The ROI of Replacing Old Windows


OLDWINDOW.jpgWith temperatures beginning to drop and cold winds battering against our 83 year old house, we’ve been giving serious consideration to replacing our original, single pane, wood windows.  Our windows also include storm windows that, at one point, guarded against strong gusts of wind (but they are pretty much non-functional at this point).

We do like the aesthetics of our original single pane, wood, windows and most of the 35+ windows in our home are functional.  But there is a long list of cons, including:

  • Windows are NOT efficient (they let tons of air through the bottom and upper sashes and also along the side of the unit) and are single pane (versus two and three pane for modern windows)
  • Windows do not have gas filled panes which help with efficiency.
  • Windows are difficult to clean.

  • Storm windows are hard to operate and don’t provide much functional performance
  • Windows are not secure (the sash lock is original)
  • Windows let in street noise
  • Windows do not have a UV coating
  • My biggest concern in terms of installing new windows is the ROI for all of the new units.  According to a few sources, new, modern, windows (versus single pane) can save a homeowner about 20 percent in heating/cooling expenses.  However, most high end replacement windows cost upwards of $500+ (and that’s for standard sizes); so I would be looking at about $19,000 (with a few non standard sizes increasing cost) for material costs alone.  I would need to add another couple of hundred dollars per window for installation and the cost shoots up to around $25,000.  So, I’m thinking I’m going to need at least 15 to 20 years to begin realizing any savings

    However, many families who have installed new windows have reported that their units help with blocking out noise, are more comfortable in general, and of course are easier to clean (versus their single pane counterparts).

    So, while the ROI calculation doesn’t exactly scream “you’ve done the right thing”, installing high quality wood replacement windows may be a simple quality of life thing versus a true investment.  Let me know if you’ve recently put in new windows or are contemplating doing so in the near future.


    1. You may want to just replace certain windows in the house, to see if it’s worth it. Does it really block out much more air? Are they really easier to clean? Do they really block out much noise? etc.

    2. Thought about doing it a few years ago. Didn’t think the ROI would be worth it as in spite of what the hubby says we ain’t stayin’ here til we die, smile.
      I think a little outside noise lends character to a home, who needs to be in a bubble. Exterme noise, however, would definitely prompt me to do more. Our bedroom window is about 200 yards away from a main road (we don’t techinically live on the main) and the cars passing alon gusually doesn’t impede sleep and I’m a light sleeper, ugh. Of course tonight I will hear every car that passes until I get your article out of my head.
      We have 20+ windows I guess, if I had the spare 10K+ lying around and the noise level was high I would go for it – who wants to look at “ratty” 38 year old windows anyway?
      My two cents.

    3. My husband and I replaced our windows in 2007 on a house that is 50 years old. The wood had begun to rot around several of the windows and they were all single pane windows. We did get a quote from Home Depot to do the work and we were looking at around $8,000. Fortunately, I had an uncle who has been in the framing business since for 30+ years and he was in need of a little extra work. We hired him at $100 per window to install and we purchased the windows at Home Depot ourselves. It was the same window that Home Depot had quoted us for, but instead of paying $8,000 we paid $900 for labor and roughly $150 for each window. These are the windows that fold inside for easy cleaning. Because of the slow market, you might be able to find a handyman or builder who is willing to do the work for your if you purchase the materials and save yourself quite a bit of money.

    4. Thanks, Vin, Deb, and Jenn for the comments. I was thinking of purchasing the windows directly from the window folks, but one problem I’ve run into is that they won’t come and measure unless you install via the same window factory/dealer. And I’m not sure how much I trust my own measuring ability.
      I’m sure I can get a local contractor to come out to measure and install it’s just a matter of making the decision.
      On the noise issue, we’re not hearing tons of street noise but we do get a rattle or two with strong gusts.
      Has anyone done new storm windows recenty?

