Are new Windows Worth The cost?

As most of you know, we moved into our current home last June. We have a nice sized yard and a really nice neighborhood. What we don’t have is a house that was move in ready. Well, it was, but we wanted to change many things. It’s been months and we still have too many projects to list. I have been to the home improvement store so many times, they greet me with my own personal shopper and a hot coffee (OK, they really don’t, but there should be some type of frequent shopper program)!  Some of the cashiers do know me by name and I’m not proud of that.  Anyway, we have just replaced our old water heater, which I will write about in another post. I’ve had to work from home a number of times to meet with professionals about doing work around the house. I do DIY a lot, but I also know when to hire the pros and when to tackle it on my own.

Anyway, two weeks ago we had a salesman come over to talk about window replacement. Our windows are the originals and they leave a lot to be desired. They have some air leaks around the frame and the glass doesn’t really keep heat in or out of the house.  It’s like a damn free-flow lane where the traffic never stops!  Anyway, my wife and I decided to see what it would cost to replace our 18 windows. You can’t make informed decisions until you have all the facts.  The presentation was good and the company we had come over was highly rated and recommended to us.

Are New Windows Worth the Cost?

Since I base my decisions on necessity and mathematics, I decided to run some quick numbers in my head while the salesman was talking.  He indicated that we could save about 10-20% on our electric bill per month.  We pay around $140 on average so far on our monthly electric bill.  Our house is entirely electric, so we don’t have gas bills.  I researched before he came to the house and found a general consensus of about 15% savings.  Since he was in that range, I decided to run with the 15% savings. It’s like switching to Geico!

Here’s the breakdown:

Price: $9,650

Savings: $21.00 per month

Break Even Point (ROI): 38 years and 3.5 months (9650/[21×12])

It would take us 38 years to get a return on those windows. 38 freaking years!  Now, there is no math in the world that would make that a value proposition.  Considering most replacement windows only last 20 years, you would never get a return on those windows.  It just wouldn’t happen.  Our mortgage will be paid off before that and we might not even be living here.  Hell, our son would be 40 by then and I would be old.  Nope, not worth it!

PS.. We would need to keep the house for 20 years and 7 months before we break even based on the resell value of the windows. They only capture 54% (estimate) of their initial value. That’s still a long time!

So, are new windows worth the cost?  Many times, probably not!  If your windows are older and need some lovin, then you can do some things to make them work more efficiently. If your windows are broken, don’t function, or are unsafe, then don’t worry about the break-even point. You will need to replace them, so find a good product and get them installed.

If you have old, single pane windows, then see if your savings will reduce the break-even point. Single pane windows are not very efficient at all.  If you’re in my boat, take some time to learn about ways to increase your window efficiency.  You should never buy a product that doesn’t even have a life expectancy longer than the break-even period. It’s just not good financial sense.

Ways to Fix Drafty Windows

Thank goodness for the internet. With a few quick Google searches, I was able to look up some ways to spruce up our old windows and make them work a little better than they have before.  The most effective method is to check where your drafts are coming from. Mine were mostly due to two reasons. The seals had all started to crack, so replacing those was a must. They don’t cost much and are available at most home improvement stores.

The other issue for us was the caulking around the window casing had deteriorated. Well, with an hour to spare and some quality caulking, I was able to seal up those leaks and feel better about it. The next step is to have a film applied to the windows. I won’t be doing this myself. There is a relatively new film out there that has to be applied professionally, but it acts like low-e, which is what the new window manufacturers put as their main selling point.

If your windows need a little more than just seals and new caulking, then think about storm windows. They protect your windows from the harsh elements, but also provide an air gap that can increase your old window efficiency. These are typically less costly than replacement windows, but make sure to do the math on that price too. It might be something we consider, but I want to see if the changes I made will have any effect.

If you don’t know how to do any of the work on your windows, then hire someone. It will be far less costly to have your windows repaired, then to replace them.  On top of that, the salesman even showed me that new windows only hold about 50% of their value when selling your house. This means that you can expect to gain about 50% of your investment back when you sell your house within a specified time frame of installation.  It’s not terrible, but not the best. Kitchens can fetch up to 80% of their initial investment. Not bad!

