If you’re in the market for a new window (or set of windows), you’ve probably heard the terms “single-pane,” “double-pane”, and “triple-pane.” Like the name suggests, these terms refer to the number of panes of glass that make up the window.
You may also know that, for most homes, single-pane windows are not the best option: they are much less energy efficient than double- and triple-pane windows, as the single pane allows hot and cold air to pass through easily. Single-pane windows are also less durable and last for less time than the other types of windows.
Single-pane windows used to be the norm in American homes: your home might even have them. Today’s window options have improved thanks to technology, and most homeowners opt to upgrade to double- or triple-pane windows. But which one is right for your home? Is the third pane of a triple-pane window really worth the extra cost?
Below, we’ll break down the differences between double-pane and triple-pane windows.
Double-pane windows are made of two panes of glass that are separated by a layer of invisible gas. The gas (often argon) serves to insulate the window—lessening the airflow from indoors to outdoors and vice versa. This means that your air conditioning and heating units will be more effective and your house more comfortable in the summer and winter. Homeowners who replace their old windows with Energy Star-certified double-pane windows can save as much as 15 percent per year on the cost of heating and cooling their homes—up to $500, depending on the climate where you live.
In addition to the energy savings, double-pane windows can help with noise pollution. Because they are well-insulated, double-pane windows reduce noise from the outdoors (helping you sleep better) and keep noise inside (so you won’t have to worry about noise complaints from your neighbors).
Double-pane windows also come with the option of low-E glass, a glass coated with a substance designed to reduce UV exposure in the home. Low-E glass reduces your exposure to skin cancer-causing UV radiation and also lessens the UV-induced fading of your home’s artwork and furniture.
Triple-pane windows are made of three panes of glass, with two insulated sections separating them. Triple-pane windows offer the utmost energy efficiency: they can be 20 percent more efficient than double-pane windows and up to 50 percent more efficient than single-pane windows! Triple-pane windows also offer the best soundproofing on the market. (The more layers a sound wave has to pass through, the less the sound will penetrate.)
Like double-pane windows, they can come with a low-E glass coating to reduce UV exposure. They are even better than double-pane windows at this because there is another layer of low-E coating.
Triple-pane windows are heavier than double-pane windows, which means that certain types of window frames and styles should be avoided. For example, vinyl may eventually bend under the weight of triple-pane glass, while fiberglass will hold up very well. Casement windows (which swing out from the wall on hinges) are not the best style for triple-pane windows, as the hinges may become strained and bent over time. Because of their heavy-duty construction, these windows are extremely durable and safe: they are very difficult to break, so you won’t have to worry about stray baseballs or burglars.
Triple-pane windows are more expensive than double-pane windows due to the extra pane of glass and the more costly window frame material required.
Which One Is Right for Your Home?
The type of window that you choose will depend largely on your home as well as your unique needs and priorities.
For most people, cost will be an important consideration. Double-pane windows have the advantage here, as they are cheaper than triple-pane windows and will recoup their cost via energy savings more quickly. Depending on your current windows and the number of windows you need to replace, it may take 5-10 years to recoup the cost of double-pane windows (longer for triple-panes). Because of this, you should consider how much you are likely to save and if it is worth the extra investment for triple-pane windows. If, for example, you are going to sell your home in the next decade, you may not see a full return on an investment in triple-pane windows; double-pane windows would be a better option. If, however, you are updating your forever home, this may not be a concern for you.
You should also know that, when it comes to energy efficiency, replacing your windows is usually an all-or-nothing deal. If your home has single-pane windows, upgrading just one to a double-pane window will not make a noticeable difference in your home’s energy efficiency and will not result in much savings. (This would be like trying to hold in water by plugging just one hole in a colander.) If you need to replace all of your windows, it may make more financial sense for you to purchase double-pane windows.
If you have still have questions about double- and triple-pane windows, the residential glass experts at Jack’s Glass would be happy to help. We’ve been helping Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana homeowners choose and install beautiful, functional windows for more than 70 years. Call us today!