Angie's List: Energy costs can drop dramatically when new windows go in

Energy efficient windows cut A/C and heating bills

TAMPA - Old, drafty, inefficient windows are not only unsightly, they can cost you real money sending that expensive air conditioned air right out the windows. Replacing them can help reduce your energy costs, improve your family's comfort and enhance the overall appearance. But you should give this project some thought before you begin.

"When it comes to items around your house nothing is going to last forever and windows are no different," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. "You can expect you're going to replace your windows if you live in your house for a long period of time. Your return on investment can be a really good return in your heating and cooling bills throughout the year, but you need to live in your house for a period of time before you realize those savings which can be as much as seventy percent."

If you're planning to stay in your home for a few more years, updating old windows with energy efficient ones is one of the best investments you can make. Short term, you'All save up to 30 percent on energy bills. Long term, you can expect, as Hicks said, up to a 70 percent return on your investment. Good replacement windows are durable, easy to maintain, provide better security and reduce glare and outside noise.

It's time to replace when you notice wood rot, fog in between the glass, and drafts around the windows. Because windows supply a major trait of a home's character, mismatched, faded and broken windows detract from its beauty. Whether your need for windows is anesthetic, functional or both, windows can be made to meet practically any need. Wood, vinyl, metal and fiberglass are the most common choices. Window salesman Chris Paisa said wood and vinyl are the most popular. "Typically when you use a wood window it's a clad version, meaning it's a solid wood window but it's covered on the outside with either vinyl or aluminum. That way you don't have the upkeep and you don't need to worry about them rotting and things like that. And then the other window is a vinyl window, which is 100% vinyl. It's inside and out maintenance free and should last you a lifetime."

Costs can range from $200 to $1,000 or more for each window, depending on the material, size and style. Some windows may be eligible for a 10 percent federal tax credit (installation costs are not included).

If you're in the market for new energy efficient windows, look for these indicators:

  • U-factor: Indicates a window's overall insulating value. An efficient window should be rated 3.0 or below.
  • Solar heat gain co-efficient: Measures how well a window deflects incoming solar heat. An efficient window should be rated 3.0 or below.
  • Design pressure rating: The design pressure rating represents how well the window drains water and how strong the window frame is. You want a window with a design pressure rating between 35 and 45. The higher the number, the better the frame, the more rain drainage it can withstand, and the more wind pressure it can endure.
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