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What are Hurricane Impact Windows Ratings?

Does your house need more than windows?

While plenty of homeowners around the country will do just fine with standard windows, people who live in storm territory know that windows are important defenses against costly repairs, serious injuries and complete home destruction.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shares that windows and doors are the primary sources of most household damage during storms. FEMA also warns that standard windows are especially vulnerable to impact from wind and windborne debris. In addition to posing risks for humans and pets, windows that shatter easily can cause pressure increases that create long-term structural damage.

With hurricane season officially lasting form June 1 through Nov. 30, Texans spend nearly half the year in a state of preparedness. That’s why more and more homeowners are fortifying with hurricane impact windows.

Understanding how hurricane impact windows ratings work when shopping for these windows for the first time can be tough. First, it helps to know about the benefits that the unique construction of hurricane impact windows brings to the table.

The Design of Hurricane Impact Windows

Not all windows are created equally, so let’s quickly cover the anatomy of a hurricane impact window:

  • Frame: These windows have vinyl or aluminum frames that stop cracking, splintering and rusting. That makes them both sturdier and easier to maintain.
  • Exterior Glass: A strong tempered glass is great for boosted energy efficiency.
  • Interior Glass: The interior glass on a hurricane impact window is actually heat-strengthened glass that’s either laminated glass or impact glass. In addition to making your HVAC system more efficient, the interior glass on hurricane impact windows blocks UV rays from entering your home.
  • Glass Film: Using the same technology that’s found in car windshields, a clear interlayer glass made of PVB or SGP prevents glass from shattering. This is important for keeping glass from dangerously blowing into your home during a storm.
  • Open Space: Lastly, hurricane impact windows have the same air or argon gas filled in between the two window layers as ordinary double-pane windows.

All of this comes together to create windows that can sustain heavy winds. While most people are familiar with the ways that hurricane impact windows prevent wind breaches during heavy storms, they may not be aware of the everyday benefits of these windows.

Yes, hurricane impact windows actually enhance your home every single day of the year when there’s not a storm cloud in sight!

Lower Energy Bills

The “ironclad” design of hurricane impact windows also happens to greatly increase energy efficiency at your home for greater comfort with lower heating and cooling bills.

Noise Reduction

Hurricane impact windows can greatly reduce “common noise” compared to standard windows!  This is measured with the STC rating or sound transmission class rating.

Ultraviolet (UV) Protection

When you live in a sunny climate that lacks shade, UV light that streams in from the windows can fade furniture, keepsakes, art, walls and floors. The built-in UV protection of hurricane impact windows prevents UV rays from penetrating your home!

Just make sure that you’re purchasing hurricane impact windows that are labeled as low-e windows to get this benefit! Low-e windows reduce the transfer of UV light without minimizing visibility!

Extra Safety If Windows Are Breached During a Storm

There’s also the peace of mind of knowing that there won’t be a large “explosion” if a storm does breach your windows. With ordinary windows, glass tends to break into huge, floating pieces of sharp debris that “blow out” in any direction. When glass breaks on a hurricane impact window, it actually shatters into small, pebble-like pieces that greatly reduce the risk of injury for humans and pets.

Hurricane Impact Windows Shatter


There’s also a “hidden” perk to installing hurricane impact windows that has nothing to do with storms. All of the storm-proofing features built into this design also make your home more secure against intruders.

Increased Home Value

If you’re thinking of selling your home in the future, hurricane impact windows are huge selling points on the Texas market! The rough storm seasons in recent memory have caused many people to seek out storm-ready features when shopping for new homes.

They Look Just Like Regular Windows

Hurricane impact windows don’t look like “security” windows. They come in so many different looks and shapes that can look like they were made custom just for your home’s design!

How Are hurricane Impact Windows Ratings Determined?

Windows are rated with several different standards to determine how well they hold up in stormy situations. These standards will help you get an idea of what to choose based on your specific property.

(DP) Design Pressure Rating

The most commonly used measurement for hurricane windows, the design pressure (DP) rating is the number used to identify a window’s ability to resist wind pressure and water.

Air infiltration, water infiltration and structural load are considered when determining a window’s DP. A higher rating means high resistance.

(PG) Performance Grade Rating

The performance grade rating is actually an overlap of the design pressure rating. Consumers should know that a design pressure rating only requires a window product to “meet standards” on two out of the three tested components (water infiltration, air infiltration and structural load). The performance grade (PG) rating uses all three.

For this reason, consumers should look at the PG rating before making a decision! Any reputable vendor will lead with the PG rating.

Wind Scale Ratings

As any Texan who has lived through a few storm seasons knows, meteorologists assign ratings of 1-5 to hurricanes. This rating is based on wind speed. The rank goes from 74 miles per hour to above 157 miles per hour.  This is better known as the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.

A window’s wind scale rating simply quantifies the window’s ability to withstand wind speeds.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Are There Any Downsides to Hurricane Impact Windows?

If you live in a region that’s prone to severe storms, it’s hard to make an argument against hurricane impact windows.

The right windows can potentially save you from thousands of dollars of damage the next time a storm rushes through. There’s also the peace of mind of not being afraid of your windows the way you have to be when you don’t have storm-ready windows in a storm-prone climate.

What’s more, hurricane impact windows don’t only benefit you during storms. Their benefits enhance quality of life at your home by reducing energy costs, blocking UV rays and cutting down on noise.

You still have to consider the investment. The only real downside to hurricane impact windows is that they cost significantly more than regular windows.

While that initial investment can be stressful, hurricane impact windows offer significant lifetime savings in the forms of things like reduced energy bills and prevention of pricey storm damage.

Some insurance companies actually provide discounts for homeowners in hurricane zones who have hurricane impact windows.

Final Thoughts on Choosing Hurricane Impact Windows

If you’ve decided that you’ve endured a storm with rattling windows for the last time, it’s time to look into hurricane impact windows.

In addition to giving you peace of mind during the big chunk of the year known as storm season, these new windows are going to help you cut down on energy bills all year long for a great return on investment!