Who Needs Replacement Windows and Why?

As its name implies, a replacement window is manufactured with upgraded features which more aptly respond to the needs of your home. To put this into perspective, here are some case studies which reflect the different needs for replacement windows.

George and Carla Zimmerman live in a home that he inherited from his parents. The home, which was built in 1957, had its original windows until recently. Located in upstate Pennsylvania, they experience frigid winters while living in a house heated by residential heating oil. Their costs have risen dramatically over the years. Despite the fact that their heating bills kept getting larger, they never thought about the windows being a contributing factor. A few years ago, their utility company provided a free energy inspection, the outcome of which had a dramatic effect on them.

The inspection report indicated that their single pane windows were probably contributing to almost 23% of their total heat loss. When they added the cost of painting their wooden windows every 4 years, they found they could recover the cost of replacing their windows in about 7 to 9 years. Theirs is not an isolated case and is representative of most homes of that era (40 years or older).

So what about newer homes?

Earl and Millie Mielke lived in a home that was less than 20 years old. In northern Virginia (a Washington D.C. suburb) homes sell for $ 600,000 to $ 800,000 on average, and theirs was exceptionally well maintained. When they decided to retire, their home went on the market and was sold – subject to a home inspection requested for the buyer. The home inspector noted that the windows had “issues” which required that the majority of them would have to be replaced shortly. This was inserted as a contingency in the contract for the sale of their home.

What about even newer homes?

Paul and Donna Clausen bought a new home less than ten years ago in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. When the home was 8½ years old, they noticed that several of the windows appeared to be “fogging”. Although their home was beyond warranty, the builder was kind enough to visit their home and advise them that the fogging was purely a cosmetic issue. Later, they had a home inspection company examine the windows only to find that the cause of the fogging was due to the deterioration of the seals between the two panes of glass in what was supposedly a quality insulated window. They had the windows replaced in their home slightly over 9 years from the day they had acquired it.

From these three case histories we draw the following conclusions:

First, houses that were built in 1957 had to use windows that were available at that time. Improved glass packages which include special coatings, sealants and bonding processes were not a consideration until almost 20 years later. If your house fits this category and the utility company serving your community or a similar service offers “energy loss” inspections, consider having this done.

In the second case, why wait until you put your house on the market to have a thorough inspection of your windows? Home inspectors can evaluate your windows at any time, not just when your house is being sold. In addition, many companies who market replacement windows provide a similar inspection service.

The third issue is that even if you live in a newer home, don’t assume that the windows which were installed by the builder are of a quality which will get you through the next 20 years – and even if they do, they may become a financial burden.