What You Need to Know About Replacement Windows


by Marcus Pickett

Not a simple project, replacement windows are worth the time and effort. For many homes, there is simply no better or faster way to improve energy efficiency than by upgrading your windows. Single-pane windows are atrocious in terms of trying to trim your monthly utility bills. Yet, without a solid approach to your replacement window project, your new windows may be a clear disappointment.

Discuss Your Options with a Local Window Contractor

Because online guides for replacement windows typically fail to take into account local factors, you should start your window shopping by talking with a local contractor. Here are some of the things you should know before you contact this professional.

  • Like most salespeople, window manufacturer representatives are notoriously pushy. They may have a great product, but they're not the only ones. Avoid putting yourself in a situation where you feel pressured to make a decision.
  • Discuss the consequences, both good and bad, of various replacement window choices. How much money can you expect to save? Does the added insulation require that you upgrade your home's ventilation to ensure your windows don't suffer from condensation?
  • Ask about the pros and cons of different window frames. Industry marketing places the emphasis on the window glass, but a durable window frame will help ensure your windows remain energy efficient over the long haul.
  • As it is with most home improvements, location is paramount. In warm, sunny climates, light-filtering glass can be just as important as other energy-efficiency features.

Shopping for Replacement Windows

If local contractors will inform you about window replacement options and set parameters for choosing windows, a few universal measurements and ratings will help you select from the dozens and dozens of possible manufacturers. Before you buy your windows, know how they will perform in each category.

  • U-Factor: This rating measures the amount of heat lost through the window during the winter. The lower the number (.25-1.0), the better your windows' performance will be during the winter.
  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient: This rating measures how much heat your window retains during the summer. The lower the number (0-1.0), the better your windows' summer performance will be.
  • Air Leakage: This rating will tell you how much outside air is able to make its way through your window installation. The lower the number (0.1-0.3), the closer your window is to being truly airtight.
  • Condensation Resistance: This rating tells you how well your window resists the formation of condensation, a growing concern for modern, well-insulated homes. In this case, the higher the number, the better.
  • Visible Transmittance: This rating tells you how much light your window will let into your home. The higher the number, the more light you can expect in your home.

Read more about Window Efficiency Ratings

Cost and Time Associated with Window Replacement

With dozens of options to choose from, the cost of replacement windows can vary from just a few hundred dollars to more than $25,000. To generate a reliable average that takes into account the many choices homeowners have, ServiceMagic, the leading online resource connecting homeowners to home improvement contractors, has collected data from homeowners who actually completed a replacement window project:

-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with ServiceMagic.com. He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.