If you live in a drafty house, you're only too aware of the energy being lost through the walls and windows. To save energy, you may well be considering replacing your windows. Although doing so can certainly improve your home's energy efficiency, it may not be as cost-effective as you think. New windows save energy, but they may not be the best way to lower your bills.
Yes, new windows can help you save money on your energy bill. As of 2009, Energy Star estimates that homeowners can save at least $27 a year by replacing windows. If you have single-pane windows, replacing them with Energy Star-qualified products will save you between $126 and $465 a year, depending on the number of windows you replace and where in the United States you live. The cost savings of replacing double-paned windows, however, is less than 25 percent of that amount; the most you can save by replacing double-paned windows is $111 per year (see References 1).
Federal Tax Credits
To help with the cost of replacing windows, Americans can apply for a federal tax credit. You don't need to replace all the windows in your house to qualify, but you must use Energy Star windows as replacements. The 2011 tax credit will reimburse 10 percent of your cost, up to $200. It also applies to new windows, as long as they are Energy Star-qualified (see References 2).
Misconceptions and Cost
According to the California Office of Historic Preservation, homeowners have significant pressure to replace rather than repair their windows. Repairing existing windows, however, is a very viable option that is much more cost-effective than replacement (see Reference 3). A 2004 research paper by Shanon Peterson Wasielewski reports that new windows can cost anywhere from $150 to $1,000 per window, not including labor costs. Repairing and rehabilitating existing windows to be more energy-efficient, however, typically costs less than $50 (see Reference 4).
Although replacing windows will save you money on your energy bill, other approaches can be more effective and cost you less to implement. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends starting with window insulation, which can be as simple as covering the windows in plastic (see References 5). According to Energy Star, you should first check your home for leaks, including heating and cooling ducts, doors and cracks (see Resources 2). Improve your home's insulation, and receive a 2011 federal tax credit for 10 percent of the cost, up to $500 (see References 2). But consider replacing windows if you notice moisture entering your house; that can lead to mold growth, which is more dangerous than high energy costs (see References 5).
- Energy Star: Save Money and Energy --- Choose Energy Star Qualified Windows, Doors, and Skylights
- Energy Star: 2011 Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency
- California Office of Historic Preservation: Window Repair and Retrofit: Studies and Research
- "Windows: Energy Efficiency Facts and Myths"; Shanon Peterson Wasielewski; 2004
- U.S. Department of Energy; Drafty Windows: Is It Better to Insulate or Replace Them?; Andrea Spikes; Feb. 9, 2010
An award-winning blogger, Jessica Blue has been promoting sustainability, natural health and a do-it-yourself attitude since graduating University of California, Berkeley in 2000. Her work, seen in a wide variety of publications, advocates an environmentally-responsible and healthy lifestyle.
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