How Long Do Windows Last? A Guide to Window Replacement

Replacement windows can be a big investment, and homeowners often question whether the cost is worthwhile. Window style is a main component of your home’s architecture, adding curb appeal and providing light and fresh air circulation. They also play a big part in your home’s energy performance and interior comfort. Yet even high quality windows will break down eventually; in fact, the average lifespan of new windows is just 15 to 30 years.

Older homes often have drafty, single-paned windows that offer little insulation against extreme temperatures. A house built in the last few decades may even have modern windows that are near the end of their life expectancy. If your windows are more than 20 years old, it’s time to have them inspected and consider window replacement.

How do you know when your windows need replacing? There are many signs it’s time, including high energy bills, warping, and condensation on the glazing. We’ve put together a list of things to look for, along with information on the best window materials to choose for this critical home improvement.

What is the average life expectancy of windows?

The life expectancy and performance of home windows depends on the material used and quality of construction. Even well-maintained windows become less energy-efficient over time, as seals eventually fail and frames can warp, allowing drafts and water to seep in.

  • Wood windows: Suffering most from exposure to the elements, wood windows must be repainted and resealed every 7-10 years. Proper maintenance and exterior cladding will help wood frames last several decades, but warping makes them drafty and inefficient after about 20 years.
  • Aluminum windows: With their low-maintenance exteriors and lower price point, aluminum windows have been popular in the past. However, because aluminum transmits heat more easily between indoors and out they are less energy-efficient. The maximum lifespan of aluminum windows is about 20 years.
  • Vinyl windows: Vinyl windows vary considerably in quality; low-end window types may begin to fail after 10 years, while high quality vinyl windows can last 30 years. Vinyl windows can warp and fail when exposed to extreme heat over time, so windows with Southern exposure will have a shorter lifespan.
  • Fiberglass windows: Fiberglass will not warp, expand or contract from heat or cold, so it’s ideal for window frames. This durable, stable material maintains tight glazing seals and reduces heat transfer for maximum energy efficiency. While fiberglass windows are more expensive, they have a lifespan of 25-50 years.

How do you know when it’s time to replace your windows?

If you have an older home with single-pane window glazing, it is absolutely time for window replacement. Modern double-glazed or triple-glazed windows are far more energy-efficient, as you can see here:


Even if your windows are double-glazed, they become less efficient as they age. Here’s what to look for as you inspect your existing windows:

Visible Damage To The Glazing Or Frame

A broken window isn’t just unsightly, it’s a maintenance issue. Cracks or breaks in just one layer of double-glazing destroys the insulating properties of the space between. A cracked or rotten window frame will no longer form a tight seal when closed, allowing air to leak in or out. Visible damage on even a few windows is a solid indication it’s time for window replacement.

Windows That Stick

Difficulty opening or closing windows indicates that the frames are probably warped or unbalanced. Wood windows might warp or swell from moisture intrusion, and vinyl windows can warp in the heat. Single- and double-pane windows often stick as they get older, and may even become jammed shut, which could be dangerous.


Condensation on the outside of your windows can happen in humid weather conditions, and isn’t a cause for concern. However, condensation on the interior can indicate that your windows are leaking air. Any condensation between the panes of double or triple-pane windows means the air-tight seal has failed and the insulating gas has escaped. When this happens, it is time to replace the window.

Faded Carpet & Furniture Near Windows

Modern windows offer the UV protection of low-emissivity (low-E) glass. Low-E glass is treated with an invisible film that keeps UV rays and solar heat from passing through. If furniture, rugs, or fabrics near the windows are faded, your home would benefit from replacement windows with UV protection.

Drafty Windows

Noticeable drafts can make a room uncomfortable, but many windows become drafty over time without anyone noticing. If you have increasing utility bills and there’s no other explanation for it, aging windows may be the cause – even if those windows have a lifetime warranty. This leaking air is straining your HVAC system, making it work harder and increasing your energy bills. Replacing drafty windows will save energy and help make your home consistently comfortable year-round.

What happens if I don’t replace my windows?

Nearly everyone is aware that keeping old windows can lead to expensive energy bills, but there are other reasons for window replacement. Once the seals have failed around a window, water can seep into the window frame and walls, creating serious structural damage over time. Moisture intrusion promotes mold growth, creating a potential health hazard and very expensive cleanup. Plus, since up to 30% of your heated or cooled air can leak out through inefficient windows, your home will continue to be uncomfortably hot, cold, or drafty.


A Replacement Window Cost-Benefit Analysis

In the past, the top selling point of some window replacement companies was that the new windows will “pay for themselves” over time. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EnergyStar program estimates that the average U.S. home can save $101 to $583 a year when replacing windows. However, these savings calculations were originally based on replacing single-pane windows, which few homes have today. If you spent $8000 on replacement windows with a savings of $500 annually, the cost would be recouped in 16 years.

If you are replacing double-pane windows with EnergyStar-qualified replacement windows, the EPA estimates savings of up to $197 a year. Covering the cost of an $8000 renovation would take 40 years. However, energy bill savings are not the only financial benefit of replacement windows. The reduced load on your HVAC system can significantly extend its life. Plus, window replacement projects have one of the highest returns of any home renovation. Up to 78% of the cost can be recouped in the price of your home when you sell it. Replacement windows also improve curb appeal, further increasing the value of your home.

Marvin Signature Ultimate double hung windows

Added Benefits Of Window Replacement

In addition to increasing your home’s value and saving energy, replacement windows provide many other benefits:

  • Increased security: Modern windows offer advanced locking systems, smart home integration and tempered glass for superior security.
  • Upgraded interiors: Replace chipping paint or stained vinyl with brand new, beautiful interior finishes.
  • Easy maintenance: Replacement windows offer tilt-in sashes that are easy to clean without climbing a ladder.
  • Reduced street noise: Modern double or triple-pane windows provide noticeable sound dampening.
  • Improved comfort: Replacement windows not only eliminate cold drafts in the winter, they support year-round climate control. Modern window glazing reflects the sun’s heat outwards in summer, and retains it inside in winter.

Shop Replacement Windows At Ring’s End

Are you renovating a home or considering replacement windows? You’ll love Marvin’s extensive selection of designer window options available at Ring's End, the largest supplier of Marvin Windows in the Northeast. Visit our Marvin Windows Product Guide to learn more about their four high-quality collections and a range of price points, each with an industry-leading warranty.

Our window experts make it easy! They’re ready to help you navigate through the choices, set up an installation plan, and deliver your windows safely and efficiently. Schedule an appointment online with one of our Marvin experts to get started today!