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Going green; How much is worth?

Posted by Rona Fischman February 27, 2012 01:48 PM

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Sam Schneiderman, Broker-owner of Greater Boston Home Team is our Monday guy. Today he discusses replacement windows.

Today’s topic is replacement windows. Cost vs. return on investment, plus aesthetic considerations. Take this quick survey about your opinion.

I am going to use my own house as an example. I live in a house that was built around 1920. Most rooms on the first floor have natural woodwork. My windows have multiple panes and they match the woodwork perfectly. They are probably the original windows. Storm windows do a good job of keeping out drafts, but there is a slight draft noticeable if you put your hand near where the upper and lower windows meet and the rope that connects to the pulleys passes through a groove in the lower window. Otherwise, the windows keep most drafts out and my rooms are comfortable. We heat the house on the warm side and the bill is not unreasonable for a home of similar size.

I expect to sell within the next 5 years,. Meanwhile, I like the ambiance of the older windows and I doubt that I can get newer windows that will blend as well with the older wood trim. I like the look of the older windows and I am happy to get the small amount of fresh air that seeps in. Vinyl replacement windows are out of the question because they would cheapen the look of the house.

There are 6 windows on the first floor. Each would probably cost about $500-600 to replace with a decent quality wood replacement window. Going with $500 per window, that is a cost of $3,000 to the first floor windows.


While I am at it, maybe I should replace the second floor windows. The 8 windows there would cost another $4,000. Those are painted, so I am not having aesthetic issues about replacing them. On that floor, it’s about return on investment.

My gas bill, including cooking, hot water and clothes dryer is around $2,000. If I spend $7,000 to replace all of my windows and gain a 20 percent reduction of my heating bill (I guesstimate $350 per year) it will take 20 years to return the cost of the windows. I am also skeptical about the claims of 20 percent reduction in my heating bill.

The window companies and sales-folks talk about the increase in value that a home gains from having replacement windows and the environmentally friendly benefit of using less fuel. I have yet to be able to accurately measure the additional value that replacement windows make although sometimes buyers try to get a credit for replacement windows as part of the inspection negotiations, if the older windows are failing, which is not the case in my house.

In terms of environmental impact, my take is that throwing old windows (and possibly the storm windows) into a land fill is not exactly the most environmentally friendly thing to do. I also know that many replacement windows that I have seen need to be replaced at about 20 years. The only thing that seems green about this project is the cash that it will cost.

What do you think I should do?
What is your take on replacement windows?
Good for the environment or not?
When are they worth the investment and when are they not?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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