We got new windows this winter and, boy, what a difference. Gone are the drafty old wood-sash and aluminum storm windows that we put up with since we bought our home 14 years ago. Stand next to a window now on the most frigid of days and. . . . nothing. You feel practically no cold coming through.
But will our investment pay for itself? In terms of comfort, definitely yes. Oh my gosh, yes. But in terms of cost? Well, probably not.
It’s going to be difficult to measure how much we’ll save in heating oil this winter because it’s already shaping up to be one of the coldest in a decade or more. That's going to make comparison with past years difficult.
But for argument’s sake, let’s just assume that the new windows save 20 percent in heating oil use in a winter—an optimistic assessment. We’re budgeting for a heating oil cost this winter of about $3,600. At 20 percent, that’s a $720 savings. Not bad.
But we bought top-of-the line windows and we have, . . . Gulp . . . 30 windows in our house! I hate to say it, but it’s going to take more than 30 years before those windows pay for themselves in heating oil savings.
Because the windows have a reflective coating that blocks the sun’s heat rays, we may save on air-conditioning costs, especially since more than a third of our windows face south and west. We’ll leave that calculation for another article.
So would we do it over again? You bet, for several reasons.
--Comfort: You just wouldn’t believe how much cold air these new windows keep out. They’re double paned, and they’re filled with argon gas to add extra insulating value. The sashes are wood for aesthetics and also for extra insulating value. The outside surface of the window also has a special coating that, while transparent, will block much of the sun’s heat in the summer. The edges of the window sashes have a sturdy sealing gasket that doesn’t allow air to seep around the edges.
--Resale value: Our 1924 house is in Montclair, NJ, and homes in our area need to be kept in good shape to be competitive in the resale market. Our old windows, while original, would never appeal to a potential buyer looking for an “old” home with modern conveniences. Also, some of our wooden sashes were beginning to come apart at the seams, literally. They had to be held together with screws and metal plates.
--Convenience: Do you want to know my husband’s idea of torture? It was the twice-yearly ritual of having to put the old aluminum storm windows and screens up and down on their tracks.
I’m sure that 40 years ago when the storm windows were new everything slid fairly smoothly. But corrosion, wear and minor settling of the house made everything go out of alignment enough to require pliers and, sometimes, a soft blow from a mallet to coax the windows and screens into movement. Inevitably he emerged from with process with cuts and scrapes.
And don’t even think about cleaning those windows. That was a job for professionals with big outside ladders. Now the new windows simply tilt inside for a simple wipe-down.
--Zero percent financing: Our window salesman also made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. He agreed to finance the entire purchase price interest free for two years. It’s an enormous benefit for us to know that we can spread out our payments over 24 months. Another way to spread out the cost of new windows is to install a few each year, which is what our neighbors down the street did.
To be sure, there are ways to make this kind of investment pay more quickly. Maybe you could cut the cost in half by buying cheaper windows without the argon insulation, or the wood sash, or the full window screens or the reflective coating. We also had our windows factory painted and professionally installed. You could do the painting yourself, and you could install them yourself. But that’s a young person’s game and I didn’t want that kind of labor to await my 60+ year-old husband.
For us, new windows were a significant expense, but we believe for our situation they were well worth the investment. And not having to deal with those nearly century-old sashes is enough to keep my husband from, well, jumping out the window!