As far as home improvement projects go, a lot of experts will cheerfully tell you that installing windows is as easy as hammering a few nails. And in some ways, it's true; the actual installation of windows can be pretty much a matter of fitting a square peg in a square hole. But installing the windows turns out to be only a small part of the process. Consider, for instance, what goes into even deciding new windows are needed in the first place.
First, there's the almighty dollar. Replacement windows can run from around $150 to $300. You might think that, hey, as long as that window isn't broken and dim outlines can still be seen out of it, there's no reason for a replacement. But keep in mind that upgraded windows might actually save you money long-term.
For one, if you're buying the right window, you're saving money on energy. Windows are notorious for leaking heat out of a house at an alarming rate. To address this problem, the U.S. government has instituted an energy-performance rating system for windows. This rating tells you a few things: how much heat is collected or released depending on the season, how tight air leakage is and how it scores on overall energy efficiency [source: Energy Savers]. Check out guidelines on the Energy Savers Web site to see what numbers work for you, but you'll save yourself money in the long run by buying energy-efficient replacements.
Replacing those old, decrepit windows isn't just sparing you the embarrassment of looking like Boo Radley occupies your home. It's also a great way to increase the value of your place with a tiny home improvement project that can drastically change the outer appearance of a house. And then there's simply the fact that old windows are old: They crack more easily, they discolor, and you'll probably have to replace them anyway.
So now that we've discussed why those windows need replacing, let's peek through the glass to see what kind of windows we should be using as replacements.