Best Replacement Window Buying Guide

Weighing the Benefits and Costs
In 2022, a vinyl window-replacement job was among the top five home projects in terms of return on investment, according to national estimates by Remodeling magazine. Sixty-eight percent of a window-replacement job is recouped in the selling price, Remodeling says.

New windows also can save on energy bills. Replacing clear-glass single-pane windows in a single-story, 2,000-square-foot home with new Energy Star certified windows can save a homeowner from $101 to $583 a year, the U.S. Department of Energy projects. Replacing storm windows or double-pane windows can save $27 to $197 per year. How much you’d actually save depends on your local climate, utility rates, and other factors.

If your existing frames and sills are still sound and square, you’ll save money on materials and labor by using replacement units. They’re also known as “pocket replacements” and fit into your existing frames. If your frames are too old and deteriorated, you’ll need full replacement windows, which are the same windows used in new construction. These include the frame, sill, jambs, and usually what’s known as a nailing flange, which attaches the window to the outside wall around the opening.

Finding a Capable Installer
Even the best windows won’t deliver the look or comfort you expect if they’re installed incorrectly. Professional installation is key, especially if you have an older home where, say, window frames have shifted over time and are no longer squared off at the corners.

Many major window manufacturers train and certify installers for their specific brand of window. Using the same contractor for purchase and installation means that if a problem arises later, there will be no doubt who is responsible for fixing it; the window seller can’t blame it on the installer, or vice versa. 

Get multiple bids and look online for certification from the American Window and Door Institute or Installation Masters. Any bid you receive should include specifics such as window brand and model, number of windows, size, and type, plus any add-on features. Installation details should be noted, and labor and material costs broken out separately.

While contractors often have their preferred brands, don’t rely on the contractor to choose your windows for you. Check out our replacement window ratings for details on which work best to keep your home comfortable and dry. 

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