Most homeowners who purchase new windows expect them to last for as long as they live in their homes, so while it’s important to consider upfront costs, it’s equally important to consider long-term costs and savings as well. These multiple factors make estimating the cost of new windows difficult. Complicating the calculation is the wide variety of materials and features available that can drive up the initial price, but that can recoup the extra costs through savings on monthly heating and cooling costs or lower maintenance costs. Naturally, the size of the window affects the prices as well.
Upfront costs for installing windows throughout a home costs from $7,000 to $20,000 for an average-sized home. Custom windows can increase upfront costs by about 15 percent. A single window can cost as little as $175 for a vinyl model or $270 for a wood model. When it comes to pricing windows, the material and the type of insulator glass used is a big factor. Whether the window is bought off the shelf and installed by the homeowner or whether the window is custom-made and installed by a professional contractor greatly affects the price as well.
No-frills, unfinished, off-the-shelf windows are generally the least expensive, followed by made-to-order windows. Custom windows are the most expensive. A double-hung pine wood window with insulated glass costs around $270. A custom version with highly efficient glazing can be as high as $825. The same window in mahogany wood can be as much as $2,000.
Energy Efficiency Savings
When compared to single pane windows, highly energy-efficient windows can cut a home’s heating and cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. A study conducted in 1996 showed that a homeowner of an average-sized house with single-glazed windows might expect to pay about $800 for energy costs each year. Energy costs for the same house equipped with energy-efficient windows would be about $450 each year.
Several technologies improve a window’s energy efficiency. Double- or triple-paned windows increase a window’s energy efficiency by trapping air within the multiple panes. Many manufacturers of double- or triple-glazed windows increase the energy efficiency further by injecting a dense, inert gas such as argon or krypton. Manufacturers also treat the glass with low-emissivity coatings. A low-E coating is an almost imperceptible thin metallic film that reflects heat back into the home during winter and deflects it back outside during the summer. Windows with foam insulation in the frames can add to energy efficiency as well.
Homeowners who install energy-efficient windows may be eligible for rebates from incentive programs offered at federal, state and local levels. Windows typically must include an Energy Star label to be eligible for rebate programs. Rebates can significantly cut initial installation costs.
Every material used for window construction, including vinyl, wood, fiberglass and aluminum, has its advantages and disadvantages. Vinyl frame windows are the most affordable. They are energy-efficient and easy to maintain as well. They are available in a broad range of shapes and sizes, but colors are limited. Most vinyl windows are white. Prices generally start at about $175.
Aluminum frame windows are also an inexpensive option. They offer the low maintenance and durability of vinyl windows as well. They are generally less stylish than other materials and as they are metal, they easily conduct heat, making them energy-inefficient. Thermal breaks, which are strips of rubber or plastic set into the frame, improve their energy efficiency. Prices generally start at about $160.
For its versatility and style, wood remains a popular choice for windows. When it comes to decorative options, nothing matches wood. It’s available in every color of the rainbow and just about every price point. Wood, however, does need to be repainted, re-stained or resealed periodically. Prices generally start at about $270.
Some window manufacturers cover the exterior of wood frame windows in thin layers of vinyl or aluminum. Clad wood windows are easier to maintain than unclad wood windows. Prices generally start at about $250.
Fiberglass windows, made from the same kinds of materials used on the bumpers of cars, are easy to maintain, energy efficient and durable. They are priced between wood and vinyl windows. Styles and sizes are limited. Prices generally start at about $250.
Resale value is a final factor to consider when purchasing windows. According to a leading home remodeling magazine, homeowners who install energy-efficient wood or vinyl windows can expect to recover up to 75 percent of their costs upon when they sell their homes. Determining the costs for new windows requires an assessment of projected savings from resale, savings on energy costs and choices of energy-saving features and materials.