When it comes to renovating a home to make it more energy-efficient, it can sometimes be hard to determine which projects will be most valuable.
Some projects, like replacing windows, may initially seem like an easy way to improve the energy performance of a home with some added benefits like soundproofing, but replacing windows can quickly become a costly investment that may not be worth the minimal return.
Fortunately, there may be more cost-effective alternatives, like window insert replacements, that provide the same benefits for a fraction of the time and money.
Full Window Replacement – Is It Worth It?
A full window replacement is when you remove an existing window down to the studs and a new window is installed in its place, including installing and painting a new frame and trim. By comparison, a window insert replacement is when you install a window pane into your existing window’s frame. This window insert fits tightly into your existing window frame without disturbing the original frame, exterior trim, or interior casing.
If the windows are not salvageable, it may be time to fully replace all the windows in a home. Most newer model windows have been developed to significantly reduce heat loss and improve a home’s energy efficiency. (However, if you have a historic home or need to preserve the original windows, it’s best to keep the original windows and find other ways to increase energy efficiency.)
Replacement can save a homeowner money in their energy bills, but there may also be rebates or tax credits available as an encouragement to update a home’s windows to more efficient models.
However, in many homes, the windows are not the main source of heat loss. So, it’s worth looking into other projects that could improve energy efficiency, such as insulating the attic or replacing an outdated HVAC system, before spending such a large amount of money on windows which are already working well.
In 2021, the cost to replace 10 existing 3×5-foot double-hung windows with insulated, low-E, simulated-divided-light vinyl windows with a custom-color exterior finish is $19,385.
In order to completely insulate the home, every single window needs to be replaced. This quickly becomes a very expensive commitment with money that would most likely have a bigger impact elsewhere. And, it’s unlikely the money spent would ever be recouped through energy savings — at least not for several decades, and most replacement window warranties do not last that long.
Replacing windows is not an amateur DIY project that can be easily done over a weekend. The only way to ensure the windows are installed properly and provide the best insulation possible is to hire a professional crew, which does not come cheap.
When renovating an older home to achieve a more contemporary design aesthetic, replacing outdated windows with a more modern style can update the look of both the interior and exterior of the home.
However, if the homeowner only wants to replace a few windows and is looking for replacements to match existing windows in the home, this may be more of a challenge. Models change with time and technology advances, so finding the very same window used before may not be possible.
Also, in some historic or custom homes, the windows may not be able to be changed at all. Windows specifically crafted for the home with stained glass simply cannot be replaced without risking the original integrity and charm of the space — or even be allowed if the home is designated as a historic property.
However, if the home is situated on a busy corner or next door to some particularly noisy neighbors, the noise dampening benefits of modern windows may seem appealing enough to rip out the old and invest heavily in the new.
However, it’s worth considering the alternatives before making such a costly decision.
What Are the Alternatives?
Advancements in technologies have drastically improved the performance of modern windows, but quality replacement window alternatives have also become readily available.
These alternatives are much more time and cost-effective than replacing old windows while still offering the same energy savings and noise dampening benefits.
Here are a few of the available replacement alternatives and why they may be the better option for any home.
Exterior Storm Windows
If the home is located in an area known for its adverse weather conditions and the existing windows could use an extra level of protection, exterior storm windows are a good option — especially on a tight budget.
Exterior storm windows are installed on the exterior of the house, outside of the preexisting windows. The primary function of storm windows is to provide extra wind and weather protection. They also provide an extra layer of insulation to normalize interior temperature, and they can help reduce noise.
They are much easier to install than replacement windows, as they simply screw into the exterior of the house and do not require an expert to install. And since they are installed on the outside of the home, exterior storm windows do not change the interior aesthetics — though they will change your exterior aesthetics.
However, exterior storm windows require a lot of maintenance and are difficult to clean thoroughly without unscrewing and can trap dirt and moisture against the interior window.
Poor quality exterior storm windows often lead to air leakage and little to no added insulation. So, if energy efficiency is important, this may not be the best option.
Also, while simple to install on a single-story home, reaching upper levels is difficult and could lead to an insufficient installation.
Window inserts are fully functional secondary windows that work within the existing frames to seal drafts, reduce noise, and some even filter dangerous UV rays.
Replacement window inserts are easy to install and do not need extensive mounting hardware or professional help. They use compression tubing to stay secure, and the low-profile design means they virtually disappear once installed. If maintaining the integrity of a historic site is important, window inserts are the best option.
Window inserts regulate the temperature year-round for optimal energy savings, and they are easy to maintain since they do not need to be unscrewed to deep clean.
There are also different types of inserts that offer a variety of light-blocking capabilities. So, whether the goal is to block out UV rays, diffuse the light for a little privacy, or totally blackout a room for the optimal sleeping environment, there is a specific insert available.
And if noise cancellation is the most important factor, inserts can reduce unwanted noise by up to 70%* — incredible, right?
Interior Insulating Blinds
Interior insulating blinds are a type of window treatment designed to maximize energy efficiency. They are made of layers of pleated fabric materials that fold up accordion-style usually to the top of the window.
The pleated layers create a “honeycomb” effect that acts as a highly effective insulator to reduce heat loss in the winter and unwanted solar heat in the summer.
Interior insulating blinds come in a variety of colors, textures, and patterns to fit into any design aesthetic. Some even include automation and can be controlled by a remote or through a preplanned schedule.
These window treatments, however, work by covering the windows, which may not be the desirable outcome when dealing with historic or custom window features like stained glass. They also do not help air leakage from broken or drafty windows.
How Can Indow Help?
Indow offers custom, compression-fit window inserts that fit the needs of every home.
We help homeowners by offering increased energy savings, light and UV protection, and soundproofing without having to devote serious money and time to replace all their windows.
Our products perform best when you don’t even realize they are there. Our window inserts will make any space more comfortable and functional while staying invisible, allowing the true design of the room to stand out.
*We want to ensure our inserts help solve your noise problem. Overall noise reduction depends on the amount of noise coming through your walls, ceilings, floors, doors, and existing windows. Noise reduction will be less when placed over double-pane windows. Read our full Noise Reduction Sheet to learn more.