The Green Home

Are the windows in your home a pane?

Posted July 16, 2012

No, that’s not a spelling mistake, but it’s true that historic windows are often a “pain” in the pocketbook because they’re literally a pane; a single pane of glass is all that protects homeowners from the weather outside, be it hot summer sun or cold winter nights.

One of the most common questions we get here at Green Horizon is “Should I replace all my old windows?”

Surprisingly, our answer is frequently no (or at least, we probe to be sure that homeowners are replacing windows for the right reasons) but the exception is generally historic homes.

Aside from aesthetics, the fact is that original windows in historic homes are generally the worst possible for efficiency. Modern windows are double- or triple-pane, with low emissions coatings and/or inert gas between each pane to act as a thermos for your home. Since 25 percent of a home’s heating and cooling energy is typically lost through windows, replacing poor old windows with new modern EnergyStar rated windows can produce a great savings over the long term.

Window replacement is not an inexpensive process, however. Generally, new, high-efficiency, triple-pane windows cost $500 or more per window; replacing all the windows on an entire home can cost upwards of $10,000. Homeowners should be sure that in addition to energy efficiency improvements, they’re also looking at other great reasons to replace their windows.

Homeowners often replace windows for comfort reasons, reducing drafts, making sunny rooms usable in the summer, or to introduce better quality of light. Before replacing windows, homeowners should be sure that the windows themselves can’t be improved with proper insulation, sealing and trim. If the window can’t be improved (for example, in the case of historic single-pane windows that are poorly maintained), then replacement is a great option.

It’s true: older windows can look awful. Peeling trim, cracked panes, water condensation or an outdated style can make homeowners cringe. Many newer styles of windows keep the historic charm of older windows with modern conveniences like easy cleaning or more attractive trim colors.

Older windows are frequently missing (or have damaged) security features like locks or child-resistant tamper-proof features. Newer windows also offer tinting which older windows didn’t have, giving homeowners the option of increased privacy on public-facing windows.

Whatever your reasons for replacing your windows, be sure that you’re comfortable with the return on your investment and be sure to choose a reputable contractor skilled in window replacement to do the work.


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About this Blog:

Bobby Ferrel, founder of Green Horizon oversees The Green Home blog. Ferrel is co-founder of Green Horizon, with offices in the Triangle and Charlotte, offering home owners and builders a one-stop shop for energy efficiency and green building. Services include home performance assessments, weatherization, closed crawl spaces, all types of insulation, HVAC and geothermal installation and maintenance. Reach Bobby directly at or visit him online at