Double vs. Triple Pane Windows: Pros, Cons, & Differences
One of the biggest selling points of double pane windows is their ability to keep hot and cold air at bay, along with minimizing outside noise. So, does that mean triple pane windows are the obvious choice here because they are even more secure and provide better insulation? Well, not quite. The truth is—both options have their pros and cons. Now, the only way we can figure out which windows provide the best bang for the buck is by talking about each in great detail.
Join us, and let’s go over insulation, noise reduction, energy savings, and, of course, pricing. Once you take some time and carefully read through our reviews and check out the general guidelines at the bottom, we guarantee that it will be much easier to put your finger on either double or triple-pane windows. Let’s get started!
Panes, Insulation, and Spacers: Figuring it all out
The term “pane” is used to describe sheets of glass in modern-day windows. So, double and triple pane refers to the number of glass sheets for each window. The panes are separated by spacers. And in between those spacers, manufacturers add an insulator (like krypton or argon) that keeps cold or hot outside air away (and keeps inside air in). As a bonus, you get better sound dampening and more physical security against burglars, rogue birds, and debris.
Going back to spacers, the very first models were crafted from aluminum. However, metal is a strong heat conductor, which is bad news for windows. That makes polymer foam a better option. Plastic and composite materials are also superior to metals like aluminum. If you’ve got extra bucks to spare, go with thermoplastic spacers. Thanks to their unique nature (TP spacers are extruded between the panes), they are more rigid and sturdy.
Double Pane Windows Overview
Alright, let us start by taking a close look at what double pane windows are all about. This technology was patented in the mid-19th century (1865, to be exact) and was introduced commercially in the 1930s. In the US, double pane windows became popular in the late 70s. These days, they’re a standard for construction companies. Even if you go for a set of replacement windows for your older house, it will be much easier to find double pane windows at local stores or online.
Heat and energy loss is one of the biggest cons of single-pane windows. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), up to 30% of heat and energy in US households is lost through the windows. That’s an area where you can improve. All you must do is upgrade to double pane windows. They will keep your home warmer and lower monthly bills. But how big are the gains going to be, exactly?
On average, a double pane window can reflect +/- 90% of energy (that’s indoor heat) and let as little as 10% through (that’s outside heat and cold). If you live in an area with a hot climate, double pane windows will protect you from 90% of the heat. And when it gets freezing outside, only 10% of the cold air will soak in. Another pro: with double pane windows, you get lots of natural light, especially if opt for low-E glass.
This might not be an issue for people that live in the countryside, but for an apartment somewhere in a busy city borough, noise is a major concern. Busy traffic in the middle of the night, planes taking off and landing 24/7, and yelling crowds are, indeed, something to worry about. Besides, even in a rural environment, noisy neighbors and dogs tend to be annoying.
Now, double pane windows do a decent job of dampening exterior sounds. With an STC (sound transmission class) rating of 26–32, they are much quieter than standard windows that have an 18–20 rating. This is important: when ordering new windows, make sure you’re getting a high STC rating. Most manufacturers go with 27, but if you ask for thicker plates and more space between panes, you’ll be able to boost it to 30–32. Oh, and yes, the higher the rating, the better.
Security and Durability
Falling trees, tiny rocks, and burglars pose a threat to your home, and a good window needs to be able to protect against all that. As you’d expect, double pane windows are relatively secure. Breaking through two layers of glass isn’t an easy task, but it can still be done. The frames and the spacers don’t play big roles in this, by the way.
How Much Effort Does the Installation Take?
Even if you live in an older house with decades-old windows, you won’t have a problem fitting double pane windows in its place. That’s because they match the size and the weight while being more secure and energy-saving. If you don’t want to pay a professional to handle the installation, you should be able to pull it off if you’re good with your hands and have patience.
Triple Pane Windows Overview
According to Pennsylvania State University, only 2% of homes in the United States are equipped with triple-pane windows. So, this year, they are a rare commodity. However, these windows do have their pros, especially for people looking to get industry-leading energy savings and better noise reduction, to name a few. They were invented right around the same time double pane windows came around.
Do you live somewhere up north with an extreme, unforgiving climate? Or maybe you reside in an area with a hot and humid climate? In any case, triple pane windows will be your best bet. The reason is they can reflect up to 97% of energy—only 3% will leak through. That means on a cold winter day, these windows will serve as a brick wall, blocking the cold air while keeping the precious hot air in.
On a hot day, your AC’s efforts won’t go to waste, as, again, only 3% of the inside energy/air will escape through the triple-pane windows. The heat, in turn, won’t turn your house/apartment into one big oven—also a big pro. High resistance to condensation will be part of the deal as well. And one more thing: triple-pane windows save 2-3% on the energy bill per year.
