Historic windows are a crucial part of any historic facade, but in the interests of efficiency, sometimes people are drawn to seek replacement windows instead of retaining the original. Guest contributor and Greensboro contractor John Redmond dispels the notion that replacing windows is the first step to an energy efficient home. In fact, there are several more effective (and affordable) investments you can make.
Dispelling the Most Common Myth Regarding Home Energy Savings
by John Redmond
How many of you think that the first thing you should do to save energy in your home is replace your windows? Tick, tick, tick…time’s up! I am sure that the vast majority of you answered yes to this question.
What if I was to tell you that replacing your windows not only adversely affects the historic integrity of your home, but it is almost always the last thing you want to do if energy savings is your main goal for your home?
For decades, window manufacturers and replacement contractors have done a fantastic job of embellishing the benefits of their products and, in turn, deceiving the American public with pie-in-the-sky promises that defy logic and general physics, guarantees that are laden with microscopic fine print, and bait and switch techniques that only confuse the homeowner as to what they are actually getting when they sign the dotted line with the contractor.
You might be asking how this can be true when practically every television or radio commercial you see or hear says the same thing…“Save 40% on your Energy Bills!”; Buy One, Get One Free…and Save 30% on your Energy Costs, or We Will Pay the difference!” I could go on and on, but you have already heard them all, multiple times a day, for years on end. They use these advertisements because they work and they, without fail, bring hundreds of millions of dollars in profit to these companies on a yearly basis. Why fix what is not broken?
In order to properly analyze these promises, one must first know how energy is consumed and lost in the home. First of all, only about 10-12% of your home’s energy loss occurs through your windows and doors. According to the Department of Energy, North Carolina homeowners use approximately 46% of their overall energy costs on heating and cooling measures. If this is the case, a promise of 40% savings on an overall energy bill is impossible and purely dishonest. Replacement windows do not save on your lighting costs, nor do they save on your cooking and laundry bills. Windows do not save anything on costs related to water heating or your electronic appliances. They only affect your heating and cooling system.
In the most lofty of scenarios, a high-end replacement window might save you 30% on your heating and cooling costs, which equates to about 13% of your overall energy bill. The average homeowner in North Carolina pays $1800 on their home’s yearly energy use. Using this figure and the best-case scenario in savings, you are saving an average of $248/year in energy costs. Considering that the average home has 17 windows, and the average price for a medium quality replacement window is $500, your payback on your investment is 34 years.
In a historic home, you have many more architectural features required by your neighborhood association and your average replacement window does not meet aesthetic muster. Keeping that in mind, a window that would meet these minimum specifications costs upwards of $1200-1500/window and, in turn, increases the payback period three-fold. Considering that the average homeowner lives in their home approximately 7-1/2 years means that you never receive a full return on your investment.
It is much more effective and a lot less expensive to make sure that any contractor that comes to your home has your best interests in mind. Most replacement contractors sell cookie-cutter products, and they have a hard time deviating from their normal repertoire. In most cases, they throw darts at the wall, sit back, and hope that one sticks.
On the other hand, a professional home energy rater or home performance contractor certified by the Building Performance Institute or RESNET is best suited to give you pinpointed customized energy solutions to your home’s energy needs. A properly trained professional will analyze your home using proven building science principles and realize that your home works as a system. In contrast to a run-of-the-mill replacement contractor, this certified professional will provide you with a prioritized scope of work customized to your home, based upon rate of return, in order to give you an ongoing plan of action moving forward. No home’s energy or comfort issues, including yours, can be alleviated by a one-size-fits-all proposition.
John J. Redmond, CEO of Home Energy Solutions of the Triad, is a BPI and RESNET Certified home performance contractor in the Triad area who specializes in historic preservation and comprehensive energy-efficiency contracting. You can reach John by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at 336-587-8345. You can also visit www.callhomenc.com for additional information on energy-efficiency related issues with your home.