Vinyl Replacement Windows - Advice ?

My wife and I purchased a 2500 ft2 Colonial home in suburban Detroit, Michigan, two years ago. The home (and subdivision) was built in 1985, and faces north. When we purchased the home, we knew at some point we would need to replace the windows, as the original stock wood windows were in poor shape, with heavily damaged screens, some broken seals, a lot of sweating, some warped frames and many broken sash cords - so that the windows wouldn't stay open. That first winter we also noticed some heavy drafts.
Well, we were hoping to wait another year for windows, but we're in a financial position to make the investment now, and the weathermen have scared me to death with their "absurdly high cost of natural gas this winter" stories ... so we're looking to have our windows replaced in Dec or Jan. We've solicited several bids, and are now seriously considering going with a local vinyl replacement window company called Wallside Windows (http://www.wallside.com ). They have quoted us approximately $7100 for the following: 18 replaced windows (mostly double hung, 6 with Muntin squares, a large "picture window", and a new 5 1/2 ' doorwall). All windows are vinyl, fusion welded, Super Low E / Argon glass. They are custom made by Wallside, a company that has been in business in the area for 60+ years and offers a 35 year guarantee on their product. Wallside has been referred very strongly to us by several neighbors, as well as some family members - I haven't heard of a negative experience yet.
In any event, I'm interested in any opinions or advice from anyone who has been in a similar situation on the following:
1. Did replacing your 20+ year old windows make an appreciable difference in your heat / AC costs ?
2. Are you satisfied with the decision to go with vinyl over composite or wood (it's significantly cheaper, and most new homes - some $1 mill homes included - around here use vinyl from the start)
3. Is there any potential problems I should be on the lookout for during installation ?
This is a sizeable investment for the wife and I, so I appreciate any insight that might put my mind at ease. We plan to be in the house until at least when our kids get out of school (another 12 years), though that's certainly not a guarantee.
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"elvindeath" wrote in message

Oh yes! Big difference. Windows are the first thing I would replace.

Yes. I like the low maintenance aspect. Also I like the way the windows continue to work. Wood windows need painting, then they get painted shut, then you have trouble opening them depending on the humidity, etc. Wood looks nicer, but I'll take the practical advantages of vinyl any day. It makes my life more pleasant to have one less frustration to deal with!

They need to be installed properly. And the coverings over the windows on the outside/caulking needs to be done in a certain manner. Best to have someone with a good reputation install them. Ask for references.
You also may want to learn yourself the proper way to install them. Then you can be sure they are being installed in the proper manner. Installation instructions for one type of window... (Or search google.com for vinyl window installation instructions) http://www.jeld-wen.com/_pdf/resources/installation/JII001.pdf
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Vinyl is cheap, compared to wood. Wanna guess why contractors use it? Properly maintained wood will last almost forever, which vinyl exposed to uv surely will not.
All the vinly windows I've seen I'd have to characterize as cheap crap, compared to, for instance the wood Marvins I retrofitted.
Wanna paint 'em? Pop 'em out, paint 'em, pop 'em in. True, they cost more than vinyl, but not enough to make any vinyl units I saw worth considering. IMHO.
J
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