As a homeowner, making the investment in brand-new windows can be an intimidating home improvement task. If you’re not prepared or well-versed in the latest window technologies, deciding between the most innovative, high-tech models on the market can feel overwhelming.
Double and Triple-Pane Windows
Most homeowners know that single-pane window products are the cheapest and most inferior types of window products sold today. Many of them are set on double-pane windows when they decide to replace their windows—that is, until they become aware of the existence of triple- and even quadruple-pane products.
At Smart Exteriors, our mission is to help guide our customers through the process of an easy, efficient, and no-hassle home remodeling experience. That means researching the market to find the best products we can find that offer the greatest value possible. In this guide to double- and triple-pane windows, we’ll break down the difference between these two types of window products to help you decide on the one that best meets your needs for window replacement.
What’s the Difference?
At the most basic level, the difference between a double pane window and a triple-pane window is the number of glass panels inserted into the window sash. As their name implies, the double-pane window has two window panels, whereas the triple-pane window has three panels of glass.
The number of panels a window has doesn’t really play a role in efficiency considering that glass itself is a thermal conductor of heat. Instead, the true insulating power of both types of windows comes from the gases present between each panel of glass. This inert gas between the glass panels acts as a barrier against the transfer of heat. This is important in the winter and summer when temperatures are extremely cold or extremely hot.
What to Consider When Purchasing Double-Pane Windows
After single-pane windows, double-pane window products are the most cost-effective window types on the market today. Vastly superior to single-pane, double-pane windows are excellent at reducing heat loss and promoting overall better energy-efficiency. In addition to better functional capacity, double-pane windows are also versatile when it comes to aesthetics, and can be produced with any frame material in almost any style choice—whether it’s a casement style window, a double-hung window, or another style.
Other things to consider with double pane-windows include:
Frame Material: Energy-efficiency is an important quality for any window type. That’s why you must look past double- or triple-pane and consider instead the material you use for the frames and other important characteristics that will affect the quality of your window’s insulation. Double-pane windows can be more energy-efficient when paired with a vinyl or fiberglass frame, so stick to those frames to get the best use out of your window choice.
Spacer: The spacer is the gap between panels that determines how effective your double pane window will be. This space must be precise for the best performance possible. Consider the quality of your double-pane window and make sure the spacing meets or exceeds quality standards.
Gas Fill: The insulating ability of your double-pane window is dependent on the gas used to fill the space. Stick to the use of Argon or Krypton as your gas fill option to get the most out of your double-pane window. If cost is a concern, then consider Argon since it’s the cheapest option available.
Glass Type: When choosing your double pane window, look for one that uses low-E (low-emissivity) glass coating to maximize your window’s ability to keep infrared light away, without compromising light visibility in your home. You can also look into windows that boast heat mirror film for increased insulation.
What to Consider When Purchasing Triple-Pane Windows
The biggest incentive of purchasing a triple-pane window should be the advantages it gives the homeowner over double-pane products. A triple-pane window will need to outperform a double-pane model to justify the additional cost, which can be substantially more for the extra materials fashioned into the design.
Before purchasing a triple-pane window, consider these factors:
Frame Material: The triple-pane window is most definitely heavier. This means you will need a strong window frame to hold the additional weight required for installation and high performance. For this reason, it’s recommended to use high-quality vinyl or fiberglass window frame materials to prevent window warping.
Spacers: The spacer is the key difference between the two window options. Just like the double-pane window, the space between panels must be precise. As such, you can’t afford to cut corners on window quality when it comes to this option. The window is only as good as its construction.
Gas Fills: The same gases are used in a triple pane window as is in a double-pane window. However, the extra space increases the effectiveness of the gas fill, so a triple pane window wins in this category. Make sure the gases used for the fill are either Argon or Krypton, as they remain the standard in the window industry today.
Glass Type: You can further improve the triple-pane window’s effectiveness by investing in windows that offer Low-E film. Again, this is where quality matters more than whether you have two or three panels for your window.
Comparing Double and Triple-Pane Windows
One of the most common questions we’re asked at Smart Exteriors by customers considering window replacement is about double vs. triple-pane windows. Window products aren’t cheap—and protecting your investment depends on making the right decision on products and installation services. In this section, we’ll compare the pros and cons of each type of window based on different factors.
Noise Reduction: While most salespersons will swear that the triple-pane window outperforms the double-pane options when it comes to noise reduction, our team of expert contractors found that there is no significant difference in noise reduction between a double- or triple-pane window made of the same quality.
Weight Concerns: Rumor has it that triple-pane windows can be too heavy to install properly. While the triple pane window is indeed heavier than the double pane option, this shouldn’t have any bearing on its performance or installation. If a qualified and trained window contractor handles the installation, triple-pane windows should be able to fit perfectly into any home construction. That being said, the cost may go up if the window area needs to be reinforced before installation—for example, for an older home with structural issues.
Energy-Efficiency: Triple-pane windows can be more energy-efficient than its double-pane counterparts. However, as previously mentioned, the actual quality and construction of the window make a bigger difference than the number of panes, so this is actually the more important comparison to make when considering purchasing one or the other. A better-crafted double pane window will win against a poorly constructed triple-pane window, and vice-versa.
Cost: Ongoing advancements in the window industry mean that triple-pane windows are more available and lower in price than they once were. That being said, a triple-pane window is going to cost more upfront than a double-pane window—around 10-15% more, in most cases.
Which Window Provides the Best Value?
At the end of the day, both options are perfectly acceptable and will make your home more energy-efficient. However, due to their easier installation, comparable noise reduction performance, excellent energy-efficiency, and overall lower cost, we strongly believe that double-pane windows offer the best value for the money.
When buying your next replacement windows, ask your remodeling company to focus on high-quality double-pane products. Shift the focus off of the panes and put it on the other features the windows offer instead—like gas fill types, Low-E coatings, frame materials, glazing, and other options.
If you’re ready to explore your window replacement options, Smart Exteriors can help you make the smartest decision for your investment. Give us a call to speak with one of our agents about our window installation services now, or fill out our online form to schedule your free, in-home pricing estimate and consultation.