Home Window Buying Guide

New windows can enhance the look of your home and make it quieter and less drafty, and new windows are easier to clean and maintain than old windows with combination screens and storm windows.

But forget what the ads say. Saving money on your energy bill is not the reason to replace your windows—it could take decades to recoup the $8,000 to $24,000 you’ll spend on new windows and installation.

Energy Star-qualified windows can lower your energy bill by an average of 12 percent. That’s only $27 to $111 a year for a 2,000-square-foot single-story home with storm windows or double-pane windows, $126 to $465 if your home has just single-pane windows, according to Energy Star.

Use our home window buying guide to learn which materials, types, and features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased ratings to help you choose

Through The Looking Glass: What We Found

How We Test
To find out which windows are best at keeping your home comfortable and dry, we tested more than two dozen double-hung and casement-style windows for air and water leakage. We found significant differences between brands in types and frame materials. Working with an outside lab, we subjected the windows to heavy, wind-driven rain, and winds of 25 and 50 mph at outdoor temperatures of 0°F and 70°F. Given the high cost of replacing windows, the more you know, the more informed choice you can make. Don’t rely on a contractor to choose for you.

Ways to Save

Federal tax credits are available for windows installed in 2016 (and retroactive purchases made in 2015) for Energy Star-qualified windows. Some utilities and city and state programs also offer rebates or incentives if you buy Energy Star windows. Go to stores and check out the windows, inspect the frames, and try the handles.

Finding an Installer
Even the best windows won’t deliver the look or comfort you expect if they’re installed poorly. Many major window manufacturers train and certify installers for their specific products. Using the same contractor for purchase and installation can minimize the chances of problems arising later. Look online for certification from the American Window and Door Institute or Installation Masters—and get multiple bids. They should include specifics such as window brand, number of windows, size and type, plus any add-on features. Installation details should be noted, and labor and material costs should be broken out.

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