Are Impact Windows Worth the Cost?

Warmer ocean temperature combined with likely La Niña conditions have created the perfect storm for an increased chance of named storms in the Atlantic this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center predicts an above-normal hurricane season and urges homeowners in high-risk regions to take early precautions.

NOAA forecasts 17 to 25 named Atlantic storms this season, with four to seven becoming major hurricanes rated categories 3 to 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher. There’s no guarantee whether these storms will occur in such high quantities or make landfall, but past La Niña seasons have been extremely active.

The most recent La Niña hurricane season was 2020, with a record-breaking 30 named storms. The second highest season for Atlantic storm activity in the last century was in 2005, another La Niña year, with 28 named storms and 7 major hurricanes.

Homeowners can prepare for the impending storm season by replacing outdated windows with impact windows. Impact windows are one of the best ways to protect your home, but are they worth the hefty price tag? Here is what you need to know.

[Read: How Much Do Energy-Efficient Windows Cost?]

What Are Impact Windows?

Impact windows provide superior protection, energy efficiency and noise reduction compared with traditional double-pane windows. “But the critical difference between an impact and a non-impact window is that it has the rigidity and ability to withstand a small projectile, or what they call a missile in rating testings,” says Frank Madonia, vice president of sales for Storm Smart, a storm protection manufacturer, fabricator and installer in Fort Myers, Florida.

Impact windows look like normal double-pane windows, but they have a laminate liner sandwiched between two layers of glass. This layer, made from polyvinyl butyral (PVB) or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), makes the window shatterproof. The outer layer of glass can still be damaged when an object hits it, but the laminate liner absorbs the impact and stops it from penetrating all the way through.

The goal of impact windows is to prevent breaking, says Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes in Tallahassee, Florida. “When a hurricane moves debris and breaks a window, pressure comes inside the home. It eventually increases until it explodes your home from the inside out, like a balloon popping. That’s why we say it’s critical to protect your openings.”

Understanding Impact Window Ratings

“A lot of people say impact windows are designed to withstand wind, but really, it’s built for design pressure (DP), which are atmospheric pressure and storm winds that could launch a projectile,” says Madonia. The higher the DP rating of the window, the better it can withstand high winds with pressurization and moving objects.

Not all impact window-resistant windows are created equal, Chapman-Henderson says. “Impact windows in South Florida and Miami-Dade Broward are tested against a Missile D. Missile D test shoots a 9-pound 2×4 wood plank at the window moving 50 feet per second,” which assesses whether the window can withstand large items flying through the air, like tree limbs.

All windows should specify the missile rating on their sticker. Chapman-Henderson says if you’re paying the premium for impact windows, buy the highest rated Missile D.

Your local government will outline what rating is required for your home. DP ratings can vary based on proximity to the coastline, the height of the building and even the architecture of the property. Madonia says the DP rating requirement for a Miami condo on the 20th floor won’t be the same as a home in Jacksonville or Tampa because the strength of the storms in these areas isn’t the same. “In South Florida, that should meet the requirements of a high-velocity hurricane zone area,” he says.

Agencies like the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and local governing bodies regulate DP requirements. To ensure you’re getting the right rating for your area, work with a professional installer who will order impact windows that match the local building code.

[READ: Can You Build a Hurricane-Proof House?]

Benefits of Impact Windows

Protection during high-wind storm scenarios is an obvious benefit of impact windows. They also eliminate the need for temporary measures, like putting plywood or shutters over the windows.

“They’re passive, you don’t have to do anything, and they’re always there. That’s especially nice in areas of your home that are difficult to access, like a second story,” says Chapman-Henderson.

There are several other benefits to having impact windows instead of standard double-pane windows.

Security: The shatterproof protection of impact windows reduces your chances of a home invasion from breaking a window.

UV protection: Impact windows have a low-E coating to block ultraviolet (UV) rays that can fade furniture and flooring over time. This is a feature energy-efficient double-pane windows also have.

Noise reduction: The laminate layer between the glass helps reduce exterior noise even more than a double-pane window, which can be especially helpful if you live near a busy street.

Energy efficient: Double-pane windows, including impact windows, can improve your energy efficiency particularly if you have old and poorly sealed windows. Their insulating properties will keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Passive and permanent solutions: Since impact windows are resistant to shattering and rated to withstand hurricanes and tornadoes, you don’t need other debris protection like plywood or storm shutters. You don’t have to worry about finding storage space for these materials or installing them before the storm arrives.

Lower your insurance bill: Some states will offer a reduced annual premium for insurance if all openings, including windows, garage doors and exterior doors are impact-rated.

How Much Do Impact Windows Cost?

The cost of impact windows will depend on the size of the window, the required DP rating for your home and labor costs in your area. In some states, impact windows can be double the cost of a standard energy-efficient double-pane window. However, Madonia says, “The cost of impact glass compared to a standard window is typically 20% to 35% more. If a standard window costs $700, maybe the impact window would be $1,200 to $1,300 approximately.”

He says all impact windows are custom-ordered and take several weeks to make. You can get virtually every type of window in a standard home, from single-hung, horizontal roller to casement windows that crank out to sliding glass or French doors.

[Related:How Climate Change Could Impact Your Home Value]

Are Impact Windows Worth The Cost?

Impact windows may be worth the added cost in a high-risk hurricane area. In some instances, like a new build, they may even be required unless other coverings like alternative shutters are installed. However, they aren’t the only solution and they do have drawbacks. Aside from the cost, they may require professional installation and could limit ventilation and fresh air flow.

Chapman-Henderson says she noticed in post-storm investigations that impact windows won’t necessarily break to the point where pressurization would happen, but they may still crack, which means you have to replace them. This repair can cost around 35% to 45% of the total cost of the window. If the window costs $1,000, it would cost around $350 to $450 to replace the broken panel.

If you have the money to pay the premium for impact windows, it is usually worth it. The benefits typically outweigh the cost, particularly for homeowners who may not be physically able to prepare their windows before a storm, or for out-of-town owners who may not be nearby to prepare properly. It’s also great for hard-to-reach places in a home.

If impact windows are out of your budget right now, look for state-run programs that offer money for hurricane-preparedness home improvements. Florida offers a grant of up to $10,000 to homesteaded homeowners to replace their roofs, add roof clips or replace their windows with impact-rated windows or permanent shutters.

If you aren’t getting impact windows, make sure your insurance agent includes the proper wind coverage on your policy. Most insurance providers in hurricane-prone states have a special named storm or wind debris protection clause that needs to be included with your homeowner’s insurance policy. Not having this could leave you uncovered if your home is damaged from wind debris during a storm.

More from U.S. News

What to Do if You Lose Your Homeowners Insurance

Can You Build a Fireproof Home?

How to Prepare and Repair a Home Before and After a Hurricane or Major Storm

Are Impact Windows Worth the Cost? originally appeared on

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