By Jesse Morado
Replacing your old single pane, double hung windows can really contribute to substantial energy savings, noise reduction, and cut down harmful UV rays that fade interior finishes.
The blazing heat this summer has really impressed upon us, after opening our electrical bills, how important it is to cut energy usage. If you choose to remove and replace all of your windows, additional modifications may be needed to exterior and interior surfaces to accommodate the new windows. Depending on the manufacturer’s unit sizing, openings may need to be enlarged or reduced. These changes or adjustments to brick, siding, interior trim and drywall affect installation costs and in some cases require additional contractors to complete your project.
The benefit to replacing the entire window unit is you get a more energy efficient system, have the ability to insulate around the openings, and best of all qualify for the energy tax credits. There are a variety of products and manufacturers depending on your homes style, your taste and budget.
A cost effective approach (usually around 30 percent less) I like with double hung windows is to simply replace the sash units. It may sound a bit invasive but today’s sash kits are remarkably easy to install and have a minimal effect, if any, on existing exterior and interior materials since your existing window frames remain in place. Of course it is very important that your existing frames are in good condition and not suffering from a lot of rot or sitting racked or out of square in the openings. If this is your situation, it is best to replace the entire window.
Sash kits are an excellent way to get the benefit of new windows without all the fuss and mess. They can be custom sized and are available in a wide range of styles and materials including wood, aluminum clad, vinyl and in some cases a combination of materials. They come with double pane insulated Low-E glass, UV protection, and muntin (grilles) patterns that can be manufactured to fit almost any design. A real plus with sash kits is the tilt out sash capability you achieve for ease of cleaning as well as maintaining the architectural style of your older home. Sash replacement kits provide attractive solutions to replacing those old drafty units.
But the greatest feature is the ease of installation. With proper sizing the units can be ordered so that installation is quick and easy. Old sashes are removed from the frame while the window casings, trim and sills remain intact. This saves you money, time, and is much less invasive. New sash kits are comprised of the sashes themselves, which come with insulated glass, new jamb liners and hardware. Once the old sashes are removed, take the time to insulate or caulk any openings in your existing window frames.  If you have the old rope and pulley system, the cavities which house the weights can be insulated to increase energy efficiency.  Once you have had sealing work performed the new jamb liners are fastened into place the sashes are installed and hardware put on. Some minor caulking finishes off the job. Note that wood units will need to be painted or stained on the interior and exterior.
In most cases an entire unit can be re-worked in about an hour, less painting, by a professional installer or around two to three hours if you choose to do it on your own depending on skill set. There are insert systems (entire window unit which fits within your existing frame), which also provide easy installation and energy efficiency.  Inserts are typical with many vinyl window products, which are custom made to fit within your existing openings. You may loose some glass area with these insert systems but the benefits you achieve in maintenance and energy efficiency are still great.  The only con to double hung sash replacement kits is they don’t qualify for the tax credits.
Nonetheless, the money you will save each month on utility bills, the ease of installation and cost savings over installing entire units may be worth it.
Happy Remodeling!
Jesse Morado is CEO of Renovation Coach, Inc. a consulting firm providing new construction and remodeling guidance to homeowners and coaching on business best practices and risk management for contractors.  He is a Certified Remodeler and Certified Aging in Place Specialist and currently serves as NARI Nationals Education Committee Vice Chair. Contact him at (404) 729-4969 or at www.renovationcoach.com.