The moral of this story is to make sure and do the math when thinking about windows or any home improvement project. What’s the purpose of the project?  Do you need to have it done?  Don’t be awed by the presentation from the salesman. I was enamored by the heat lamp behind the sample window.

It was like night and day between our window and the new one. I loved it, but that quickly went away once I found out the price and how long it would take to make my money back. My goal is to make the house more energy efficient. New windows would do that, but at the expense of my wallet and my financial mindset. Not worth it in my opinion.

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26 Comments

  1. We had our single pain windows replaced several years ago and really noticed a difference in the climate of the house. But we were not awed by the first salesman who came with heat lamp in tow. Of course a triple pain window will stop heat from getting through. But we don’t need that much window (and certainly weren’t gonna pay that much for it).

    1. I forgot to put single pane windows in there. They are not very efficient. Still, it depends on how much money you will save by getting them compared to their cost. It still could be a long time to break even, but if you noticed a difference, then I would say it was good!

  2. What you don’t know will KILL your finances – may feel the draft coming from their windows and just throw down the checkbook and buy new windows. But if you know how to apply some DIY skills, you can save yourself that massive expense. Goes for windows, home repair, car maintenance, and a whole host of other things. Nice catch!

    1. You are right there my friend! The new windows sound like they will fix all drafts, but the expense outweighs the savings by a massive amount!

  3. We keep debating the value of new windows because our home is 25 years old and I don’t think any of the windows have been replaced. Our issue is knowing how much it will really save us. We assume we are losing money because of draftiness, but can’t figure out how to quantify how much.

    1. Our home is 28 years old. Our windows are original. I would ask your power company if they offer home energy audits. There are companies that provide it. Think about just paying $100 or $150 for an audit, which can better quantify those losses. Based on my research, new windows can save you 10-20% on your monthly energy bills, so just do a basic calculation on how much you pay per month on average and then if you know how much it will be to replace, you can easily see if it works. For us, it was not worth it in any stretch of the imagination! Some caulking, weatherstripping, and general cleanup have already done wonders.

  4. Interesting!!!! I’ve never done the ROI cost on something like that! Luckily, we don’t need new windows, but if we did, I wouldn’t buy them either. Great breakdown, Grayson!

    1. I always do the ROI cost for things like this, especially ones specifically for energy savings.

  5. Great timing on this, as I had been wondering about this, myself. Well, more that I was feeling guilty that it’s not in the budget to replace our windows. But at 15% savings, it’s very much not worth it. I’ll look into whether the windows need sealing.

    1. The budget has to be big for new windows. There are some deals out there, but make sure it doesn’t take longer than the lifespan of the product!

  6. In our case new windows were clearly the best deal. They were costly (not that costly as we had anticipated), but they’re holing out great and it allows us to keep a good temperature inside and also block some of the outside noise.

  7. We replaced our windows a little over a year ago. The monthly electric bill didn’t drop that much, but none of the windows would stay open as they were the “builders special” that were put in when the house was built 30 years ago. We knew we’d need to replace them anyways if we planned on selling, so we picked a decent window with an affordable price.

    1. Did you calculate the break-even point with a 54% ROI when you sell? We have some that won’t stay open, they can be fixed for about $10 per window. I just haven’t done it yet!

  8. Our new rental house has terrible single pane windows that we need to replace. The tenant will be paying the bills, so I guess we could cheap out and leave them alone, but it doesn’t seem like the best thing over time because the high gas bill might actually lose tenants over time. We certainly won’t be going high end though!

    1. Single pane windows are in the list to be replaced. They are not efficient and there isn’t much you can do to seal them up, unless you put some low-e film on them. You could also just add storm windows, which are much less than replacement windows and it will provide a considerable change.

  9. Avatar charles darwin says:

    replacing a water heater is more like maintenance, not home improvement. with this logic you’d never actually do any real home improvements. Think windows are expensive? Try adding a bathroom, or redoing your kitchen. you said it yourself – move in ready – new windows go a long way when you want to get out of that house. everything doesn’t come down to simple numbers. if your power bill is only $150 year round, then i’d say your doing pretty good to begin with. here in GA, the summer will wreck your power bill, sometimes upwards of 260$ a month in a 60+ year old house with single pane, original windows.

