Did you know that old windows cost the U.S. an estimated $45 billion in wasted energy each year? All that wastage results from the heat gains and losses that transpire through them.
So, does that mean replacing old living room windows can help prevent energy waste and save you money? If so, are new windows your only viable solution in such cases?
To that end, we created this guide on how old windows waste energy and the pros and cons of new replacement windows. So keep reading, as knowing what they are can help enlighten you on when it makes sense to invest in them.
How Do Old Windows Waste Energy?
Single-glazed windows, those with only one pane, were the only option until the 1950s. Only after that did double-glazed windows, those with two panes, become available. Still, the double-paned versions just became more common in U.S. homes in the ’70s.
So if your home is part of the 38% of U.S. houses built on or before 1969, you may still have single-paned windows. Unfortunately, their solitary glass pane offers little insulation and heat transmission resistance. That makes them the least energy-efficient windows compared to double- and triple-pane options.
During summer, old single-pane windows let in more heat from the outside. That causes your air conditioning system to work harder to cool your indoor space. This increased workload results in more energy use and higher cooling bills.
In the winter, old single-glazed windows let the heat from your house leak outside. They even allow the cold from the wintry air to permeate your home. Either way, they cause your heating system to work harder and use more energy to keep your home warm.
Old home windows are also more susceptible to air leaks due to their aging caulking and seals. They’re like holes that let your home’s conditioned air escape and go to waste. Additionally, these gaps allow outdoor air to enter your home.
So Can New Living Room Windows Save Money?
Yes, new replacement windows can reduce monthly energy bills. They can do so by helping prevent heat gains and losses and minimizing air leakages.
How much you can save depends on the type of windows you’re replacing and the new windows you’re getting.
Suppose you’re replacing single-glazed windows with ENERGY STAR-certified windows. In this case, you can save $101 to $583 and cut your carbon emissions by 1,006 to 6,205 pounds yearly.
The savings are smaller when you replace double-paned windows with ENERGY STAR products. Still, you can save $27 to $197 and cut your CO emissions by 246 to 2,001 pounds yearly.
Some modern window replacement options also feature recycled and sustainable materials. They save you money upfront, too, as products made from recycled materials often cost less. They’re also better for the environment, as they need less energy and raw materials to make.
How Do New Windows Reduce Energy Costs?
Most modern windows feature multi-glazing: double-glazing or triple-glazing.
Double-glazed windows use two glass panes separated by a 1/4 to 1/2 inch space. An insulating gas, such as argon or krypton, fills this gap. This insulated area doesn’t trap heat but slows its transfer to reduce heat loss and gain.
Triple-glazed windows feature three glass panes spaced apart by a 1/4 to 1/2 inch gap. These sections also get pumped with insulating gas. Since they have two insulated spaces, they’re more insulating than double-glazed windows.
That makes triple-pane windows far more efficient than single-glazed ones. Researchers also found they’re at least 40% more energy efficient than double-pane ones.
But Why Living Room Windows?
The living room is one of, if not the largest, space in a house since it must accommodate more people and furniture. After all, this is where families and visitors relax and socialize.
Because of its size, the living room also usually features the most windows. And since more people use this room, their windows also get the most use, causing them to age, wear, and tear faster. That’s why if you’re replacing home windows, you may want to start with those in the living room.
How Else Do New Windows Save Money?
Correctly installed, well-maintained HVAC systems can last for 15 to 25 years. However, when they work harder than they should, their parts wear and tear faster. That causes premature breakdowns, resulting in heftier repair or replacement costs.
As mentioned above, old, leaking windows cause HVAC systems to work harder. Thus, they can also contribute to these systems’ reduced lifespans.
So by replacing dated, defective windows with new ones, you can cut your HVAC system’s workload.
You must still maintain your heater and AC, but the reduced workload can help ease the strain on their parts. The less strained they are, the lower their odds of breaking down early and the longer they can last. That also means you can save money on fewer and lower HVAC repair and replacement costs.
Replacing aging single-paned windows can save not only money but your valuables, too. Since they only have one glass pane, criminals can easily break them to burglarize your home.
Multi-glazed windows aren’t 100% burglar-proof, but multiple panes can take longer to break. That can help delay a burglar’s entry long enough for the police to arrive.
When Do New Living Room Windows Make Sense?
Investing in new living room windows may make sense if your existing ones are so old and rackety. Replacing your current windows may also be ideal if they only have a single pane.
If you plan to sell your home, having new windows may help you sell it faster. According to studies, new windows are among the most vital features home buyers in 2022 want.
What About the Cons of New Windows?
The primary drawback of new windows is their cost; the average price of a replacement window is $650. So if you replace ten windows, you’re looking at a bill of about $6,500.
If your new windows can save you $583 a year, it would take you over 11 years to recoup your costs. That’s still okay, as replacements often have 20-year glass warranties and 10 for parts. But if they can only save you $101 yearly, they would take about 65 years to pay for themselves.
The estimated savings that new windows bring also depend on climate conditions.
Suppose you live somewhere with mild year-round seasons and fresh air. As a result, you likely leave your windows open much from spring to fall. In this case, new windows may not have a noticeable effect on your energy bills.
Also, remember that the $101 to $583 savings only apply to ENERGY STAR-certified windows. These are already the most energy-efficient options you have. Thus, if you install non-ENERGY STAR windows, they may yield lower savings.
So if the only reason you’re considering new windows is to save on energy bills, their cost may not be worth it. However, they may be a good choice if your goal is to reduce energy bills and carbon emissions. Don’t forget that new windows can help make your living room more comfortable.
What Are Alternatives to New Windows?
If your living room windows aren’t past their 10-year mark, you don’t have to replace them yet. Instead, you can upgrade them by installing solar heat and UV control films. You can also fix air leaks or retrofit them to improve their thermal performance.
Solar Heat and UV Control Films
These window films can help reduce heat gains and losses and provide UV protection. They also cost a fraction of what you’d otherwise pay for new windows.
Before installing window films, check your window warranty’s terms and conditions. Some window makers may void your warranty if you apply films to their products.
Fixing Leaks With Caulking and Weatherstripping
You can also fix air leaks in existing windows by applying caulk or weatherstripping. Caulk is a material that fills cracks and gaps in stationary window components. Weatherstripping seals air leaks in the movable parts of operable windows.
Retrofitting Existing Windows
Retrofitting can involve adding interior or exterior storm windows and interior thermal blinds.
Interior storm windows are glass panes installed parallel to an existing window. They attach via compression gaskets or magnetic strips that you can remove anytime. They can help improve overall window thermal performance and reduce air leakage.
Exterior storm windows work like the interior ones, but you install them outside. They fit into the exterior frames of windows, creating an extra insulating layer.
To make your retrofitting results even better, consider installing interior thermal blinds. Made of lightweight fabric, these window treatments open and close like an accordion. Extend them fully, and they create a honeycomb-like structure.
That structure acts like a thermal shield that helps prevent heat transmission.
Consider These Factors Before Replacing Windows
As you can see, new living room windows can reduce energy costs and bills. But it can take them years, even decades, to pay for themselves. Still, they can be a good investment if your goal is to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
However, consider your alternatives, such as repairing or retrofitting existing windows. These may be better if your windows aren’t super old yet or if you have a smaller budget.
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