Replacing windows is a big undertaking. Choosing the right option is essential for getting the best possible return on investment.
Double pane windows are an excellent option when replacing windows or building a new home. Yet, it's important to understand the problems with these windows too.
Double pane windows are expensive and difficult to repair. They're prone to moisture leaks and mold growth. Additionally, there's no benefit to replacing a single window; you must replace all of the windows to reap the benefits.
The advantages of double pane windows outweigh the cons for most people, but it's important to understand what challenges you might face.
1. They're Expensive
It should come as no surprise that double pane windows are more expensive than single pane windows. In addition to having two panes of glass, these windows typically have argon or krypton gas in between.
The gas between panes is meant to reduce convection, contributing to better energy efficiency. The gas-filled gap also acts as a barrier against noise pollution.
As of 2022, the average cost of a single pane window in the US is $288 to $460. The average vinyl double pane window costs $450 to $600. Wood windows are even more, at $800 to $1,000 each.
Double pane glass was invented in the 1930s, but only 60% of homeowners have them today. This gap is largely related to replacement costs.
Over time, the windows pay for themselves in energy savings. Double pane windows cut heating and cooling costs by 18-24%, depending on the season and climate.
Upgrading windows also increase your home's resale value, boosting your ROI even more.
2. Difficult to Repair
If a double pane window breaks, it's difficult to repair. Even a small leak can release the gas from between the panes, minimizing the positive effects.
You can't replace one glass pane of a double pane window when it breaks. An experienced technician will have to install a new, sealed, double pane unit.
Fortunately, replacing a double pane is more affordable than a full window replacement— as long as the frame is intact.
3. Prone to Moisture and Fog
If the window is installed improperly or the seal breaks, your window will get condensation between the panes.
Condensation is a common issue with single pane glass. However, you can just wipe away the condensation as needed.
Double pane glass is supposed to be condensation-free. If there's moisture between the panes, you won't be able to wipe it away.
This experience can be incredibly frustrating as you won't be able to see outside or correct the issue without professional help. A technician can drill a small drainage hole to limit the condensation, but it won't replace the gas between the panes.
4. Increased Risk of Mold Growth and Dust You Can't Clean
If you notice moisture between the panes, it's important to call for repairs as soon as possible.
Excess condensation can cause mold growth between the panes. It can also negatively impact moisture levels in your home, which could lead to mold growth inside.
Mold growth between double pane windows is rare. It's unlikely you'll experience this issue with newer double pane windows, but it could happen toward the end of their lifespan.
What's more common is the inside of your windows to begin accumulating dust which is impossible to clean.
5. Must Replace All Single-Pane Windows
You only experience the energy-saving benefits of double pane windows if you replace all the single pane windows in the room, and ideally all the single pane windows in your house. Replacing one or two windows is insufficient as the heat will still escape through the remaining single pane windows.
The goal of double pane windows is to seal your home from drafts. If you only replace a couple of windows, the air will still escape from the drafty windows.
Some homeowners choose to offset the costs by replacing the windows in one room at a time. This strategy could help offset heat loss if the door to the room is kept closed.
6. May Require Custom Windows and Extra Supports To The Window Frame
If you have a home that's 50 years old or more, it likely has some charming, antique design elements. You may require custom builds to update the existing windows.
As of 2022, the Home Guide recommends accounting for double to triple the cost of a standard window replacement when working in an older home. This cost includes:
- custom sizing
- replacing rotten frames
- adjusting counterweights
- bringing things to code
Issues like these are common when buying an older home. However, upgrading to double pane windows can help offset old insulation and make your old house more energy-efficient.
If your window frames are standard sizes and in good shape, you may be able to find someone to replace only the panes rather than the entire unit.
7. Difficult to Find Trustworthy Installers
There are horror stories all over the internet about homeowners whose double pane windows start fogging and leaking within months of installation. This can be caused by poor installation.
Most of the issues on this list can be prevented by finding a trustworthy installer. Ask for recommendations, read reviews, and don't hire the cheapest option.
Read the fine print of your warranty to ensure you have coverage for these issues within five years. Look for any potential loopholes that a contractor could use to renege on the agreement.
What's Better than Double Pane Windows?
The only option better than double pane windows is triple pane windows— but they're only better in certain scenarios.
Triple pane windows are 15-20% more expensive than double pane windows. While they positively impact energy efficiency, they have a minimal impact on sound proofing.
The energy savings with triple pane windows don't offer as high of a return on investment for the costs. These windows are ideal for people who live in extreme climates and plan to stay in their homes for 20-30 years.
Are Double Pane Windows Worth It?
Many of the problems with these windows can be avoided with the right installation service. Taking the time to research your options will improve your experience.
Double pane windows also pay for themselves over time in energy savings. If you're selling your home, this upgrade can also improve curb appeal and resale value.
Understanding the risks is a part of making an informed decision. Yet, double pane windows are worth the investment.