    1. Yep, I’m well aware of the costs of home improvement projects. I’m working on a basement completion right now and the window costs are not too far off of what it will cost us to do the entire basement (from scratch). I live in North Carolina, so our summers are just about as hot as GA. I don’t have single pane windows, but old dual-pane ones. They are still old as the internal gas as been depleted, but they are still much better than single pane.

      I hate to say that most improvement projects should come down to numbers. Most people can’t do that math associated with improvements. They “feel” it’s a good idea or it will look good, but does it increase your resale value? Numbers are numbers and you can’t fudge them to make your case, that’s why I love using them. Just to reduce my bill by a few dollars a month, I wouldn’t spend $10,000. That doesn’t make sense when the pay-back period is far beyond even the manufacturers warranty. In this case alone, using simple numbers is the best way to make the decision.

      As noted in the post, if you have single-pane windows, you need to do the math and find out your best deal. Replacing single pane might be a good idea from both a numbers and comfort perspective. Since this post is about replacing my windows (older dual-pane), then the math works just fine. ROI works in any case you put it in. It’s math!

  10. I did the same math years ago and came to the exact same conclusion. I have a 21 year old house and plan to fix a couple of seals on my existing windows and call it a day. There are no windows that cannot be fixed. If you fix seals and chalk around the windows, new windows might save you 10%, at most. I would rather turn the hear 1 degree higher than pay $11k for new windows. People listen to much to windows sales people and other people who replaced their windows. Misery loves company.

    1. Math does work wonders right! You’re going to pay off your mortgage faster than you will recover the costs of the new windows. I will only say they are worth it when you have single pane windows. Those are almost worthless to have in a home now.

  11. Avatar Glenn Krzeminski says:

    Wow, you got a good price too! I paid $1,100 per window for Anderson to put in “inserts.” They use your existing window trim. It’s supposed to save money – I didn’t find that to be the case. I now have new glass but 53 year old trim! Anyway, I think I read that the best treated glass has an “R” rating of 3 whereas my single pane 53 year old glass has an “R” rating of 1. Even though that is a 200% improvement it’s still less than a third (and probably more like sixth, I’m guessing) of the R rating for a typical outside wall (shingle, Tyvek, plywood, 12R insulation, drywall, paint). I think it’s the biggest scam going (well, maybe second to the weight-loss industry!)

    1. Wow, that’s a high price for sure. I was going to call Anderson to see what they would do it for, but I guess that’s out of the cards!

  12. I totally agree with this guy I got a house that was built in 1955 that has the wood windows and they all go up and down beautifully cuz I never even been painted you can send those windows down and repaint them on the outside it’s technically called window glazing you can put new glazing on those f****** in those windows will be so much better and on the bottom of the window where it needs down to the seal you put a thin layer of foam by that price King and you won’t get no draft coming through there plus my windows have the original storm windows that fit inside just passed the exterior trim casing so any cold air is got to go through a storm window and the regular window I would not replace these windows on these old houses unless they’re totally brought it out and deteriorated because a lot of these newer Windows they don’t fit very well in these older window frames because the bottom sill is at an angle and lots of times you got a hellacious gap on the bottom side of the window that you got to fill up with something and it looks shity as hell

  13. Thank you so much for thos post. I will be cancelling my appointment with Anderson. I jave old windows and they have a slight draft and I wanted a BETTER look. However, I would rather use the money to remodel my bathroom.

  14. Avatar Financial Accountant says:

    Just wanted to note to everyone that there is an important variable missing in his calculation. There is a Return on Investment (ROI) for new windows – typically 70-80%. Just to entertain the idea of a true break-even analysis:

    9,650*.75 = 7,237.5 Base ROI
    9,650-7,238=2,412 Investment in windows

    2412/(21*12)=9.57 Years until Break-even

    Sorry for butchering the article – It’s just good accounting to have all the relative information in your calculation.

    Window world is a good, fair priced, company. 14 windows for me around 6k. dropped my bills by 30%.

    1. Your calculation assumes selling the house. That’s the only way you can get the 70% return by putting that into a purchase price of the home. Unless your putting windows in specifically to sell, then I wouldn’t use this calculation. If you’re going to use this, wouldn’t you need to depreciate the asset over time as well, so you wouldn’t get getting a 70% return if you sell the home 10 years later. You can’t get a 70% return on the original purchase price of the windows 10 years later.