Energy efficiency is a great way to save money each month, something every homeowner is looking for ways to do. The reason that many new homes and renovated old homes are opting for multi pane windows is for their ability to save energy – and therefore their monthly bills.
But is it worth investing in multi-pane windows to save energy? The answer is not always yes – it really depends on your situation.
And then you have to consider the big question – double vs triple pane windows….. are triple pane windows really worth the extra cost?
Let’s take a detailed look at these two types of multi pane windows and see if they are the right choice for your home.
What is the difference between double and triple pane windows?
Both double and triple pane windows are constructed to improve energy efficiency not only in modern environmentally friendly homes but old ones that want to spruce themselves up and go green in the process.
Their construction is relatively simple (this visual aid can help shed light on the difference) but the subtle differences make the choice significant between how much energy efficiency you need versus its effectiveness in your area, for the length of time you will use it, and for what price.
How each type of window is built determines how useful it will be to you and has a major impact on its cost and viability.
Double pane windows are much more common than triple pane. They are a relatively simple luxury item that adds more energy efficiency to a house by increasing its heat retention with a system of two panes of glass. The space between the two panes of glass is usually filled with a gas.
The insulating gas between the panes (usually krypton, argon or occasionally just air) reduces heat loss from within the house. Double pane windows are also frequently constructed with low-energy glass, which features a glaze that further reflects sunlight, preventing radiation and heat buildup from increasing the temperature of your house.
Most major window manufacturers feature double pane options made of different materials and advertise their advantages in monthly energy savings. Taking advantage of the heat-retaining properties of double pane windows takes the pressure off your AC system in both the summer and winter, since less heat comes in and less heat leaves.
By contrast, triple pane windows are not as commonly offered by major manufacturers. With three panes of glass, their construction is a little more complex, which makes them more of a luxury item that fewer factories are equipped to produce.
With three panes of glass, there’s even more room for insulating gasses and less heat loss as a result. Triple pane windows are made almost exclusively with argon between the panes and feature added insulation at a higher price.
According to James Burkett from Snoring Source, an average-sized triple pane window costs approximately $818 per window, which is significantly more than the average double pane window, which could be as low as $450.
Why would you spring for windows that can cost twice as much? According to the Department of Energy, anywhere from 25 to 30 percent of all heating and cooling energy use in American homes is due to a lack of heat retention.
In other words, a window update makes sense in terms of recouping those losses each month on your power bill. The only question is: how long will it take for more expensive windows to pay off in terms of energy savings?
With the number of windows in an average American home, it could take as long as 30 years to start seeing financial returns on an investment in triple pane windows, according to a study conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This means that the first thing you should decide when looking at multi-pane windows as an investment is how long you plan on living in the house in question.
Since it will take decades longer to pay off your investment in triple panes, double panes are the safer option, particularly in warmer climates where the winters don’t get as harsh.
Energy efficiency, according to the Efficient Windows Collaborative, is important in both the cooling and warming seasons of the year. They found anywhere from 16 to 26 percent savings in per month energy costs based on the new window constructions implemented and the temperature of the area in which they were installed.
In areas with a long heating season, the main issue facing homeowners that want to save on their power bill is heat loss, which is the main factor in switching to double or triple pain windows. With both the multi-pane technology and low-energy glaze of energy-efficient windows, you can keep more heat from your system inside the house where it belongs.
Particularly for older houses, upgraded windows can also reduce air leakage, which can further benefit your utility costs. Double pane windows are more efficient than single, but triple is the most efficient. This means you have to weigh the savings benefits against the significant price increase.
For those in areas that get much hotter or colder than average, with long seasons that require either heat or AC, triple panes will recoup their cost the fastest.
Soundproofing is another aspect of double and triple pane windows that can benefit people differently. Depending on how noisy your residential area is, you may want to invest in multi-pane technology for that reason alone.
Not only do double pane windows reduce the surrounding sound in your home, but the building scientist Joe Lstiburek even talked about the physical and mental benefits in his talk at the 2019 International Builders Show. Reducing noise made people more at ease in their homes, more able to concentrate, and less likely to develop anxiety.
One thing to keep in mind in terms of sound reduction is that since triple pane windows have less space between the panes, they do not deliver significantly increased sound reduction over double pane windows. Unlike the benefit to energy efficiency, the sound reduction is not significant when upgrading to triple pane.
So Which Should You Choose?
If you live in an area with a long heating or cooling season, you may want to invest in multi-pane windows. Between double and triple pane options, you should select your house’s renovations based on your budget and your predictions for how long you will be living in the house in question.
While triple pane windows give benefits to a house’s ability to retain heat and fight off condensation, they cost so much that only after a few decades will your investment start to pay off. For the family house, particularly in an area with overworked AC or heating systems, triple panes may be worth it.
Just keep in mind that due to their thin construction, triple pane windows don’t reduce sound significantly more than double pane. If that’s the reason you’re springing for this renovation, you may not need to pay the premium price.
Double and triple pane windows are an upgrade to normal windows in energy efficiency, condensation reduction, heat retention, and sound reduction. Their wildly different prices mean that you have to prioritize based on your area’s climate and the length of time you plan on staying in your current house.
If you plan on living in a house for decades, triple pane windows will eventually give you back the greatest return on your investment in energy savings. If you may move in the next ten or fifteen years or if noise reduction is the main reason for your renovations, you may only need to invest in double pane windows.