Home Improvement Tips | A Home Improvement That Pays for Itself

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Crescent City Living LLC Licensed LA RE Commission

I live in a house that was originally built in the 1950s.  Over the years, the original owners added on (and added on and added on) as their family outgrew the existing space.  Lucky for me, by the time they were ready to sell the house, it clocked in at well over 2,500 square feet of living area.

Not so lucky for me, they weren’t as concerned with energy efficiency during their expansion spree.

When we originally bought the house, we knew it would need work.  It was definitely what a Realtor would call a “handy man special”, a “fixer upper” or a “diamond in the rough”.  But we were captivated by two huge living spaces, a larger than average lot size and a location with family and friends all in the same block.

So, we bought it and embarked on our own spree – this time of updating and renovating.  We updated electrical systems, painted, changed floors, painted, renovated bathrooms, painted, changed out a broken air conditioner, painted, replaced the roof and painted some more.  After several months of work, we were finally able to move into our home and begin to really make it our own. 

After we occupied the house, we were disappointed to find that running 2 air conditioners and cooling a large single story house in the New Orleans heat was a little harder on the budget than we planned for.  Even with the addition of insulation, we were being hit with summer time electric bills that were running over $400-$500 per month.  But then winter came and the bills settled back down to normal.  As summer approached each year, we kept saying that we needed to change out all of the old windows in the house.  Like so many other projects that cost more than a couple of hundred dollars, it kept getting pushed to the back burner.


This year, we decided that there would be no more procrastination.  As we were painting and replacing flooring in one of the bedrooms, I decided to get a price on having the windows replaced at the same time.

I called my favorite contractor and he sent the window guy out to measure and prepare a quote.  Thankfully, it wasn’t as expensive as I was afraid it would be, so we bit the bullet and ordered the windows.

After waiting for a couple of weeks for delivery, the day finally came when the sounds of construction filled my house and those old, crank out, casement monstrosities were removed to make way for double insulated, low E, energy credit at tax time windows.

Within a couple of days, all of the windows were installed and caulked, windowsills and casings were retro-fitted and the appearance of the front of our house took a giant leap into the 21st century.   We had just paid an enormous electric bill, so we couldn’t wait to see what the next billing cycle would bring.

Finally, that Entergy envelope arrived in the mail.  What we usually viewed with dread, we were excited to  see…hoping for any reduction in our bill, but assuming that the recent hot, hot weather would mean another sky high bill.  The envelope please…I ripped into the bill…scanning the date to be sure that it was for the time since the windows had been c168073_linstalled…looking for that heart stopping number that meant another big deduction from the checking account…

To find that our bill had been cut by more than 50%!!  Yep – and that’s for a month when we had record heat and no rain.  I can only imagine how small they will be during the winter months when we use very little electricity beyond our appliances.

If you are looking for an easy way to reduce your monthly utility expenses and make your home more energy efficient, changing your windows is definitely an improvement that will pay for itself over time.

Related Reading:

This article originally published at West Bank Living

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Dianne Hicks
Realty ONE Group - Poway, CA

Thank you so much for great article. I didn't realize the savings would be that great. It really grounds what I tell my clients is that yes you pay higher property tax on newer homes but the additional money could easily be eaten up in the utilities.  So if you are going to buy an older home look into insulating better and changing windows, resealing and all that good energy efficent upgrades.

Aug 07, 2009 05:27 AM #36
Dana Cottingame

I have a 1950's house and I have longed for new windows for years. My two stumbling blocks are: 1)there are too many choices and 2) how do you select someone to do the work.  Can you share the brand and features of the windows that you selected and suggestions for picking a contractor to do the work. I had an energy audit done on my house where they caulked all the windows, sealed all the water lines, secured the duct work to the plentum and registers and weatherstripped all the doors. It was paid for by a government grant. The man in charge told me the crank style windows on the front of my house were the greatest energy drain in my house. The program provided good information and a valuable "honey do" list of improvements.  My next project is the windows. Thank you for any suggestions.

Aug 07, 2009 05:34 AM #37
Lisa Heindel
Crescent City Living LLC - New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Real Estate Broker

Dana, I had those crank out casement windows too and they were ugly and allowed so much air loss from the house.  When we decided to replace them, I used a reputable, local general contractor (that I've worked with in the past) who in turn lined up the window installer.  It was the window guy that recommended what would work best in my house and told me about the energy credits.  Check out the links in the post and you'll find the government guidelines for what is eligible for the credit.  I really relied on the expertise of the person I hired.

Aug 07, 2009 06:25 AM #38
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

It sounds like it was something that needed to be done.  But how much did it cost you to get those savings.  That is always one of the questions I look at.  I do not think solar has taken off yet because it is not cost effective.