You probably think that the extra layers of glass, spacer, and gas offer superb noise reduction. Well, that’s very much true; with that said, triple pane windows aren’t ten times better than their double-pane counterparts. Why is that, exactly? The space between each pane is quite narrow, and the STC rating is almost the same as with double pane windows. The reverberation that occurs in these tight spaces is to blame here.
You’ll still get benefits, of course, especially if you go for thicker glazing and a slightly larger gap between individual panes. That way, the sound transmission class rating will be somewhere between 26 and 38.
Security and Durability
What’s better than two sheets of protective glass? Three sheets, of course, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with triple-pane windows. Right now, they’re one of the most secure options on the consumer market. Some burglars might be able to get through two layers of the pane, but that extra work on the third one could just save your house. Triple pane windows are heavy, too, which makes them even more difficult to penetrate.
How Much Effort Does the Installation Take?
Triple-pane windows are much larger and heavier than double and single panes. That means the average window frame will probably not be able to accommodate them structurally. You’ll have to make some DIY adjustments to make the windows fit properly and sit tightly. It is highly recommended to pay a specialist to handle the installation. Yes, it won’t be cheap, but if you try to do this manually, you’ll probably end up making things worse (like damaging the windows and the frames).
The average labor cost for such a gig in the US is $38 an hour, which is 10–15% more than they’d charge for installing double pane windows.
Double Pane Windows
At the core, double and triple-pane windows are mostly the same. However, there are still some differences between the two worth mentioning. Now, with double pane windows, the gap between the two panes is occupied by insulation gas. Sometimes, it’s just air; in most cases, it’s krypton or argon, though. The gas serves as a blocker against outside air while keeping the inside air from escaping.
That means less pressure is put on the AC unit. this year, window manufacturers actively promote double pane windows, praising their energy-saving capabilities. And, you’ll have a choice between different frame types. These include not only fiberglass and aluminum, but also vinyl, wood, and clad wood.
Triple Pane Windows
The most obvious difference here has to do with the number of panes. With triple pane windows, you get one extra pane for even more heat and sound insulation. The construction is a bit more complex, though, and argon is the prevalent choice of gas with 99% brands. Right now, these are the most advanced windows on the US market with impressive energy efficiency. As for the frame, it’s mostly aluminum.
The reason: triple pane windows are much heavier and need a strong frame to hold it all together. More importantly, they are larger. As mentioned, that can cause issues during the installation.
Are Triple Pane Windows More Expensive?
The short answer—yes, they cost more. What’s the price difference, though? Let’s just say that it’s more than considerable. You’ll practically be able to get a pair of double pane windows for the price of a single triple pane window! The actual price will depend on the brand, the area that you live in, and, of course, how thick the panes are and what kind of gas is serving as the insulator.
Are Triple Pane Windows a Worthy Investment?
Alright, what’s the tradeoff here? Why should you opt for the pricier option? We talked about this earlier in the reviews: triple-pane windows are more energy-efficient, thanks to the extra layer of insulation gas. So, that’s your answer right there. While triple-pane windows are more expensive, in the long run, they will make up for the steep price and even turn out to be a beneficial investment.
But you’ll have for a while to see an ROI, and by “a while” we mean 20–25 years. If you own the house that you currently live in and plan on staying there for at least a couple of decades, triple pane windows will be a better pick than double pane windows. That’s because you’ll be able to enjoy all their benefits and still get most of your investment back. Besides, they’ll improve the value of your home.
Which Window Type is Best for You?
Triple pane windows should only be considered if you’re not thinking about moving out of the house anytime soon. If you are, that’s a big deal-breaker. Furthermore, do keep in mind that if you live in a hot area/state (like Florida, or, say, Arizona) with warm winters, you’ll have to wait for a lot longer before triple-pane windows start paying off. On the bright side, if you’re ready to commit, these windows will be a bargain. This is especially true for a big family living somewhere up north.
And let’s not forget that triple-pane glazing offers added security, which is a big pro for dangerous neighborhoods. Do make sure that installation won’t be an issue before committing, though; otherwise, you’ll have to return the windows. And remember: the difference between double and triple pane windows isn’t that big in terms of noise reduction.
Alright, that’s everything we had to share with you today! Both double and triple pane glazing is a worthy investment if you’re looking to upgrade your windows. It all comes down to what you’re in the market for at this exact moment. Some people put security first while others want to be sure they’ll be able to install the windows on their own. Pricing is also a big factor, of course.
In some ways, your choice will be dictated by how big of a budget you’ve got. And there are no right or wrong picks here. If you’re still not 100% sure which pane will be best for you, go back to the pros, cons, and pay extra attention to our table. That should help you make an educated, thought-through choice that won’t leave you disappointed.
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