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Is it Time to Replace Your Windows?

10 questions to ask yourself
By Jim Kneiszel
Published: May 1, 2005
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It’s a chilly, rainy spring day at the cabin and you’re thinking about cozying up with a good book. But as you stare out the picture window, watching a dramatic squall roll over and shroud your fantastic view, you feel a draft.
Hmm, not so cozy.
It may be time to invest in replacement windows.
Energy conservation experts say adding new windows to a home does yield a return. According to the government’s Energy Star Web site (, replacement windows may save hundreds of dollars on energy bills every year. But beyond energy savings, creature comforts are an important factor when you consider replacing windows.
Especially on those blustery days when all you want is to curl up in a warm, cozy spot. Without a cold draft.
We’re here to help you decide if you need new windows. Grab this handy list of questions and head out to examine your cabin’s windows. If you answer “yes’’ to more than five of these questions, replacement windows are probably right for you. If you answer yes to 3-5, you’re on the fence but may want to invest in new windows for the cozy factor. If you can’t answer yes to even three questions, put the money in that bass boat fund!

Do your windows shake, rattle and roll?
Grab a double-hung or slide-by window sash by the frame and try to rattle it. For crank-out windows, nudge the sash on all corners with your finger. If it’s jiggly or loose, you can be sure there’s a lot of cold air leaking in. A poor or worn out window seal can waste as much energy as single-pane glass. Look for signs of mildew, warping, dry rot, popped caulking and cracked glass that contribute to energy loss. New window technology provides a superior seal that will help prevent cold drafts, condensation and noise from penetrating the cabin.

Are your windows shabby, but not chic?

A good part of the cost of painting your cabin – up to 50 percent – will be tied up in scraping and refinishing windows and storm windows. If the place needs sprucing up, you might be surprised to find that replacing any type of window might not cost too much more than repairing and repainting the old ones. Maintenance costs, when combined with higher energy bills, might make replacement a worthwhile option.

Do your windows have single pane glass?

New Energy Star labeled windows are twice as energy efficient as the average window manufactured only 10 years ago. And new windows with two or three glazing layers are significantly more efficient than single pane windows from the past. While single pane windows provide almost no insulation value, double and triple-pane windows – some with Low-E insulating coatings or fill gases like argon, krypton and carbon dioxide – may pay for themselves in lower heating bills.

Do you still have storm windows?

Storm windows are your first defense against winter winds, and old ones may not seal properly in worn or warped tracks. They also may be difficult to put up and take down, and they can make window cleaning a chore. You can replace storm windows – for upwards of $100 each – or you can put that money into replacement windows. Most new windows don’t require storms.

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Will new windows save you from an AC or furnace upgrade?

Rather than spend $5,000 on a high efficiency furnace and a few thousand more on a new central air conditioner, you might live with your older, less efficient units and work on buttoning up the house. Replacing your poorest windows and improving insulation in walls and the attic might be a better first option to curbing high heating and cooling bills.

Do you spend a lot of time at the cabin in the winter?

Replacement windows are obviously more important if your cabin is located in the snow belt and you spend a lot of time there in the winter. Energy efficiency isn’t as much of a factor if you don’t heat in the winter. Naturally, replacement windows make good sense if you plan on retiring to the cabin some day.

Is better security an issue for you?

Let’s face it, those single-pane windows don’t provide much of a barrier. New windows are more shatter-resistant, so breakage from birds or other wildlife is less likely. New windows also often come with better locking mechanisms that add a modicum of security against burglars or vandals. Most new windows also come with special catches that allow you to leave a window ajar without letting someone on the outside open it wide enough to enter.

Do you plan on owning the cabin for 10 more years?

The real estate payback value of replacement windows falls somewhere short of the “wow factor” offered by a remodeled kitchen or deck. Window replacement makes more sense if you’re going to hang onto the cabin for a while and enjoy the benefits of lowered heat bills and a cozier inside environment.

Would you like more light inside?

When you replace windows, it’s a convenient time to bring more natural light indoors. You can also take the opportunity to improve your views by expanding the window or better framing the scenery outside.  A good carpenter can easily enlarge window openings and create openings for more windows.

Do you clean your own windows and is it a chore?

Depending on the type of windows you have and the terrain around your house, cleaning windows can be a frustrating nuisance or a downright dangerous operation. Older windows are often difficult to reach when you want to wash the outside surface and can be difficult to open and close. New double-hung windows usually tilt inward for easy cleaning.

Jim Kneiszel cheats Old Man Winter any chance he gets and has replaced drafty windows with air-tight, energy-efficient models.

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