    5. We live in an 1890 home and put storm windows on 2 yrs ago. We had them custom made for all 15 windows that needed them . Our local glass company came out and measured/made/installed. It was about 150.00 per window.They are each 6ftx3ft one large pane of safety glass. We saw an immediate improvement in the sound and the power bills. The windows have a small metal frame around them and are very sturdy. I was amazed at the price and the quality. We had to use this kind since we are in an historic neighborhood and you can’t have regular storm windows. Our wooden windows have wavy glass and are in very good shape so we didn’t want to replace them. I hope this helps you . If I can answer any other questions please let me know. Caroline ( trailrunner)

    6. Vince,
      I found you from your post on GW. You have a nice blog.
      I recently replaced the windows on the back of my house. It started with a kitchen project and we figured that we should replace the entire back side while we had the money. There is truly no comparison between my old single pane, aluminum framed windows and my new Pella Architect Series windows. The heat, cold, noise problems that we have with the windows on the front just aren’t there with the new windows.
      Have you had your preferred window company give you a bid for the installation and finishing work? I had my own contractor install mine, but I think I’ll use Pella’s installers the next time. I found that their estimate on my remaining windows is really pretty reasonable and worth the peace of mind to be able to hand the whole thing over to them and let them deal with any problems that arise – less liability for me.
      Now, If i had it to do over again, I would probably not have gone with such an expensive product. I would probably go with a comparable window from Eagle or Marvin.

    7. Caroline, that seems like a good price, are you on the East Coast (would love to get the name of the company)?
      Elizgonz, thanks for coming over GW! Haven’t had Pella, Marvin, or Andersen come out yet for a bid. Never heard of Eagle, but will look them up..

    8. my husband and i were searching for a better windows replacement option. we came across your blog during our search period and it has proved of great help to us. i would like to thank your for the same.

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    10. Thank you for providing such a great information. I am looking for the window replacement for my house and i got very much useful points from this post.

    11. Storm windows will definitely help road noise. Good ROI. However, they will do nothing for UV or heat gain. UV blockage is what helps reduce fading of carpets and furniture. Heat gain is the amount of heat that comes in to the house. Solar heat gain is good in the winter (radiant/ passive heat) which helps warm the interior. Solar heat gain is bad in the summer because it creates more cooling load for air conditioning.
      New good-quality clad wood windows with Low E and argon will solve all of your problems: they are maintenance free, energy efficient, easy to clean, more secure, less noisy, reduce UV degradation and if you choose wisely, and will retain historic character. Low E coatings are designed to allow more heat gain in the winter and reduce heat gain in the summer. Consider “insert replacements” to minimize the impact of your interior and exterior trim. Consider full-frame replacements if there is rot and/ or insect damage.
      The competitors make nice windows, but I STRONGLY recommend looking at Marvin. Very traditional looking double hung, awesome tilt system for cleaning and THE best exterior paint finish in the industry…no fading, chalking, cracking, peeling. Do the project once, do it right. How much do you really save if you have to do it over?

    12. Caroline,
      The cost per window that you mentioned is fantastic. Is the company that made your custom sized storm windows located in New England?
      Also, like you, I live in an historic district and would only have the storms in place for the period of November to May. My question therefore is whether or not the storm windows you have are easily removable in spring/summer or are they permanently in place?
      Thanks in advance for your response.

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    14. There’s a lot of downside to replacing historic windows. One, you never get them back. Another you already mentioned – that the getting your money out of your investment is near impossible. Having to spend 20k on windows to save $40 a month doesn’t sound like a good deal. There are plenty ways to spend 20K, not the least of which is to invest it and earn at least that $40 a month that would compensate you for your electricity bill. But a lot of time people get these windows on credit and end up paying even more than the initial 20K they signed up for. If that were the case, that person would have to spend more energy earning the cash to pay the debt than could have ever been saved in the first place. I’d do my homework. One thing to consider is the idea of putting a “non maintenance” window into a “full maintenance” opening. Usually the installation is only as good as the caulk bead they seal it in with. They’ll install the windows in your old frames but leave the frames as is, whether they need paint or not. The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him – especially regarding replacement windows.

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    16. Same here! I bought an old house just last month and until now, one of the biggest problems I’ve encountered was replacing window glasses. My finances is almost down, too bad for me! I’ve already spent more than 20k along with their service fee. Glad I have found another Replacement windows agency that has low fee

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