Whole-House Window Replacement - Is It Worth It?

new large energy-efficient windows

November 20, 2017


A whole-house window replacement is one of the biggest improvement investments a homeowner can make. Now for the real question: is it a good investment? The answer, unfortunately, is not straightforward. Different variables play important roles in the decision to replace windows in the home, including the:

  • Condition of window frames
  • Local climate
  • Thickness of current windows
  • Desired window style

These factors also influence the cost of replacement, as well as the anticipated energy savings. Newer windows that are underperforming (letting in drafts or allowing condensation to form on the glass) may benefit from simple DIY repairs. Sealing around the frame, for example, solves draft problems and increases energy efficiency. Double-pane windows can likewise be resealed to restore their original insulative properties.

How Much Can Window Replacements Save?

Even considering these variables, in many situations, a whole-house window replacement can lead to greater energy efficiency. This is especially true if you replace standard single-pane windows with Energy Star certified double-pane models. According to the Department of Energy, the average amount that homeowners can save with new windows varies by region. In colder parts of the country, the annual energy savings can be well over $400 (if single-pane windows are replaced with Energy Star certified models).

Homeowners in warmer climates like Southern California can still enjoy savings, as can people in climates that require frequent air conditioning (Florida or Texas, for example). Therefore, any home with single-pane windows is an ideal candidate for a whole-house window replacement project.

How Much Will it Cost?

The cost of a whole-house window replacement project obviously depends on the number of windows in the home. However, per-window costs are roughly the same for any size project. The average standard-size, double-pane, double-hung vinyl window ranges from $450 to $600. This includes both the window and installation. Wood frame windows are more expensive, with the cost of a single installed window running from $800 to $1000. In addition, if the entire frame has to be replaced, for either vinyl or wood models, it will add $50 to $100 to each window.

According to the Department of Energy’s estimates for a home in a four-season climate, the energy savings will cover the cost of approximately one window per year for vinyl and one window per two years for wood windows. With these estimates, the project will eventually pay for itself, though it may take 10 to 12 years (or longer for a home with more windows).

What About Equity?

Homeowners who replace their windows will recoup about 81 percent of the total cost of the project back when they sell the home, according to Remodeling Magazine. This percentage is based on standard, energy-efficient windows. Investing in customized windows is seldom worth the extra expense, as it has little-to-no effect on the overall equity despite the greater price tag. For homeowners who couple the equity gains with the energy savings, a whole-house window replacement can be a profitable improvement in the long run.

Potential Alternatives to Whole-House Replacement

Possible alternatives to a whole-house window replacement depend on your circumstances and goals. To obtain short-term insulative benefits, you can apply clear window insulation film. These products, which look like thick plastic wrap, stretch over the window and stick to the frame. The inexpensive film provides an extra layer of protection against the outside temperature. However, you cannot open the windows without first removing the film. This makes window insulator kits a good option for the wintertime, but they are not the best choice for keeping cool air inside during the summertime.

In some older homes, the windows are an important part of the architectural appeal, and more modern-looking replacements would ruin the home’s classic appearance. In this case, new storm windows might be a good option. Some companies custom-design storm windows to fit the existing window frames. These products might be less effective than new Energy Star certified double-pane windows, but they can provide extra insulation while making it quieter inside.

Other Important Things to Know

Consider alternatives to wood. Not only are wood frames more expensive, but they tend to wear out sooner. Experts from Money recommend exploring vinyl windows or wood options with aluminum cladding. By doing this, you can help avoid future maintenance costs, as any premature repairs will cut into the profits generated by energy savings and equity. Also, consider the possibility of repairing your current windows before committing to a whole-house window replacement – some older windows can be restored. Specialized contractors can replace panes, caulk around gaps in the frame, and even add aluminum or vinyl coverings to areas of exposed wood.

These renovations, according to Money, cost about $100 to $350 per window. Therefore, even at the high end of this price range, your costs will still be about half of what it costs for a complete replacement. If the window does need to be replaced, you can save money by having your contractor keep the existing trim. Most window installers will be able to put a window insert inside the trim and fasten it into place, saving you between $150 and $300 on labor costs per window. However, this is not a viable cost-cutting measure if the window frame or trim needs to be replaced.

Financing Your Window Project

Homeowners have several options when it comes to financing their windows. Window dealers will often offer customers special financing. This is one of the more convenient options, similar to a one-stop-shopping option. However, these interest rates are usually less than ideal.

Another option is PACE financing. PACE (property assessed clean energy) programs are designed to take advantage of the energy saved with efficiency upgrades, such as the installation of Energy Star certified windows. Qualifying homeowners can leverage the equity in their home to finance their whole-house window replacement project through PACE, and then they pay it back over time as a line item on their annual property taxes. Any energy savings derived from the new windows can be used cover the cost of the project over the long-term.


Find out if PACE financing is available in your area – contact Ygrene to learn more: (855) 901-3999, info@ygreneworks.com