One of the best things about old city houses are all the windows and natural light they let in.
On the other hand, most city homes come with old, wooden windows that vinyl window sales forces would love to see replaced.
Radio ads talk about the savings you will see from replacing your "drafty old wooden windows" with new "low-e", "dual pane", "tilt-in" vinyl windows.
However, lots of older homes don't look very good with shiny new white vinyl windows. On the other hand, it's fair to say that new vinyl windows can be an improvement in a home where there are no windows at all!
Some neighborhoods require certain types of windows, and there are rehab incentive programs that mandate specific historic replacement windows to qualify for certain program incentives.
The real question I'd like to pose, though, is what about those old, original wood windows? You know the kind, the divided glass ones, often covered with ugly aluminum clad storm windowns?
I was speaking with a friend of mine who restores old windows. She likes them best when the storms are removed. And she maintains that an old window, properly painted and sealed, is not much different than a new double-paned window when it comes to energy efficiency. Maybe yes, maybe no.
Then there are the vinyl window advertisers. They talk about energy savings of up to 30% with new vinyl windows.
Our annual energy bill runs around $3,500. 30% of that is about $1,000, give or take.
Our house has 16 windows. (Our last house had even more...it had 20). There is a wide range in price for new installed windows. Let's take a middle of the road price of $500 per window. Complete window replacement in our last house would have cost about $10,000.
In our new home, it would cost about $8,000. However, to use the appropriate historic windows our house deserves, the cost would be closer to $12,000.
Based on these costs, it would take about 8 to 12 years to break even on the cost of energy savings from new window replacement. Most people don't even live in the same house that long.
Recently, a very savvy real estate agent and I were discussing the subject of original versus new windows. His advice? Buyers don't pay much attention to the presence of original wood windows in a house. If anything, they prefer the charm the old windows offer.
He suggests doing kitchen and bath upgrades instead.
Email me if you'd like a referral to the original wood window restoration specialist I referred to at the start of this post.