Whether you’re building a new home or looking to renovate your current home, upgrading your windows is a practical way to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
After all, windows can account for up to 30% of a home’s energy costs.
While there are many energy efficient window options today, thermal windows are a popular choice.
Along with giving your home a modern look, thermal windows can help you save money on your heating and cooling bills.
What Are Thermal Windows
The official definition starts with energy efficiency design and focus.
They help keep heat in or out of your home (depending on the season) thanks to their lower U-factor.
The U-factor refers to how quickly heat is lost. Windows with a high U-factor are less energy efficient. The lower the U-rating, the better. Thermal windows have the lowest U-ratings, so they’re very insulating.
Typically, these windows have multiple panes with insulating gas between each one. The combination of having two or three panes and the insulating gas is what makes these windows so energy efficient.
Most thermal windows also have low-e glass that blocks UV light and improves energy efficiency.
Thermal glass windows offer many benefits, including:
A window’s R-value indicates its insulating level. The higher the R-value, the better the window will be at keeping heat in or out.
Single pane windows have the lowest R-value and offer very little energy efficiency – less than 1.
Double pane and triple pane windows have much higher R-values, which translates to less heat transfer, a more comfortable home and lower energy costs.
The typical R-value for double and triple pane windows are as follows:
Double pane with 1/4" air space: 1.72 in winter; 1.64 in summer
Double pane with 1/2" air space: 2.04 in winter; 1.78 in summer
Triple pane with 1/4" air space: 2.56 in winter; 2.27 in summer
Triple pane with 1/2" air space: 3.22 in winter; 2.56 in summer
As you can see, triple pane thermal windows offer the highest R-values, but a double pane still offers far more energy efficiency than a single pane window.
Keep in mind that these are just the typical R-values. There are thermal windows that offer even higher R-values, which means even greater energy efficiency.
Energy efficient thermal windows make your home’s interior more comfortable. They help prevent drafts, so you can sit comfortably next to a window even on the hottest or coldest days.
Thermal windows can also help prevent cold spots in rooms, so you enjoy better overall comfort without having to crank up your heat or air conditioning.
The most obvious and greatest benefit of installing thermal windows is the energy savings. Multiple panes and insulating gas reduce heat transfer. In the summer, they keep the heat outside – where it belongs. In the winter, they prevent heat loss and keep cold air outside.
Installing thermal windows means that your home’s heating and cooling system won’t have to work as hard to heat or cool your home. That translates to greater savings on your energy costs every month.
Single pane windows are susceptible to condensation. Condensation occurs when there’s a significant difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures. It’s most common in the winter because temperatures dip so low overnight.
The biggest issue with condensation is that it causes beads of water to form on the window and drip down onto the sill. Over time, the moisture can damage the sill.
Condensation is less likely to occur with double or triple pane windows because there isn’t such a drastic temperature difference.
A quiet home is a happy home. Thermal windows reduce exterior noise, so you hear less of the outside world and more of what’s happening inside of your home.
Whether you have noisy neighbors, lots of traffic on your street or construction nearby, you’ll appreciate the noise-reducing properties of thermal windows.
Because thermal windows help reduce moisture buildup, there’s less concern about:
This makes it easier to maintain your windows and keep them looking their best. Less condensation also means that it’s a little easier to keep your windows clean, which saves you time.
More energy efficiency features will naturally cost more but also offer a lifetime of savings potential.
If you’re assuming that thermal windows cost more than regular single pane windows, you’re right. Because these windows have multiple panes and insulating gas, they come at a higher cost.
But it’s important to remember that installing thermal windows will save you money over the long run.
The average cost of a thermal window can range anywhere from $300 to over $800 per window. Costs can be even higher in some cases. It really depends on the manufacturer, the size of the window and how many panes you choose (double or triple).
Our experience shows that the upfront costs can average between 7 to 18% higher with thermal energy efficient options. With that said, over the typical life span you will recoup that initial cost with substantial savings on heating and energy bills.
If you’re considering thermal windows with gas insulation, you may be wondering what type of gas is used.
Gas-insulated windows can be filled with argon, krypton or xenon.
The most common gas used for gas-insulated glass is argon. It’s the most affordable gas, and it offers great energy efficiency overall.
Another popular option for insulated windows is krypton. Overall, this gas offers better energy efficiency compared to argon. However, it’s high cost has prevented it from becoming the industry standard.
Although krypton-insulated windows come at a higher upfront cost, they may offer greater long-term energy savings. Some sources claim that krypton gas can reduce energy costs by as much as 40%.
A newer option for gas insulation is xenon. The great thing about xenon is that it’s 4.5 times heavier than air. Not only is it great at preventing heat loss, but it also offers extra noise reduction.
That being said, xenon's rarity makes it an impractical choice for residential windows in most cases.
What is a Low-E Coating?
Ideally, you want to choose thermal windows with a low-e coating to maximize energy efficiency.
Many thermal windows have a low-e coating. What exactly does that mean?
Low-e coating consists of a metallic oxide layer that’s applied to the inside of the glass pane to reduce heat transfer and UV rays.
Low-e coating plays an important role in energy efficiency. Typically, a standard triple pane window will offer greater energy efficiency than a standard double pane window. However, a double pane window with a low-e coating is more efficient than a standard triple pane window.
How Long Do Thermal Windows Last?
On average you can expect a minimum of 10 years of energy efficient savings.
With proper care and maintenance, thermal windows can last up to ten years – maybe longer. The window’s lifespan really depends on the type of pane and its quality.
While they may come at a higher upfront cost, but they can offer a decade or more of energy savings (with proper care).
If you’re installing new windows in your home, thermal is a great option. They offer excellent energy efficiency that will save you money over the long run. Triple pane thermal windows will offer the greatest energy savings, but double pane will still offer significant savings compared to traditional single pane windows.
Consider your budget and what other features may be important to you, such as gas insulation or material choices, to determine which type of thermal window will be best for you.
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