If your windows are drafty, show signs of condensation, or are bringing you hefty energy bills, it might be time to consider replacing them.
There were $3.9 billion worth of residential window replacements in 2001, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Advanced technology in frame materials, glass coatings, design and gas fills used in Energy Star qualified windows help achieve significant energy cost savings. Today's Energy Star windows are twice as efficient as the average window manufactured 10 years ago. Energy Star windows, doors, and skylights can reduce your energy bill up to 15 percent.
Some of the other benefits include increased comfort, noise reduction, and protection against sun damage to carpet, wood floors, furniture, fabrics and artwork.
Window performance is based on several factors. First, the U-factor -- the rate of heat transfer from either your home or the outside through you window. The lower the U-factor, the less heat is transferred.
Second, you'll want to look at the solar heat gain coefficient, which shows how much heat your house gains from the sun. The lower the SHGC number, the less heat gain.
Next, windows are tailored to fit the specific energy needs according to climate. There are four regions considered: Northern, North Central, South/Central, and Southern. Visit this web site for more information on your specific region.
Finally, Energy Star windows have a label from the National Fenestration Rating Council, which provides independent energy performance ratings.
In addition to the energy-related advantages, window replacement is generally a good investment if you plan on selling in the next few years.
Remodeling Magazine's 2003 Cost vs. Value Survey says a mid-range window replacement -- replacing 10 existing 3-by-5-foot double-hung windows with vinyl- or aluminum-clad, double-glazed, wood replacement windows and wrap existing exterior trim as required to match -- will, on a national average, yield an 84.8 percent return when you sell the house. The average cost of such a job is just more than $9,500.
In addition to replacing windows based on energy efficiency, windows are vital tools in the design of a house.
"As odd-shaped windows emerged as a growing trend in new construction and remodeling projects, so too have oversized products," said Gay Fly, an independent kitchen and bath designer in Houston, Texas, on the Window and Door Manufacturers Association web site. "Larger sized windows are used more than ever, especially to extend a view. Bay, bow and garden windows are used increasingly in remodeling projects where additional sunlight and creating the look of more space is a must."
Fly also said shaped windows, such as circles and ovals, can also present interesting light patterns.
"Odd-shaped windows were popular in the early 1900s, and have made a strong comeback in the last decade," she said. Manufacturers today offer such a wide array of standard windows in custom-look sizes that can be mixed and matched for a design all their own. Light reflections through these types of windows provide a kaleidoscope of patterns throughout the day."
Meanwhile, if the cost of new windows isn't in your budget, there are things you can do to improve the efficiency of your existing windows. Lowe's says you should to the following:
- Check around windows and doors with a candle or a light piece of thread on a windy day to determine where drafts are. Once you find the drafts, you should turn your attention to them immediately.
- Remove and replace damaged caulk and weather-stripping. Self-stick foam and rolled rubber weather-stripping are easy to install, and can contribute greatly to your home's efficiency.
- Attach thin, clear plastic film to the window trim inside of the house using two-sided tape. This is an inexpensive way to weatherize your house. The film can then be stretched taut using heat from a blow dryer to remove wrinkles and creases.
- Decorate with closed shutters, window shades, blinds, curtains and lined draperies. All contribute to energy savings by helping to insulate windows.