By Jennifer Tuohy
Having shivered through many an Idaho winter and sweated through several South Carolina summers behind single pane windows, I’ve given some serious thought to investing in new, more efficient window options. Upgrading to double or triple pane windows can bring numerous benefits, including energy savings, a more comfortable home, and a nice upgrade to your home’s curb appeal.
Consider Energy Efficiency and Comfort
There’s no point in properly insulating your walls, roof, and floor then neglecting to do anything about the windows. You’ll end up with cold spots, drafts, and condensation on the glass, not to mention higher energy bills. Both double and triple pane windows can help better protect you from the elements – but how do you know which window type is best for you? Here’s a look at the differences between the two and how they work to help you decide which is right for your home.
Double Pane Windows
Double pane windows have a layer of gas between the panes that acts as a barrier to block the heat and the cold. This insulation more than doubles the R-Value of the window (the resistance of the window to heat conduction) compared to non-insulated, single pane windows. Going from R2 for a single pane to R4 for double pane provides a significant cut to heat loss. According to Energy Star, replacing every single pane window in your home with double pane windows can save you $101 to $583 a year in energy costs.
In warmer climates, however, R-values are less important. Instead, you’re trying to keep the rays of the sun from heating up your home. In this case, pay attention to the window’s Solar Heat Gain Coefficient rating (SHGC), and look for a window that achieves a 0.30 rating or less. Double pane windows with a high-quality Low-E coating that reflects the heat and blocks UV rays will help prevent your HVAC system from working overtime in the summer.
Triple Pane Windows
Triple pane windows have all the benefits of double pane, plus they have increased energy efficiency and are more resistant to condensation. They add another layer of both glass and gas, which increases the R-value, but not as much as switching from single to double pane does. On average, a triple pane window with Argon gas achieves an R4.5 or R5, only slightly better than a double pane’s R4. You can choose the more expensive Krypton gas to get an R6 or R7.
But that increased energy efficiency is not significant enough to cover the increased cost—it could take 10 to 20 years to recoup your investment in energy savings. This means the upgrade to triple pane is only a good choice if
- The cost difference is negligible (i.e., it costs $100 per window or 10 percent more overall than the cost of double pane windows).
- You live in a cold climate where interior condensation is a common issue.
- You’re concerned about your carbon footprint and realize that every little step toward energy reduction makes a difference.
Triple pane windows are also heavier than double pane, but with a high-quality design and well-engineered product, you won’t notice it with everyday use. They also offer more soundproofing than single or double, but not enough to upgrade just for that reason. If you need soundproofing specifically, laminated glass or impact-resistant storm windows are a better option.
Should I Upgrade?
If you already have double pane windows, there’s no need to upgrade to triple pane. However, going from single to triple if you live in a cold climate could make a world of difference. You’ll also see the biggest savings going from single to triple, based on economies of scale.
If you live in a climate that has cold winters and warm summers, you might consider installing triple pane windows for just the north- and east-facing rooms in your home, where you'll see the most benefit, and installing double pane windows everywhere else.
In most moderate to warm climates, double pane windows with a Low-E coating are the best option. They maintain comfort levels in your home by eliminating drafts and cold spots, and they save energy by reducing solar gain, and therefore your use of air conditioning.
Whichever option you choose, you can increase the energy efficiency and comfort of your home by using blinds, shades, or curtains correctly. Open them on winter days when the sun is shining to benefit from solar gain, and close them at night to reduce heat loss. Keep them closed on hot summer days to block the sun’s heating power. If you struggle to remember to do this on a regular basis, consider investing in motorized blinds that open and close themselves based on a schedule. Some even respond to the temperature inside your home.
Jennifer Tuohy has 15 years’ experience in newspapers, magazines, marketing, and online content. She writes for The Home Depot on a variety of subjects, but her passion lies with technology, sustainability and the intersection of the two. Jennifer helps readers find the most sustainable options for their home, whether it’s switching to smart LED lighting or upgrading their windows to double- or triple-paned options. If you’re considering getting new windows for your home, visit The Home Depot’s website to find a qualified installer