.  By considering all of the possible benefits and how long you plan to live in the home you’ll make the right decision.  Next month we’ll provide some information that will help you decide what to look for in a replacement window.


This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on the 4 main benefits of new windows, please visit the more information page.







Curtains can be an affordable strategy to increase comfort and reduce energy use. Photo: The Sash Window Workshop.