Once the norm, single-paned or single-glazed windows are rarely found anymore. Double-paned, or double-glazed, windows are now the standard type of window in most residential building and remodeling.
When comparing single- to double-paned windows, there is no contest. Double-paned windows offer stellar energy efficiency, better soundproofing, and overall increased interior comfort.
Double-Paned (Double-Glazed) Window
A double-paned window has two panes of glass set into a frame to create two layers of glass with an intervening gas or air pocket to better insulate a room. This window is sometimes referred to as a double-glazed window. An insulating glass unit (IGU) is a type of double-paned (or multi-paned) window.
What a Double-Paned or Double-Glazed Window Is
A single-paned window with one sheet of glass is a style of window that served homes for centuries. It's long been known that two exterior surfaces with an internal air pocket provide better insulation than one surface only. But it wasn't until the 1950s that double-paned windows were introduced commercially and then later become common in homes around the 1970s.
Double-paned windows are now standard for both new construction and replacement windows. Triple-paned windows are sometimes recommended in environments with harsh weather for maximum insulation.
Glazing essentially means glass or, in this sense, panes of window glass. Professionals who work with glass are sometimes called glaziers. Though sometimes used among people in the glass trade, the word glazing is rarely used by consumers or retailers anymore.
Advantages of Double-Paned Windows
Though glass itself isn't much of a thermal insulator, it can seal and maintain a buffer from the outside. Double-paned windows offer a significant advantage when it comes to the energy efficiency of a home, providing a better barrier against outside temperatures than single-paned windows.
Pane vs. Sash
The gap between glass in a double-paned window is commonly filled with an inert (safe and non-reactive) gas, such as argon, krypton, or xenon, all of which increase the window's resistance to energy transfer.
Though gas-filled windows have a higher price tag than air-filled windows, the gas is denser than air, which makes your home significantly more comfortable. There are differences between the three types of gas that window manufacturers prefer:
- Argon is a common and most affordable type of gas.
- Krypton is typically used in triple-paned windows because it performs best within extremely thin gaps.
- Xenon is a cutting-edge insulating gas that costs the most and is not as commonly used for residential applications.
What R-Value Means For Double-Pane Windows
R-values are given to different products to help consumers understand the expected thermal resistance of the material. Though the insulating value of a window can be measured in a number of different ways, the most common is the R-value system. The R-value measures the material's resistance to energy transfer. The higher the R-value number, the greater the resistance and the higher the insulating value of the window.
Some windows have a special low-E (low emissivity) insulating film on the glass that bumps up the R-value. The film adds another way to reflect heat energy into or out of the home. The thin transparent coatings on the window are comprised of a metal oxide or silver applied to one or more of the glass surfaces to further reduce the energy transmission.
|Number of Panes||Air/Gas||Coating||R-Value|
|2||Filled with 1/2-inch of air||None||2.084|
|3||Filled with 1/2-inch of air||None||3.226|
|2||Filled with argon||Low-E (1 coating)||3.846|
|3||Filled with argon||Low-E (1 coating)||5.433|
Wall R-Values vs. Window R-Values
With window R-values reaching nearly 5.5, how does that compare to wall system R-values?
A standard two-by-four stud wall with batt insulation and wallboard and wood siding has an R-value of R-12 to R-15, which is considered to be on the lower end compared to other types of materials and sidings.
Window manufacturers continue to develop technologies that will allow windows to more closely approach the higher R-value of the walls themselves. Still, walls will always provide better energy efficiency than windows.
Tips for Improving Window Efficiency
No matter how well-designed they might be, double- and triple-paned windows can always be helped along to eliminate energy loss. Here are tips to help improve the efficiency of your windows:
- Use thermal curtains. Thick thermal curtains drawn across the windows at night significantly raise the window's overall R-value.
- Add window insulating film. You can apply your own thin clear layer of plastic film to the window trim with adhesive. Application of heat from a hairdryer will tighten the film.
- Weatherproofing. Older windows may have hairline cracks or they are beginning to open up around the framing. Those problems let cold air enter the home. Using an exterior-grade silicone caulk can close up these leaks.
- Replace foggy windows. Windows that are foggy between the two panes of glass have lost their seals and the gas has leaked out. It is usually best to replace the entire window to regain the energy efficiency in your room.
- Cover up windows. Windows in disused or rarely used areas waste energy, with little benefit to show for it. When the window has little value to you, consider filling it in with an insulated wall system. First check with your local permitting office to make sure that this is allowed since some areas, by code, must have egress to the exterior.