Single Pane vs Double Pane Windows: What’s the Difference?
We can’t talk about homes without talking about windows, and if discussing windows you’re probably interested in the difference between single pane vs double pane windows. Windows provide insulation, air circulation and views to the outside. Yes, windows are too important to shut the door on when you’re doing home updates!
If you’re doing a double take on window options, you’re probably noticing that there’s a decision to be made between single-pane and double-pane windows. Which one is better? The real question comes down which one is a better choice for your specific home.
Like all major decisions for your home, you’ll need to weigh costs against your needs, long-term goals and aesthetic preferences. Let’s pull back the drapes to take a hard glance at the truth behind single-pane versus double-pane windows.
What’s the Difference Between Single-Pane and Double-Pane Windows?
While single-pane windows are made of one layer of glass, double-pane windows have two layers. Yes, it seems simple enough. However, there’s a world of difference hiding in that extra layer.
If you’re wondering about appearance, you should know that single and double windows are virtually interchangeable when it comes to style and appearance.
The big difference comes down to performance.
With a double-pane window, the benefits don’t just come from the fact that you’re getting “double the amount” of glass. The insulation gap between the two panes of glass within a double-pane style creates a “cushion” effect that acts as a barrier for both air and noise. Many newer styles of double-pane windows actually use a product called argon gas that serves as an insulating barrier between the two panes.
Single and Double Window Costs
There’s a pretty big chasm between the cost of single windows and the cost of double windows. However, you have to keep in mind that the upfront cost isn’t the only factor to consider. While you may be in for some “sticker shock” when you see the price difference on paper, keep in mind that lifetime savings can skew your actual costs.
Just how much more do double-pane windows cost than single-pane windows? According to an average price comparison done by HomeAdvisor, the cost breaks down $50 to $75 for a new single-pane window versus $350 to $400 for a new double-pane window.
The Efficiency Angle
When talking about window costs, you have to also look at cost savings gained over the lifetime of owning your windows by choosing to go with a more efficient option. Double-pane windows are much more efficient than single windows.
According to EnergyStar.gov, it’s possible to save more than $500 per year on energy costs just by upgrading to more efficient windows. More specifically, studies conducted by Energy Star reveal that homeowners can save between 21 percent and 31 percent on heating and cooling costs by making the switch from single-pane windows to double-pane windows.
If you upgrade to Energy Star windows, you’re looking at an average annual savings of 12 percent for utility costs. Use a window cost calculator to help you determine how much upgrading will save you, write down what you typically spend on heating and cooling costs in an average month.
For example, if you spend $300 per month to cool and heat your home, that works out to $3,600 per year ($300 x 12 = $3,600). If you upgrade, you’re potentially bringing your bill down to $3,168 for the year based on a savings estimate of 12 percent. That brings you to a savings of about $432 per year.
Keep in mind that this benefit is not just a one-time savings win. It’s repeated for each year that you stay in your home. There’s also a potential financial incentive to upgrade to double-pane Energy Star windows even if you won’t be staying in your home.
Living With Double or Single Windows
The big difference between single and double windows comes down to the level of insulation you’re getting. That insulation is what makes double windows capable of preventing air seepage that forces your heating and cooling systems to work harder to maintain your desired temperature.
Thinner insulation can also impact noise. Single-pane windows don’t block outside noise as effectively as double-pane windows. This is especially important if you’re in a residential area with lots of noise from traffic, neighborhood dogs or “close” neighbors.
Beyond Window Style: The Right Window Frame Contributes to Performance and Energy Savings
Not all framing is equal in terms of efficiency! Make sure you’re optimizing your window choice if you’re investing money in new windows by also selecting the right window frame.
While it’s often sold with a feature called a “thermal break” for added efficiency, aluminum is considered to be the least efficient option. Here’s a look at the top picks if you’re picking frames based on energy efficiency:
Fiberglass and vinyl are the two big winners for Texas homes. With fiberglass, you’re getting a decently efficient material that stands up to heat and humidity. Vinyl frames offer the best efficiency combined with a top level of durability.
While wood may look like a cozy, farmhouse-inspired option, keep in mind that this isn’t New England.
Typically, the heat and humidity in Texas are just too overwhelming for wooden frames. While the dry heat in an area like San Antonio does provide just a little bit of room to entertain wood frames, it’s not an option to get caught up on as you get closer to the shore because the coastal humidity levels are notorious for warping wood window frames.
Final Thoughts on Choosing Between Single and Double Windows
If you’re looking for energy savings and a quieter indoor environment at your residential property, the double-pane option is the clear winner. When deciding between double and single windows, you’re ultimately making a decision between paying more for windows now and paying more in long-term energy costs.
The only caveat here is that the benefits can be a bit “all or nothing.” If you’re just replacing one window in your home because it was damaged, it’s probably more cost effective to go with a single-pane window. Spending hundreds more for a double-pane window when updating just one window won’t be worth the cost because you won’t get the cumulative benefits for saving on heating and cooling costs the way you would if you were doing a full window reset.
Another caveat is that it might be worth upgrading that one replacement window to a double window if you think you’ll be doing a full-house window replacement in a few years. Having that one single-pane window lingering after you’ve done your full replacement could take away from your total efficiency.
At the end of the day, you just have to crunch the numbers. Don’t begin shopping for new windows for your home until you’ve already tallied up how much you’re paying per month for energy costs. This will help you to run a long-term analysis on how much you can expect to save based on the energy-saving estimates provided by specific window manufacturers you’re considering.
There’s good news even if your budget only allows for single-pane windows. Upgrading to new windows from old, drafty windows helps cut down on energy costs every time!