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Factors Affecting Replacement Cost of Windows

Updated on June 16, 2010

Broken Window?

Replacing your old or broken windows can cost a pretty penny but will save you money in the long run.
Replacing your old or broken windows can cost a pretty penny but will save you money in the long run.

 

There are windows and then there are windows.  In this area of your home improvements, quality does count and you DO get what you pay for.  Unless you want to replace your windows every five years or so, and who wants to go through that cost?, plan on spending a little more money to get the better windows with all of the energy efficiency hoopla that you can afford.

At this point, let me point out that there is a huge difference between replacement windows and new construction windows.  Most people opt to replace their old windows with new construction windows.  The difference is simple.  Replacement windows are just replacements of the glass portion of the window inside the old frames.  New construction windows include a new frame.  Because the energy efficiency of a window is lost around a frame as well as through the glass and panes, spend a little extra money and go with the new construction windows.

Whether you are replacing windows because one of the kids accidentally tossed a ball through one of them (oops!), because they are old and ugly, or because they are old and costing you a fortune in your heating and air conditioning bill, there are many factors that will affect how much the new windows cost.

New windows are energy efficient, low maintenance and beautiful.
New windows are energy efficient, low maintenance and beautiful.

Single, Double or Triple Pane

Single pane windows have a single layer of glass throughout. Double and triple pane windows have two or three layers of glass. Single pane windows are the least expensive but are also the least energy efficient. Double and triple pane windows are more expensive but offer better insulation for your home. The difference in price these day between single and double pane windows is negligible. Go with the energy efficiency. Your electric bill will love you!

Hurricane rating

Besides better insulation, double and triple pane windows offer better wind and shatter resistance. Double and triple pane windows have a sheet of plastic laminate between the windows which makes them more resistant to shattering if a projectile hits them during a tropical storm, hurricane, tornado or other extreme storm. In hurricane prone areas, windows must be hurricane resistant to wind speeds of 110 mph or higher. Hurricane and shatter-resistant windows, as mentioned below, also can have argon gas between the layers. All of this protection together means greater security for your home. In many cases, it will take a burglar 45 minutes to pound a hammer-sized hole through your window. How many burglars are going to stick around that long to get into your home?

An oversized sash (single hung) window provides an inviting facade for this restaurant.
An oversized sash (single hung) window provides an inviting facade for this restaurant.

U-Factor

The U-factor of a window is its energy efficiency rating, or how well it traps heat (or cold) inside the home.  The higher a window’s resistance to heat loss the more energy efficient it is and the more it will insulate your home.  The energy efficiency of windows has become something that consumers look at in this age of green living.  Homeowners in cold climates want to keep warm air in their homes in the winter and homeowners in warm climates want to keep cool air in their homes in the summer.

The National Fenestrations Rating Council rates the efficiency of most windows with a numeric value, usually between 0.20 and 1.20.  The lower the rating the more energy efficient the window.

Material of the Frame

The frame of the window will be made of vinyl or PVC, aluminum or wood.  New windows are nearly always constructed of vinyl or aluminum because these materials are more popular with consumers due to their lower cost and maintenance.  Of the three choices, aluminum is the least expensive and wood is the most expensive.  If you are replacing windows in an historic home, you may want to go with the wood frame windows to keep the original look of the home.

A typical single hung window with a wood frame.
A typical single hung window with a wood frame.

UV

As mentioned above, double and triple pane windows also can have argon gas between the layers of glass. Besides adding to the security of these thick windows, the argon lowers the amount of UV that can pass through the window. These kinds of windows are said to be “low E”.

Window Style

The majority of new windows are single-hung. On these windows only the bottom of the window slides up and down. Windows on which the top and bottom slide open are called double-hung. Single-hung windows are the least expensive of all windows. Other styles include awning, casement, crank and jalousie windows. These are all less popular and not made by as many window companies. In many instances they have to be custom made making them much more expensive alternatives. The homeowner of an older or historic home may choose one of these other styles to keep the original character of the home intact.

Size

Window sizes have changed over the years. In particular, historic era homes – those from the 1800s or early 1900s – have much larger windows because windows were the only source of light at that time. By contrast, the most common size of windows today is 36” X 60” or 3’ X 5’. Replacing larger windows can get expensive as they often have to be custom made. Homeowners on a budget usually opt to use today’s standard size window by framing the original opening to fit the size of the new window and closing the rest of that original opening.

When you first consider replacing your home’s windows, it is important to know your budget. Though many factors will affect the price of your windows, spending a little more for them now can yield savings in electrical costs over the next several years. Understanding all the factors that affect price and determining what you need in a window will help you choose the best, most cost-effective windows for your home.

A typical casement window opens out.  Because all of the window can be open at once, it is an ideal choice of window style for letting lots of outside air into the home.
A typical casement window opens out. Because all of the window can be open at once, it is an ideal choice of window style for letting lots of outside air into the home.

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