As a homeowner, sooner or later you will have to have your windows repaired or replaced. But which option is better? Each option has its pros and cons. To decide which the best option is for you, you need to weigh up many different factors.
For most people, the two most important factors they consider are cost and energy efficiency. However, it’s not always just as simple as that. For instance, if you have a very old house, the original windows are irreplaceable.
But let’s back up a bit, and look at this issue in two parts. First, we’ll look at when you should replace your windows, and then we’ll look at when it’s better to repair them.
Replacing your windows
The biggest benefit of replacing your windows is that you get brand spanking new windows. But newness by itself is hardly important unless you are specifically remodelling your home. A more important reason for replacing your windows is to improve your home’s thermal efficiency. Most newer windows insulate far better than older ones. This will mean lower heating costs over time. At least, this is what the marketing material will lead you to believe.
The truth about energy efficiency is that your windows typically account for only a fraction of the thermal losses of your house. So, although you can save money, it may take you many decades to recoup the cost of the windows. But obviously, if you are upgrading from single pane to double pane windows, you are likely to see the biggest improvement.
On the other hand, having a warm and toasty home in winter is very comfortable, and you can probably put a monetary value on comfort.
Now, another major reason to replace your windows is when they are broken. Modern windows are not made to repair. Sure, you can do some routine maintenance on them, but they are essentially destined for the landfill once they break. So if that happens, guess what? That’s right, you need to replace them.
Repairing your windows
A long time ago, windows were made exclusively from wood, and they were built to last. But that doesn’t mean they lasted forever. Rather, it means that they could be repaired when they broke. It was the philosophy of the time to repair things, and expert artisans were always available to do just that.
Fast forward to the present day. You have a house with beautiful old windows, but they are in a terrible state. Do you repair them, or do you replace them? That’s simple. Repair them!
Sure, new double pane windows will be a lot more energy efficient than old single pane windows. That’s great, so why would you not do that? Simple. They will look ugly and out of place on your old house. And no, you are highly unlikely to find modern windows that will look nearly good enough.
Repairing your old windows is essential for maintaining your historic home’s classic appearance. That, in turn, will increase its value. On the other hand, energy efficiency is also a great selling point nowadays. Luckily there are plenty of things you can do to improve the efficiency of your old windows without drastically ruining the appearance of your house.
One way of improving the efficiency of your old windows is to retrofit double pane glass into the frames. The problem is that the old frames aren’t made for that. You’ll find that the double pane glass units are much too thick to fit seamlessly into the frame. They are also heavier than single pane glass, so sash windows will not stay open. Therefore this kind of retrofit solution often means that the windows remain closed permanently.
One of the most popular compromises is to install storm windows over the original windows. Storm windows usually have minimal negative visual impact, but allows you to retain full functionality of the windows while achieving better thermal efficiency.
Sustainability is a word that is not used often enough in the replacement versus repair debate. As we mentioned before, old windows were made to be repaired; modern ones are made to be discarded. Yes, the newer ones are far more efficient, which results in large energy savings. But when you factor in the ecological cost of manufacturing them, they end up costing a lot more energy than you would lose with your old windows.
Most modern windows are made from recyclable materials such as uPVC and aluminum. The glass is also recyclable. But old wooden frames are biodegradable, which is even better.
What should I do?
From all of the above, the answer is quite simple. If you have old wooden windows, you should try to repair them. Otherwise, replace your windows if that’s the best option.