When it comes to improving the performance and efficiency of existing windows, many homeowners and contractors have a range of options to consider. You can opt for simple, low budget DIY fixes such as replacing weatherstripping or installing window films, or more capital intensive solutions that require you to replace the entire window with a new one.
Oftentimes, homeowners make their decision without necessarily understanding their options, evaluating the implications of the changes in terms of improved energy efficiency and cost savings, or even the age of the existing windows. Although you don’t necessarily have to wait for your windows to be extremely drafty to consider a replacement, it is still important to have an idea of how long your investment will last before it needs replacing again.
So, how long can you expect a new window installation to last?
Many window design professionals agree that new, quality windows should last between 15 and 20 years before you start to think about replacing them. Most companies producing vinyl windows often provide a 20-25 year warranty, which is essentially a lifetime warranty – the expected lifetime of the product. Windows built to the Canadian Standards Association – CSA – guidelines can be expected to last 25 years.
Around 15-25 years, you can expect to repair your windows regularly, adding caulking and insulation, and performing a number of other temporary fixes. But eventually, you will need to replace the entire unit.
Signs that your windows need replacing include:
- Cracked windowpane/frame
Some kinds of window damage, such as those that can be fixed with new weatherstripping or a hardware replacement, should be fixed immediately. But a warped, broken, or damaged window sash or frame should be replaced – rather than repaired. A damaged window frame is not only unattractive, but also compromises the efficiency of the insulation, siding, and heating and air conditioning. The cracks can also let in small vermin and insects.
- Fogged glass
This problem only arises when you have double- or triple-paned windows. Condensation gets trapped between the windowpanes, usually from an opening or hole that is barely noticeable to you. If your double-paned windows also have gas, the fog-like appearance could also be an indicator that the gas is leaking. A regular double-paned window is not as efficient as an air-filled one. So once it begins to leak, you should consider replacing it.
- Soft frame
If you have wooden windows, excess moisture can cause the windowsill to rot on the outside of the house. If the wooden sill feels soft to the touch – not rigid – you should consider replacing the entire window and frame on the exterior. Even if you don’t notice any other defects on your windows, the window is likely to start breaking down in the near future.
- Getting stuck
Continually opening and closing your windows creates tiny grooves and divots. With time, the stress of multiple openings on the window can cause cracks to form on the frame. Depending on the severity, they can cause the door to stick while opening. Such kinds of wear and tear due to aging are good indicators that your windows needs replacing.
- Drafty rooms
Well-functioning windows should not let in air, except through specific openings depending on the design. But if there are cold drafts getting into your home through other openings besides the vents, even after caulking and weatherstripping a few times, it may be time to get new windows installed.
- High energy bills
A substantial proportion – about 41 percent – of recurrent household costs go towards heating and cooling your home. If you notice your energy consumption increasing, it is possible that your windows are the problem. Replacing old, drafty, single-paned windows with Energy Star certified products can result in substantial savings in your energy costs.
Retrofit versus complete window replacement
Homeowners are influenced to upgrade their windows by a number of factors, including energy cost savings, the need for better insulation and improved comfort, or simply to reduce their carbon footprint by decreasing their energy costs. Still, some may choose retrofit strategies over replacement to prolong the life of their existing windows, to preserve their home’s original materials, or to delay taking such valuable resources to landfills.
Retrofits prolong the life of your existing windows, but this may not necessarily translate to considerable gains in energy savings. However, the upfront investment costs can be a key driver in influencing the homeowners’ decision between retrofit and replacement. Without a professional energy analysis, however, it can be hard to make informed decisions regarding whether certain window retrofit or replacement measures will pay off in the short or long term.
Give your home a makeover
If you notice signs of aging windows, you should make a decision between retrofitting your existing windows and replacing them. Consider the window’s repairability, longevity and maintenance of the retrofit strategy, and your budget. Get an expert energy audit to help steer your decision and maximize your ROI. But if your windows have been in place since the last millennium, you should definitely replace them to enjoy the benefits of recent window technologies.