Click below to listen to our Consumerpedia podcast episode on how to buy new windows.

Today’s windows are technological marvels. The frames and panes for even basic models provide much better insulation than old configurations, reducing drafts and cutting home energy costs. Modern windows are also easier to clean: no need to teeter on high ladders; simply tilt in or remove them and wash them inside your house.

But these benefits come with high price tags—basic vinyl replacements run more than $750 per opening, on average. And although many window installation companies present overly optimistic claims about how much money their products will save you on energy costs, even if your current ones are extremely inefficient you won’t recover the full project costs of new windows from resulting energy savings.

But there are other good reasons to replace old windows. Maybe yours are rotting or broken, too drafty, hard to wash, or just ugly. Or you want to reduce outside noise or add a window to a blank wall. And many homeowners want to minimize their homes’ energy use and the environmental impact, regardless of costs.

As you shop, remember the type of windows you buy will affect your home’s appearance, the amount of light admitted, your comfort, and energy savings. Plus, some windows last longer than others. For information on durability, check the results of Consumer Reports’ tests. Also compare warranties.

To evaluate windows for energy efficiency (and for realistic utility-bill savings), check info available from the Efficient Windows Collaborative and Energy Star’s windows program.

Unfortunately, in addition to dubious claims about energy savings, many window installation businesses fail their customers. Our surveys of homeowners reveal some companies were rated “superior” overall by fewer than half of their surveyed customers. But there’s also good news: we also found some very highly rated installers.

Obtain several price quotes. Our undercover shoppers found big differences when they collected price quotes for different jobs. For example, for one window replacement project, prices quoted by area outfits ranged from $3,230 to $8,221.