Can Energy Efficient Windows Really Save You Money?

Published July 5, 2017

You’ve probably heard a lot about how energy efficient windows can save you loads on your electric bill, but is this really a sound improvement for your home? Let’s connect with the experts and found out once and for all just how worthwhile these fixtures can be for homeowners like yourself.

There’s nothing worse than watching your heating and cooling costs shoot through the roof (figuratively, of course) as the seasons change and your home becomes either too hot or cold. However, what if you could drop this monthly financial burden and reinvestment in into your home? To find out if energy efficient windows can do all of this – and more – let’s tap into some of the leading home improvement minds and tackle this discussion from a wide variety of angles.

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Adding energy efficient windows to your home isn’t just a casual decision to make on the weekend when you’re bored or in the mood for a little fun with home decorating. In fact, this switch can stand as one of the biggest decisions regarding your house for a variety of reasons.

First up is the fact that you’re making a major change to the style and appearance of your house. Do these windows fit the look of your home? If not, how much work will go into remodeling the exterior or interior of your home to reflect this new look? What about what happens to the resale value if you ever decide that it’s time to pack up and leave?

Aside from the aesthetic questions, there are also the various financial factors that can affect your next move regarding the windows around your house. Unlike a new set of drapes or shutters for the exterior of your home, energy efficient windows often stand as an investment that requires quite a bit of cash up front before you start seeing the savings reflected on your bill.

What Exactly Is an Energy Efficient Window?

Of course, bombarding you with a mountain of questions right up front probably isn’t the best way to start the discussion, so let’s take a step back and make sure you have a clear understanding of just exactly what an energy efficient window has to offer you and your home. As the experts at the United States Department of Energy point out, the big deal surrounding the energy efficient window is its ability to store heated and cool air within your home in a more effective and efficient manner.

Some homes, especially older ones, simply can’t store conditioned air properly due to poor insulation, leaky seals, and a variety of other common household ailments. However, even with all of these problems solved, those without energy efficient windows still face one simple reality – older windows, or those that that don’t employ the right materials and design, can never be “fixed” in terms of maintaining and protecting the climate within your home.

How Does This Fixture Work?

So now that you know what energy efficient windows aim to do, it’s time to turn the discussion toward just how the heck these things work. If you’re a big time fan of thermal dynamics and mathematics, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s Paul Fisette offers up an exceedingly complex and thorough look into the physical properties that cause energy efficient windows to help cut down your electric bill and maintain hot or cold temperatures within your home.

For the rest of the readers out there that don’t currently lay claim to a doctoral degree in the various science fields, here’s the annotated and simplified version of the process. Essentially, rising heating and cooling prices related to windows come from four different issues – conduction, convection, radiation, and air leakage.

Conduction describes the movement of heat through materials, in this case a poorly insulated window and your backyard, while convection highlights the fact that circulating air within your room will naturally try to heat or cool the surface of the glass and mirror outside temperatures. Radiation refers to the UV rays emitted from the sun that enter through the glass of the window and air leakage covers the fact some windows simply don’t just don’t keep hold air in quite like they used to.

Energy efficient windows tackle this problem by blocking the flow of energy and air from within your home to the outside world. However, during the winter months you don’t want your home to be an igloo, so the material that comprises these fixtures allows some of the solar energy generated by the sun back into the home, thus helping with your heating costs.

Can You Really Save Money with Energy Efficient Windows?

Now that you’re an expert on energy efficient windows, it’s time to answer the burning question – can you really save money by upgrading your current windows to more efficient and energy friendly models? As Karin Beuerlien of House Logic – a blog maintained by the National Association of Realtors – explains, the answer to this question can be both yes and no.

Energy efficient windows can save your home up to $465 a year, which is nothing to scoff at. However, the average investment for a complete window conversion runs right around $11,198, so switching out your old windows isn’t always the right answer.

Think of it this way; if you plan on staying in your home for the next 10 to 20 years, you can save quite a bit on your electric bill and increase the value of your home via energy efficient windows. For those on the other side of the fence who might be looking to move in the near future, this investment will definitely boost your house’s worth on the market, but probably not by enough to offset the substantial upfront costs.

Choosing the Right Window

For those of you who fall into the first category, there’s one final thing to discuss – which type of window fits your home and your needs moving forward. Again, House Logic’s Karin Beuerlien helps shed some light on this subject with a quick overview of your options.

Aside from the obvious decorative and framing options, you’ll need decide between “Low-E,” glazed, and gas filled panels. Low-E windows help reflect heat via a thin metallic coating and generally cost up to 10 percent more than the average energy efficient window. Glazed windows come in multiple layers or sheets of glass, but without the low emissivity coating, while gas filled offerings rely on sandwiching argon or krypton gas between the various panel layers. Unfortunately, gas filled options aren’t readily available in high altitude areas due to the substantial difference in air pressure.

Naturally, this is a lot of info to digest in one sitting. From how these fixtures work, to just how much money you can really save, there’s no doubt that you’ve learned a lot during your time reading this article. However, thanks to this willingness to dig a little deeper, you can rest easy knowing that whatever decision you come to regarding the installation of energy efficient windows in your home, you made your choice with all of the facts guiding you along the way.