Since double pane windows do such a great job of protecting against hot, cold, drafts, noise, condensation, etc., then triple pane should do an even better job, right?
The answer is…not really. “More” just doesn’t always equate with “better,” and in this case that is doubly (or would it be triply?) true.
If manufacturers truly believed that triple pane windows were the best solution, more and more would be offering them. Currently, only two of our manufacturing partners offer triple pane, and when we brought this issue up in a recent meeting, it came to our attention that triple pane windows don’t represent any more then 3% of all vinyl orders! Why is this?
Simply put, it’s because although triple pane offers a couple benefits over double, what it offers more than anything is hype.
Triple Pane Windows Cost & Efficiency
As you can imagine, the main advantage of triple pane windows is an increase in energy efficiency. But how much of an increase, and at what cost?
The average cost increase for triple pane over double can climb as high as 40%. Meanwhile, the savings on your energy bill will amount to about 2 – 3%. Mathematically speaking, this means it could take as long as 30 years before you regain your investment through energy savings. Of course, if you live in an extreme climate region such as northern Canada, the savings will be more significant and the recoup will happen at a faster rate. That being said, here in the Pacific Northwest we do not live in an extreme climate region – meaning that, unless you’re in this investment for the major long haul, triple pane windows do not offer enough bang for the buck.
While it is true that an additional pane of glass decreases condensation and allows for better insulation – an extra layer of insulating gas between the panes – it’s also true that triple pane windows are often krypton-filled (due to krypton’s insulating performance in thinner spaces), which costs nearly 100 times the price of argon gas – the double pane window go-to. For this reason, and for nearly all intents and purposes, triple pane windows are a luxury product. And like most luxury products, they are more show than substance.
Weight and Construction
As window installation contractors, we want to make you happy. That being said (with a wink), we want to be happy, too. Triple pane windows are heavy – much heavier than double pane windows. Most triple panes frames are initially manufactured only to host double pane, and since a vinyl window’s weight is strictly in the glass, with triple pane you end up forcing three panes into a two-pane frame, and that extra weight, as you can imagine, makes them awfully hard to install.
On the flipside, when triple pane frames are manufactured from the get-go to structurally accommodate the additional pane, the increase in frame depth leads to, in many cases, the frame being too large to install. This sort of triple pane frame will not rest snuggly against the standard interior wall; instead it will protrude beyond it, requiring all sorts of installation adjustments which take more time to fix, increase the risk of damage, and cost you more money.
Triple Pane Windows Noise
Despite the commonly held belief, triple pane windows do not drastically reduce street noise. In most cases, a reduction isn’t even noticeable. Assuming the frame is manufactured to the same depth as a double pane window (which, in order to adhere to building standards, it should be – though, as stated above, often isn’t) and assuming both the double and triple pane insulating glass are of the same thickness and use the same overall width of airspace, then the two respective windows are going to fall within the same sound transmission class (STC). Written plainly: it isn’t worth it to buy triple pane windows just to reduce street noise, because the difference between the two is negligible.
Triple Pane Windows Aren’t Worth the Investment
To sum up: don’t fall for the hype. Unless you live near the Arctic circle and across the street from a bagpipe factory, triple pane windows are a completely unnecessary purchase. Save yourself some big money, and your contractor a major migraine, and go with double pane vinyl – remarkably well-built, high performance windows that are easy to install, completely sufficient for our climate region, and will not break the bank.