Reuben Saltzman

New Windows Are Nice… But You’ll Never Get Your Money Back.

I’ve heard some pretty outrageous claims from window replacement companies.  The most common ‘hook’ for selling replacement windows is that you’ll get a Return OInvestment  (ROI) because of all the money you’ll save on your heating bills.  In the real world, the idea that you could ever come close to breaking even on your investment for new windows is impossible at best, and borders on downright dishonesty.  Unfortunately, a lot of consumers believe the window company’s claims – I hear this myth repeated many times while doing home inspections throughout Minnesota.

To prove this, I decided to figure out how much money I would need to save every year if I just wanted to break even on the investment of new windows at my house, assuming the windows could last thirty years… although the average life expectancy for replacement windows is actually twenty years.   I’ve already replaced nine of the twenty-two windows in my house with newer energy-efficient windows.  If I replaced the remaining thirteen windows with incredibly energy efficient windows and I only paid $500 each, I would have to save 46% on my heating bills every year for the next 30 years just to break even!

I arrived at this number by pouring over my gas bills for the last six years, and figured out how much gas I use to heat my house on average every year.

  • I use an average of 520 therms per year to heat my house.
  • The average cost of gas is $0.90 / therm, which makes the average cost to heat my house every year $468.

    Reuben's Gas Bill
    Reuben’s Gas Bill

A few details about my house:

  • Built in 1939, 1500 finished sf, 1 1/2 story.
  • 2×4 construction, most walls have about 2″ of rock wool insulation.  This means the walls are very poorly insulated, so a lot of my heat loss is happening through the walls.
  • Basement is completely unfinished and uninsulated.
  • Attic / 2nd floor is insulated with about 3″ of closed-cell spray foam.
  • Thirteen original single pane windows with removable storm windows installed during the winter.
  • Nine newer Low-E windows (the kind that are supposed to save energy)
  • I keep my house at 72 degrees during the winter, and I use a setback thermostat.


Assuming each new window costs $500, replacing thirteen windows would cost $6500.  To save $6500 over a period of 30 years, I would need to save $216 per year on my heating costs, or 46% or my average annual cost, which is $468.  In reality, I might end up saving somewhere around 5%.  I’ve already replaced almost half the windows on my house, and I haven’t noticed any significant savings on my heating bills.

I’m not writing this to discourage anyone from replacing their windows –  I love new windows, and I dislike my old windows with a passion.  They’re a huge pane to maintain, and I’m slowly replacing them… but every time I replace a window, I do it because I like having new windows, not because I think I’m going to save any real money on my heating bill.  A $1500 tax credit still wouldn’t even get me close.

ps – when it comes time to sell your home, a house with new windows will sell for more money than a house with old windows.  Home sellers in the Minneapolis area can expect to recoup about 70% of the cost of new windows.


Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Home Inspections


No responses to “New Windows Are Nice… But You’ll Never Get Your Money Back.”

  1. Sharmila Rao
    December 28, 2009, 4:09 pm

    What is your opinion on double paned windows? I’ve heard that the layer of air in between will provide better insulation.

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    December 28, 2009, 4:27 pm

    Sharmila – no question about it. Double paned windows are far superior to single paned windows. I don’t even think that you could even buy a single paned window today if you tried – it’s just the new standard.

  3. Jim Greiner
    January 6, 2010, 11:19 pm

    I am getting new windows in about 2 weeks, but ours are original and our house was built in 1880. Enjoy your blog and will put it in my favorites.

  4. Reuben Saltzman
    January 7, 2010, 10:41 am

    I bet you’ll be happy with them. I wish I was getting new windows in two weeks!

  5. Are High Efficiency Furnaces Worth The Extra Money? | Reuben's Home Inspection Blog
    January 12, 2010, 5:06 am

    […] my blog about window replacements, I made it clear that you’ll never get a return on your investment by replacing windows.   So what about furnaces?  If you’re replacing your furnace, is it worth installing a high […]

  6. Lynn Skallerud
    February 8, 2010, 2:29 pm

    Can you replace single pane windows with double(low E) and keep the frames which date back to 1963?

  7. Reuben Saltzman
    February 8, 2010, 8:48 pm

    Hi Lynn,

    Yes. For more info, click here . I think this is exactly what you’re looking for.

  8. James
    June 30, 2010, 11:07 am

    Great website. What’s your opinion regarding replacement inserts vs. full frame when upgrading windows? I’m looking to update the old double hung windows in my house.

  9. Reuben Saltzman
    June 30, 2010, 2:51 pm

    Hi James,

    Either one would be a nice improvement. I’d say to go with whichever one you prefer – I don’t have any preference.

  10. Daniel Johnson
    November 26, 2012, 10:24 am

    I love the article, but something that isn’t taken into consideration is that you aren’t trying to pay back 100% of the window cost in energy savings. At the end of the article, you state that home sellers can expect to get about 70% ROI in selling their house with new windows. even if you bump that down to 60%, you only need to pay for 40% of the original window costs. I’ve got a house from the 40s with original windows and plan on replacing all 15 of them before we move (5-10 years from now). We’re also planning on adding a master bed to the rear second story, and framing with 2x6s rather than 2x4s to gain some more insulation space.

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