When to repair or replace your windows

2 min read

Learn when to repair or replace windows, and which repairs you can do yourself. Unless your windows are in rough shape, it's usually more cost-effective to repair and weatherize than to replace. Use this guide to explore your options.

Start with easy window repairs

Windows in disrepair often look worse than they are. Start with easy updates—add weather-stripping and window locks, hang energy-efficient window treatments, and install storm windows.

You can do your own window repairs if you have the interest, basic carpentry skills, and the right tools. Here are a few of the measures you could do yourself:

  • Replace dry and cracked seals on double-glazed windows
  • Insulate counterweight pockets
  • Install new suspension systems in older double-hung windows

If you’d rather leave it to a professional, hire someone with experience in window repair, and check his or her references first.

Determine if you need to replace

There are many reasons to replace your windows. New windows can enhance the look of your home, reduce noise, or offer better visibility. However, a common misconception is that they will save money. New windows are energy efficient and may decrease your heating bills. But they also come with a high upfront cost (typically $500-1,000 per window). That means you might spend more on the window than you'll save on energy. That is why Efficiency Vermont recommends exploring weatherization work or adding storm windows before considering replacement. If you're looking to boost your eficiency, new windows might make sense if:

  • The total cost of replacing the windows is low
  • Your current windows have major structural issues (single paned, extensive deterioration, missing parts, or rotted frames)
Insulate and air-seal first

If you want to improve your home’s energy efficiency, windows are often not the best place to start. Air sealing, insulation, and upgrades to heating and cooling systems are more cost-effective ways to lower your bills and boost comfort. For complex jobs, think about hiring a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® contractor. The contractor can perform an energy assessment, pinpoint where your home is losing heat, and help you fix any problems.

Consider storm windows

Low-E storms boost the energy efficiency of your windows at a fraction of full replacement cost. They’re treated with an invisible coating that reflects heat while letting light pass through, resulting in less heat gain and loss and a more comfortable space for you. Look for an Attachments Energy Rating Council (AERC) logo when you're buying to ensure you're getting an efficient product. You can also use the AERC site to search for qualified products.

Photo courtesy of Window Dressers
Are interior insulating window inserts effective?

It depends on the problem you’re trying to solve. Insulating window inserts are (typically) custom, interior mounted panels with a wood frame, wrapped in layers clear plastic film. They are inserted into the interior of the window frame and can improve the comfort of the room by reducing drafts or cold air coming through the window. They are also reusable and can be used for several years.  

However, because most of your heat is lost through air leaks in the attic or basement, you may not notice a significant reduction in your heating bills. The most effective way to reduce heating expenses is through comprehensive weatherization with an Efficiency Excellence Network contractor. These contractors will air seal leaks in the most critical areas of your home where heat is being lost and add insulation where appropriate.   

Insulating window inserts are eligible for Efficiency Vermont’s DIY weatherization rebate. Local organizations like Window Dressers can also help in select Vermont communities.