And after the energy audit, I guarantee the recommendation will be new windows. After all, that is all they sell. Even if they can save me 40% on my utilities by replacing my windows with energy efficient ones, I would have to stay in the house for 20 yeas to see a return with the windows they were selling. Do a little research online and you will find their replacement windows are three to four times more expensive then comparable windows and the Attorney Generals of Oregon and Washington are after them.
So what should you do if you are considering replacing your contractor grade windows with new energy efficient ones? Here are the five things I would consider to insure you are getting the best results.
ENERGY AUDIT: Have a legitimate energy audit done by a third party independent auditor. These companies do not sell or recommend specific products. But get them talking enough and they will probably tell you who to stay away from. I had mine done by American Green Homes which is a RESNET auditor. They were very professional.
ENERGY TAX CREDITS: Find out what energy tax credits are available. These incentives can be federal, state, or utilities. Here in Oregon we are lucky enough to have the Energy Trust of Oregon. ETO is definitely a change agent, helping homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades. Warning – some energy tax credits will not be available after December.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Research the energy efficiency of the various materials that are used in making the windows as well as the brands of the replacement windows. Generally wood or vinyl are the first choices and although some will tell you triple pane windows are the best, they are not really needed in the Pacific Northwest, especially when you are calculating the payback.
PAYBACK: How long will it be before the savings you realize on your utility bills pay for the replacement windows. Don’t be awestruck by statements like; “we’ll save you 40% on your energy bill.” Even if that could be achieved, sit down and calculate how much that would actually be. Then find a replacement window that makes sense for your budget. As part of American Green Homes service, they will take any bid I get and calculate it for me.
CONTRACTOR REPUTATION: This is where a lot of promised energy savings is lost. If the windows are not installed properly, most of the energy savings will not be realized. Talk to other customers who have had their windows replaced and see if they have seen a savings. Research the replacement window companies on the internet or come to the Better Living Show to shop and compare. And research both the window manufacturer and the installation company if they are not the same.
I can tell you in the case of my door-to-door friends, they do not install their own windows. My neighbors unfortunately fell victim to their high pressure pitch and when it came time for installation, the siding company insisted that the window installer come back three times to fix their mistakes before siding went up. IF the siding company hadn’t cared, they would have covered up the shoddy work and the energy efficiency that my neighbors were looking for from these replacement windows would be lost. So do your homework if you really want to see the benefits of new replacement windows.