Here is a great article by the staff at Angie’s List on how to know when it’s time to replace your windows:

Wood rot, fog in between the glass, drafty windows and high energy bills are all signs that it could be time to replace your windows.

New replacement windows can generate as much as an 80 percent return on your investment when factoring in resale value and energy savings, according to national remodeling industry statistics and an Angie’s List nationwide survey of remodelers and real estate agents.

general_05-400x267Wood, metal and fiberglass are common window options, but quality vinyl windows are the most popular and most energy-efficient choices. They offer a variety of colors, are attractive and best of all, they’re durable.

“Vinyl windows will maintain their color forever,” said Joe Daniels of Window Man, Inc. in Indianapolis. “You don’t have to worry about repainting the window every spring. Vinyl comes with a lifetime warranty and is maintenance free, aside from the occasional spring cleaning.”

Replacement windows can cost several hundred or several thousands of dollars, depending on the material type and options, like awnings, glass types, styles, patterns and shapes.

“One of the first questions I ask people when I meet with them is how long they plan on staying in their home,” said Steve Couch of Precision Window Replacement in Indianapolis. “There are ‘quick’ fixes. But (if you plan to stay there a while), you want to get a maintenance-free window. In today’s society, people want no maintenance; no painting; no caulking. They want something simple, but appealing.”

If you plan to stay in your home, avoid buying low-performing windows, like low-end vinyl, metal and single-pane windows, which won’t offer much long-term energy savings. Look for a window with a good air infiltration rating. The minimum standard by the American Architectural Manufacturer’s Association (AAMA) is leakage of less than .30 cubic feet per minute. However, .10 or lower is ideal for cold-weather climates like in the Midwest, for instance. The lower the rating, the better. That is also true of the U-value, which measures the window’s rate of heat loss. Energy Star-approved double-pane glass windows require a U-value of .30 or lower. A design pressure rating between 35 and 45 is also ideal. The higher the DP, the better the frame, the more rain drainage it can withstand, and the more wind pressure it can endure.

When shopping for replacement windows, get bids from at least three different reputable contractors. The salesperson should be able to bring samples of his or her products and provide you with pricing and the ratings for each window type in writing, so you can make a decision that fits within your style and budget. Don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics in which discounts are offered in exchange for you making a quick decision. If your home was built before 1978, make certain the window installers are certified by the EPA for lead paint renovation.

Window replacement is a major investment. Take your time and compare written bids. Review samples of the companies’ work. Ask them for the location of a recent home near yours that they’ve done work on so you can see for yourself how the windows look.

“When you replace a window, you want it to look like it was there from the time the home was built,” Couch said.