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Consumer Reports Rates Home Replacement Windows

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, homeowners across the nation take notice. In this month’s issue of Consumer Reports, the well-respected customer advocacy magazine looks at home replacement windows.

During the test, the magazine’s labs tested 17 different windows. The majority of replacement windows tested by Consumer Reports were wood replacement windows. Six vinyl home replacement windows were tested, and one fiberglass home replacement windows. Some major brands were not included in the testing, as they were unwilling to submit anonymously, as the magazine requires.

Windows tested by Consumer Reports covered a wide range of price points, starting from a $180 Lowe’s Reliabilt vinyl window to a $600 Pella window made of clad wood. All the windows tested were Energy Star-qualified. Factors tested were air and rain resistance, durability, and convenience.

According to Consumer Reports, replacement windows can help you save between 10-25% of your heating and cooling expense annual. The magazine does point out that the high cost of the home replacement windows often means that the period to recoup the cost of their purchase can be several decades long — but then adds they can make your home more comfortable, quiet, and attractive.

With that in mind, what home replacement windows were rated the best by Consumer Reports?
The top performers were wood home replacement windows. The magazine notes that both wood and fiberglass home replacement windows are markedly more expensive than vinyl replacement windows. When subjected to Consumer Report’s demanding tests, the wood replacement windows tested excelled at keeping out cold and water when new, and showed little change in performance over an extended period of time.

However, vinyl’s more affordable prices often make vinyl home replacement windows the window of choice for many homeowners. Consumer Reports did note that for some homeowners, vinyl simply does not match wood or fiberglass on an aesthetic level: critical for older or historic homes. However, vinyl’s low price and superior energy efficiency have resulted in the product dominating over half of the current US home replacement window market.

Top performers for wood replacement windows were Clad Ultimate and Wood Ultrex Integrity by Marvin. The 400 Tilt Series by Andersen, a vinyl clad wood window, was rated best overall. Top vinyl home replacement windows were 5600 Series Reliabilt and the Alside Ultramaxx.

Andersen, Marvin, Pella, and Alside all recommend professional installation of their products. Many of the lines available from these top manufacturers are available only from authorized dealers who have their own installation teams. What does Consumer Reports think about that?

The answer may surprise you. While it is possible to save a few dollars by purchasing replacement windows from a home improvement store and doing the installation yourself, that may not be the wisest decision Consumers Reports did a survey of their readership. Those who had the installation handled by trained professionals reported that they were more satisfied overall, especially compared to those who used contractors recommended by Home Depot or Lowe’s.


  1. Have you ever tested appleby windows and what was their rating. thank you Terry

  2. I disagree with Consumer Reports findings alluding to it being a good idea to let Home Depot or Lowes pick your contractor. Like everything home improvement, a little research and talking to previous clients goes a long way. Don’t expect the big box stores to back their sub-contracted guys; if something really goes bad- yes, they will step-in to attempt to fix it. However, most customers complaints occur when a detail is missed here or there. These are more often than not blown-off.

    Bottom line: pick your own contractor and ask a lot of questions.

  3. The article is interesting but as an employee of Lowe’s who happens to sell windows and their installations, WE never recommend contractors or installers. This is for strict legal reasons. We do offer installation services but never give names of contractors fir outside services.

  4. I’d be inclined to set with you here. Which is not something I typically do! I love reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!