We Didn’t Save Any Money After All

Last year my husband and I had new windows and doors installed in our home. In fact, we had every exterior door and window replaced. We did this for two reasons. First, our old windows were absolutely abysmal. Many of the windows couldn’t be opened, a few of the panes were cracked and the screens in just about every one had holes that allowed bugs of all types to fly in. On nice warm days I was unable to open most of the windows and I couldn’t stand the fact that we couldn’t let in the fresh air.

In addition to comfort we renovated the windows in the hopes of saving a significant amount of money on our gas and electric bills. Our house was built in the 1950s and the windows were constructed of single pane glass that you could feel the cold air pushing through. In the wintertime our house was downright frigid. I thought for sure that our bills would shrink after the installation was complete.

Tonight I reviewed the past three years worth of utility bills and I’m afraid to say I see little improvement in the amount of money we shell out each month to heat and cool our home. I find it rather difficult to compare data from various years because I don’t know what the weather was like for each individual month.

It’s obvious that a very cold winter cannot be compared to a moderate one, because we probably cranked the thermostat up much higher. It’s also difficult to compare the data because we are keeping the house much warmer for our son than we ever did when it was just the two of us. Despite these differences I expected to see a fair amount of difference in usage, but unfortunately I don’t see much difference at all.

I’m curious if anyone else has ever installed windows and doors to provide greater energy efficiency. If so, did you have any success? I wonder if we have other areas of our home that our draining the heat and/or cold out of our home or if there are other culprits of our energy usage.

8 thoughts on “We Didn’t Save Any Money After All”

  1. Well I installed whirly birds in my roof to increase the flow of air so the roof doesn’t heat up too much. It’s quite common here in teh sub-tropics of Australia. I also installed vents in the ceiling (I think I’m the only one I know who’s done that) so that the ceiling vents can let the hot air out in the hot Spring-Autumn weather. The result is that I almost never use the air conditioner – I think only have turned it on 3 times all summer. That’s a significant saving, and keeps the air turning over so I don’t worry about mould from humidity build up.
    Now, the ceiling vents can be switched closed in winter. To keep the house warm, and I’ve got some open-plan areas; I’ve installed thin voile curtains. These do just enough to keep hot air in the one area, they also work in reverse to keep out the drafts. I also have two sets of curtains on all my single-pane windows (thin curtains and blockout curtains) and the curtains rest a couple of inches on the floor. Curtains and pelmets do amazing things to stop cold air when its frosty outside.
    These are my ideas so far anyway. Hope you make some improvement!

  2. I haven’t personally done it, but when going through the paperwork from the previous owners of our 1950s house, it looks like they installed all new efficient windows and doors within the last ten years. The installation came with a guarantee that they would save x% on their heating and cooling bills within two years, and they DIDN’T. I know this because they left behind the paperwork for the refund that they were given by either the installer or the manufacturer. It seems to have come to around $250.

    Is that maybe an option for you?

    Another thought, have energy/gas costs increased a lot in your area? In New York, our rates were raised three times in four years, each time for between 4 and 12%. No amount of efficiency would have made up for the difference in those increased costs (not that our apartment building bothered with things like double-paned windows).

  3. What is the insulation in your attic and walls like? I used to live in a house built in the 50s and it had no insulation in the walls. We had an attic fan as described above which helped in the summer but the house was cold in the winter and hot in the summer (in Southern California near the desert where it is 90-100F in the summer and in the 30-40s on the cold winter nights). I know what you mean about the windows being so thin and feeling the cold air come through them but they are only part of the equation.

  4. We added several new windows and storm doors with great success.

    On a windy day, do the candle test. Walk around your exterior walls and vents with a lit candle while the heat is off. Watch the flame. When it gets in a draft it will flicker all over the place.

    Did you insulate all of your electrical outlets?? Cold air comes in around them as well. Are your walls insulated?

    Many electric companies rent or loan voltage meters, which will tell you what is sucking down too much electric.

    Insulated drapes help.

    Is your attic insulated?

    If you have a fireplace, maybe you need to make a guard to place over it when not in use, and make sure the damper is closed.

    Any window or wall ac units need to be covered in the winter.

    Do you have a basement or a crawl space? It might need insulation as well.

  5. Our house was built in the 50s too and we get build up of ice on most of them during the coldest days so replacing them is on our list. I was hoping it would save on energy bills as well. Thanks for posting about this.

  6. Are you accounting for the fact that you are home all day every day vs. a year ago when you would have been at work for 9 or 10 hours a day Mon to Fri?

  7. @Vivienne Ellis – I wish I’d thought about the curtains before we had our new ones installed. Prior to getting the windows upgraded we actually didn’t have any curtains on the first floor at all! We now have curtains on all of the windows, but I don’t know if they provide much in terms of keeping the house warm. I think they might just be pretty to look at 🙁

    @Little Miss Money Bags – The rates have risen slightly, but not enough to account for the slim margins. Good thought though. I also plan to investigate the money back option for not being satisfied with our windows. I don’t think our company had something like that, but it’s certainly worth taking a few minutes to look into.

    @Michelle – I’m not certain how to inspect the insulation in our walls. Our walls are made of plaster not drywall. Do you have to cut a hole in one of the walls to find out or is there a less intrusive method?

    @April – I’m not sure about the insulation or the electrical outlets. I guess that’ll be up next on our list of things to investigate.

    @jolie – While the cost savings might not be there. I have to say that replacing the windows is still one of the best home improvements we’ve ever had. The house is certainly less drafty, but the ease of opening windows is so much better! I don’t know about your windows, but ours required a key to open the ones on the first floor. It was a complete pain in the a** so more often than not we just didn’t open them at all, which made us rely on air conditioning a lot more than I wanted.

    @Clare – I hadn’t considered the impact of being home all day. Not only are we keeping the heat up higher, but you are correct we are running it 24 hours a day. Last year we were using a programmable thermostat to turn the temperature down when we weren’t at home. Good point and something I hadn’t considered!

  8. Up until a month ago, I would have ho-hoed and ha-had the idea that new windows and doors would actually save heating costs — but we had all our dining room windows, plus the deck door, plus a few smaller windows replaced. I am amazed at how much warmer it is to sit in those rooms at night — and our heating bill went from $124 (last year) to $66 (this year, for the same month). We did have slightly warmer temperatures around here — but not that much.
    So yes, at least in our case, it worked. I’d suspect you’re using up some of the extra savings by keeping the heat on — and up — 24 hours a day. We keep our thermostat generally at 62-65 degrees. Kept it at 68 degrees when we had young kids at home.

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