Aug 07, 2009 06:34 AM #39
Joetta Fort
The DiGiorgio Group - Arvada, CO
Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder

We installed new windows because of cold winters (when the wind blew, the curtains would move with the windows closed!). But still need to battle the heat. I've heard good things about attic fans or whole house fans, so that's next for us.

But I want to say something about crank-out casement windows - yes, the old ones were bad. But when we were choosing our windows we did the research and found that the crank-out windows seal tighter than the others.(Plus, we think they look cool, especially in older homes) When we sell, i hope everyone doesn't automatically assume the windows are of the same poor quality as they were 50 years ago. It's kind of like those people who won't have wood floors because they're hard to take care of, but their last experience with them was in 1960.

Aug 07, 2009 06:36 AM #40
Lisa Heindel
Crescent City Living LLC - New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Real Estate Broker

Gene, it's not just the initial cost of the windows...it's a two fold savings after the fact.  (1) I'm using less energy, which should be everyone's goal with the limited amount of resources we have and (2) by using less energy I'm spending less money every month.  Since we don't plan to sell, we will pay for the windows in less than 3 years based on the monthly savings we are experiencing immediately.  If we were to sell, the windows add to the value of the house.  Win-win.

Aug 07, 2009 06:39 AM #41
The Rains Team
Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners - Hoschton, GA
A higher standard in real estate

Hey Lisa, Those new windows were definitely a good investment!

Have a great weekend,

Anne Rains

Aug 07, 2009 06:40 AM #42
Lisa Heindel
Crescent City Living LLC - New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Real Estate Broker

Joetta, I didn't even know they made new crank out windows!  Are they well insulated and energy efficient?  As for battling the heat, isn't that what air conditioning is for?  LOL!

Aug 07, 2009 06:41 AM #43
Brian Madigan
RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto) - Toronto, ON
LL.B., Broker



I have two window companies "for sale". They both have so much business, that they can't takle any more bookings this year.

Their view is that things cannot really get any better, so selling the company actually makes sense.


Aug 07, 2009 09:03 AM #44
Amy O'Laughlin
Saint George, UT

What a happy ending, Lisa-hooray! Your story has motivated (reminded) me to look into that with my crank-out windows.  Thank you for the links, and have a great weekend!

Aug 07, 2009 10:21 AM #45
Damon Gettier
Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert - Roanoke, VA
Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE

Contratulations on the energy savings!  My brother and I replaced 14 windows in his house last year and a day and a half.  He paid someone to wrap the windows but we installed them ourselves for a huge savings!

Aug 07, 2009 10:40 AM #46
Esko Kiuru
Bethesda, MD


Great savings. Today's windows can really make a budget-favorable impact on homeowners. The initial cost can be a concern, but long-term savings will more than cover that.

Aug 07, 2009 11:24 AM #47
Karen Bernetti
Southington, CT

Smart choice - and such wonderful results!  You should see even more savings at tax time!  

Aug 07, 2009 11:57 AM #48
Erica Ramus
Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA - Pottsville, PA
MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate

Very good advice to anyone with an older home, and with the tax break it's almost brain dead!

Aug 07, 2009 12:35 PM #49
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Very nice post today with good tips for sure.  Thanks for sharing w/ AR

Patricia Aulson/[portsmouth nh real estate

Aug 07, 2009 12:43 PM #50
An Marshall
Berkshire Hathaway - St. Augustine - Saint Augustine, FL
Your St Augustine Real Estate Consultant

I've been reading some very discouraging blogs this evening regarding economic forecasts and blogs going back on forth on legal lines being crosssed, I am so happy to read a "good news blog".  Good job finally getting the windows installed!

Aug 07, 2009 12:55 PM #51
Kristin Moran
Owner - RE/MAX Access - KristinMoran@Remax.net - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio,TX - Real Estate - 210-313-7397

What a signifcant savings....what did you do with it?  I too am excited to see a few posts from you on AR!  I won't jinx it & say "welcome back" though.  :P

Aug 07, 2009 02:39 PM #52
Lisa Heindel
Crescent City Living LLC - New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Real Estate Broker

An, that's such a nice comment.  Thank you so much.

LOL @ Kristin...thanks :)

Aug 07, 2009 04:16 PM #53
Bill Bergen
RE/MAX Results Realty (Marco Island FL) - Marco Island, FL

My first home was a 100+ yr old farm house with the original single pane glass. It was so drafty that you often couldn't tell if the window was open or closed. After replacing the windows we not only saved $ and were more comfortable, but the kids were no longer constantly walking around with the sniffles. Good move.

Aug 08, 2009 09:05 AM #54
Joseph "Cathan" Potter
Coldwell Banker - Sebastopol, CA

That's amazing.  It's incredible how much you can save with energy efficiency.  I had a similar experience with shower heads and sink aerators, but the windows have yet to be replaced.

Aug 11, 2009 12:51 PM #55
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