This article was crafted with the help of George Schaub from Thompson Creek Window Company

If you shy away from your windows during the winter, battle a constantly stifling home in the summer, hope to cut down on fading fabrics near windows, or simply want to feel more secure in your home, then a window upgrade can help address these common homeowner woes. But how can you ensure that your investment will pay off? George Schaub, the director of marketing at Thompson Creek Window Company in the greater Washington, DC area, offers his expertise on different types of windows and how to select the best fit for your home.

Single- and Multi-Pane Windows: The Basics

With advances in the technology of windows, few homeowners continue to use single-pane windows for their new or replacement window needs, despite the lower cost. “A double-pane window is going to give you much better energy efficiency,” says George. Cutting down on energy bills is a top concern for many homeowners, and double- or triple-pane windows are designed to insulate your home. Multi-pane windows have other benefits as well, including increased security, UV blockage, and noise reduction. Replacement windows can also boost curb appeal and can be a significant benefit when selling your home. Take a look at the following chart to explore the advantages and disadvantages of single- and multi-pane windows.

Window Type Description Advantages Disadvantages
Single-pane A single layer of glass fills the frame of these windows that are commonly found in older homes Inexpensive and useful for outdoor sheds or garages that require little insulation Poor insulator
Double-pane In this Insulated Glass Unit (IGU), two panes of glass are separated by an insulating layer of air or clear, odorless gas, usually argon or krypton These durable windows protect your home from the cold during the winter, keep A/C inside during the summer, and provide an effective sound barrier. Additional Low-E coatings can block harmful UV rays More expensive than single-pane windows and may not prove to be a cost-effective investment if other areas of the home are not properly insulated and sealed
Triple-pane The middle pane of glass is surrounded on both sides by air or insulating gas Ideal for insulating homes that suffer from extreme cold or intense heat More expensive alternative to
double-pane windows

For more information on glass types and treatments, take a look at our articles found here and here about choosing the best types of glass for your windows.

Energy Savings for Your Home

While upgrading to double- or triple-pane windows can help insulate your home, George notes that there are many other factors that homeowners should account for when trying to cut down on their energy bills. “If you have little to no wall or attic insulation,” says George, “you’re not going to see the full benefits of installing energy-efficient windows.” Therefore, when considering a window upgrade, it is important to look at the total insulating power of your home. George also urges homeowners to be wary of any outright guarantees that a certain window will cut down on energy bills. The most energy-efficient windows will do little to reduce energy bills or provide additional comfort if the rest of your home is poorly insulated.

There are other factors that affect how well a window can help to insulate your home. A large amount of window space reduces a home’s total insulating capacity and increases the chance for precious heat or air conditioning to escape your home—“a solid wall is going to be more energy efficient than a wall with a window in it,” says George. He also advises homeowners to consider how their home is shaded, noting that “direct sunlight can cause problems with solar heat gain.”

Choosing the Right Windows for Your Climate

Windows come not only in a variety of designs to fit your personal style but also in a variety of types to meet the nuances of your climate, says George. ENERGY STAR, a government program designed to equip consumers with valuable energy efficiency information, can help you determine which windows are the best fit for your region. George recommends looking for ENERGY STAR labels that highlight your climate zone. You can use ENERGY STAR’s Climate Zone Finder to find out what labels to look for on a window and what requirements it must meet to be considered energy efficient for your region. The National Fenestration Research Council (NFRC) also provides energy performance ratings and information for consumers. Use their Certified Products Directory to search by window type or manufacturer.

For further valuable information on energy efficiency terms and labels, check out our articles here and here on the different types of energy-efficient windows and doors.

Installing Your Windows

The best way to protect your investment in energy-efficient windows is to make sure that they are installed by a trustworthy, reputable contractor. George notes that this will matter most during the installation itself and later in the life of your windows. “You could have the most energy-efficient window in the world,” says George, “but if it’s not installed properly, you’re not going to reap the full benefit of the replacement window.” So how can you tell if your window has been installed correctly? George says that if you feel drafts around your windows, they may not be sealed properly. Additionally, if a window is not flashed correctly, you could face water leakage in your home.

Having a reputable contractor matters not only when the windows are installed but also years down the road. “If you are going to have problems with your windows, generally those problems come ten, fifteen, or twenty years down the road. You want to make sure the company is still going to be in business to address any concerns.” While no one can predict the future, you can better protect your long-term investment in window upgrades by working with a contactor you can trust.

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This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Thompson Creek Window Company, a Window & Door Replacement Best Pick in Maryland. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.