Adding energy-efficient home upgrades is a wise investment. These features are a selling point for potential buyers and offer energy savings and extra comfort for the existing homeowner.
Triple pane windows are an innovative solution for preventing heat loss, minimizing utility costs, and soundproofing your home, but they're not perfect and come with their own set of problems you should be aware of before you fork up the extra cash to get them.
These problems aren't always deal breakers and it may be that triple pane windows are the best option for your situation. But it's important to be aware of the issues so you can choose the best type of windows for your home or investment property.
The major problems with triple pane windows is they are expensive and due to the increase weight they require special frames and sometimes even structural updates in order for them to be installed. They have a long payback period and may not be worth the extra cost compared to double pane windows.
Before you invest in triple pane windows, it's important to understand some of the downsides.
1. They're Expensive
Triple pane windows are the most expensive window option for homeowners. They're typically 15-50% more expensive than a double pane window.
The additional pane of glass, gas filling, spacers, and reinforcement materials contribute to the higher costs.
Inflation has also taken a toll on window prices, with experts estimating a 5-10% price increase since last year. Triple pane windows now cost an average of $1,920, depending on the size and placement.
Each window costs an average of $300 to $2,740 with installation ranging from $100 to $800 in labor. Multi-story installations typically have higher labor costs.
Unfortunately, everything is more expensive during periods of high inflation. However, 25-30% of home heating and cooling costs are directly related to loss through windows. Installing triple pane windows can help offset that waste.
2. Limited Additional Soundproofing
Soundproofing is a significant selling feature for double and triple pane windows. However, the difference between double and triple pane windows may not be enough to justify the cost.
Triple pane windows have a sound transmission class (STC) rating of STC of 34-38. This rating is notably higher than the double pane rating of 26-32, but what does that mean?
Experts advise an STC rating of 45 for true privacy. An STC difference of 1-3 is barely noticeable. You might pay thousands more for a lower STC-rated brand of triple pane windows and not notice a difference.
Other factors also influence your home's soundproofing. Investing in triple pane windows when you have poorly insulated walls and low STC-rated materials could be pointless.
Investing in triple pane windows is beneficial for people in urban or high-traffic areas. Take some time to research and review the STC rating before buying.
3. Must Replace All Windows
You must take an all-or-nothing approach if you're replacing single pane windows with triple pane windows.
If you only update a couple of windows, air and sound will be redirected through the older, drafty windows. You have some leeway if you're upgrading from double pane windows.
If you choose to offset the costs by replacing a few windows at a time, start with the North and East-facing walls. You can also upgrade certain rooms and keep vents or doors closed to redirect the airflow.
4. Require Installation Experience
One of the problems with double pane windows is their susceptibility to leaks and seal damage, which effectively renders them useless. This issue is typically caused by poor installation techniques.
Triple pane windows require the same level of experience and handling for installation. These windows are also significantly heavier than their single and double pane counterparts.
Fortunately, the additional pane adds a level of security should a leak occur. Triple pane windows are less prone to condensation and fog.
Finding a skilled, reliable window installer who knows how to handle triple pane fixtures will help prevent installation issues that put your investment at risk. It's also crucial to look at the warranty coverage before buying.
5. May Require Structural Updates
Your home may require structural changes or updates to support the weight of triple pane windows.
Triple pane windows are heavier and wider than single and double pane options. Ensuring the frame can support the weight and shape is essential to reap the benefits.
If you live in an older home, you may also need custom fittings to bring things to code and fit modern window styles. These upgrades will increase your installation costs.
6. Require Special Frames
Vinyl windows tend to be a more affordable option for modern homeowners. However, they're not the best option for triple pane windows.
Many countries are also banning PVC due to its negative environmental impacts. PVC production is energy-intensive and the disposed materials often end up polluting landfills.
As these windows are so heavy, they require a strong material to get the best possible lifespan. Many experts recommend fiberglass for its durability and eco-friendliness.
Wood frames are another viable option, but tend to be high-cost with a shorter lifespan. Wood is more prone to warping and rotting in extreme climates, which is where triple pane windows offer the greatest benefit.
The problem with fiberglass is that it's expensive and harder to find, which can drive costs up even more. However, this upgrade is well worth it whether you purchase double pane or triple pane windows.
7. Lower ROI Than Double Pane Windows
Triple pane windows can drastically reduce home heating and cooling costs. The Department of Energy actively promotes them for this reason.
So, what's the holdup? It's estimated that the energy savings will take 23-55 years to cover the expense of installing triple pane windows. These windows have an estimated lifespan of 30 years.
Double pane windows last an average of 15 years with proper installation and recover the costs in 10-15 years.
Triple pane windows aren't as available as double pane windows. The gap between these options may decrease with time and additional manufacturing.
8. They Let In Less Light
If you love that your home is full of natural light, triple-glazed windows may not be your best choice. These units are thicker than single and double pane windows and may let less light in.
Other factors, such as the gas, the glass, and overall installation, can also impact how much light comes through with your triple pane windows. So if having a lot of natural light is crucial to you, you may want to stick with double pane windows instead.
9. Insulating Gas Can Leak Out
Triple pain windows contain insulating gases between the panels of glass that help to stop both heat and sound transfer.
Over time these gases can leak out. This could be due to a break down in seals, cracking of the window or warping of the frame.
If this happens then your insulation could be compromised by a fair amount and you may need to pay for repairs to get them fixed.
10. Condensation Can Build Up Inside The Window Frames
While condensation between panes of glass appears to be less common in triple pane window frames vs double pane it is still possible for moisture to get in between the panes of glass.
This condensation can't really be cleaned away and will affect visibility and make your windows look worse.
11. Dust Can Buildup Inside The Window Frames
Over time it's also possible for dust particles to buildup on the inside of the window frames making your windows look dirty even if you've cleaned them.
Because it's inside the windows it can be impossible to clean. If this is happening then chances are there is some leak in your windows where dust and air is able to get in and they may need to be repaired.
12. They Can Become Difficult To Open And Close
Because triple pane windows are so heavy over time they can shift and move and become difficult to open and close.
Often the fix for this is simple but sometimes a repairer may need to be called out to fix the problem.
Double Pane vs. Triple Pane: Which is Better?
Triple pane windows are worth the investment if:
- You live in a high traffic area
- You live near a railway or airport
- You experience extreme summer or winter temperatures
- You plan to live in your house for more than 20 years
Otherwise, double pane windows should be sufficient.
Are Triple Pane Windows Worth It?
Double pane windows are a better investment for most homeowners. However, triple pane windows are worth the upgrade in certain situations.
The ROI on triple pane windows isn't worth the investment for most people. This could change over the next few years with manufacturing innovations.