Does Replacing Windows Really Save Energy?

By Carl Seville, Networx

When most people think about energy efficiency, once they stop talking about solar panels, they usually get to windows. “My windows are so old,” or “They’re only single pane glass,” or “I need to replace them,” and so on, much of it fueled by the replacement window industry selling the energy savings. Unfortunately, in most cases, those savings just aren’t there, at least not at the level at which they sell them.

There’s a joke about window replacement that goes something like this: After her windows were replaced, a woman had yet to pay the bills she kept getting from the contractor who did the work. Finally, a year later, the contractor got her on the phone and asked her why she had not paid for them. Her response: “Do you think I’m stupid? Your salesman told me that in one year the windows would pay for themselves. It’s been a year!”

There are numerous studies showing that when you figure out the amount of energy (and money) saved by replacing windows, it can take anywhere from 10 to over 100 years for it to add up to enough to pay for the window installation. Not everyone replaces windows just to save money. Sometimes windows are just plain ugly. If you want to put in new windows because you don’t like them, go right ahead.  Just don’t expect to save enough energy to make financial sense.  Most wood windows can be repaired and storm windows added at a lower cost than replacement, and you’ll save almost as much energy.  If you go this route, you can fix the windows then spend all the extra money you saved to improve insulation, air sealing, HVAC systems, and come out way ahead. Baltimore HVAC contractors Blue Dot suggest having an in-home energy audit – it’s a sure way to determine if your windows actually are playing a part in your home’s energy loss.

The problem is that people selling replacement windows have a product that people can touch and feel, and see after they are installed.  This is sort of like solar panels, or even a new car – you can show them off to your friends – unlike the more important stuff that you can’t see – like duct sealing, air sealing, attic insulation, and lots of other things, most of which fall into the category of Home Performance. But most of those things aren’t cool, or sexy, or even visible after they’re installed.

It’s the same reason some people will spend a lot of money on granite counters and fancy appliances but won’t spend anything on better insulation or more efficient HVAC systems.  If you can’t see it, it doesn’t matter.  Except when they start getting really big electric bills – then they start looking for ways to save money. That’s when those window salesmen swoop in and convince them that their windows will “pay for themselves” in a year.  It’s too bad that home performance isn’t as sexy or as easy to sell as those fancy windows (or granite counters).  Maybe some day enough people will understand that fixing up the important things is a better investment in efficiency than windows (and granite counters). In the meantime, we will have to put up with the promises we get from window replacement contractors.

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Green building consultant Carl Seville writes for Networx. Get home & garden ideas like this on


Racks J.
Racks J.3 years ago

New window replacement can not decorate your home but also provide energy efficiency.
Window Medics

Pitt B.
Pitt B.3 years ago

It is true that windows saves energy. There are energy star certified windows that can really protect interior from cold and heat.

Marc J.
Marc J.3 years ago

Replacing old and ineffective furnishings and choosing new window installation can save us a lot of money. not only the energy efficiency, but also it improves the resale value of our home.

Rachel R.
Rachel R.4 years ago

When I looked into replacing windows what I found was that most of the double glazed windows out there have ALUMINIUM frames. Since a lot of the heat loss from windows is actually through the frame this means that you get very little gain. BIG scam if you ask me. There are also lots of do it yourself options (like double windows/storm windows or shrink-wrap type coverings) but most of them mean that it is then very difficult to open/close your windows so probably only good for really cold places. You can do almost as well with thick curtains and pelmets or similar. Our blinds are set into the window area which is not too bad.

Talya Honor
Tal H.4 years ago

Thanks for the info, def needed :)

Carol P.
Carol P.4 years ago

I like that this posts asks people to think before they purchase and to not believe the sales pitches.

Sigrun Buckley
Siggy Buckley4 years ago

I'm surprised at the question.This has been promoted and subsidized in Germany since the 70s!
Maybe your readers here are all too young to know...:)?

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton4 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Kamryn M.
Kay M.4 years ago

depends on where you live & how much weather temperatures you want to keep out; occasionally it can be helpful in extreme temperatures.

Carmen S.
Carmen S.4 years ago

thanks for sharing this, sure I have windows that need replacing