Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly said that homeowner Carol Rosen has vinyl windows. They are made of a composite.

Windows Aren't Always A Clear Path for Savings

By Terri Rupar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 16, 2009

The big appeal of replacing your old windows with new energy-efficient ones is that they might save you money. A federal tax credit of up to $1,500 adds to the attraction.

But there are other, cheaper ways to reduce energy bills, experts said. Replacing windows is "one of the last things you want to do," said Pascale Maslin, founder of energy auditor Energy Efficiency Experts. "First you want to seal up your house, and that takes more time than it does materials. Second thing, you want to get your house insulated."

Carol Rosen, who lives in a four-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot house in North Bethesda, spent about $32,000 to get her 26 windows replaced.

Before, she said, "when a wind would come through, you could see the curtains billow."

She said she thinks she's saving money, but with energy costs going up, it's hard to tell. However, she no longer feels drafts between the windows.

Plus, she replaced wood windows with vinyl, so not having to paint them anymore has saved money and time.

There are many details involved in windows, but if you're interested in replacing yours, here are the basics.

-- Before you replace your windows. Nils Petermann of the Alliance to Save Energy recommends getting a home energy audit to help determine how to make your home, including windows, more energy-efficient. You may be able to get away with just replacing glass, which he says has improved a lot since the 1970s. You might just need weatherstripping or caulking to block holes. You may also be able to add interior or exterior storm windows or plastic window films to keep the hot and cold air where you want it.

Jim Conlon of Silver Spring-based Elysian Energy, which does energy audits, said window replacement is one of the least cost-effective ways to make your home more energy-efficient. Take that step if you have single-pane windows with metal frames or your windows are broken or rotting, he said.

Maslin said that with about $100 and cans of foam and caulk, you can make your house's envelope tighter and avoid spending thousands of dollars on windows.

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