A new generation of more affordable thin, triple-pane windows has been proven to reduce energy costs and noise levels.

Researchers from the Department of Energy at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have led a series of studies with the aim of creating products with greater availability and lower costs.

PNNL says windows typically make up approximately 8 per cent of a home’s exterior surface, but can be responsible for up to half of its heat loss or gain.

PNNL research economist Kate Cort says the drive to reduce carbon emissions is pushing the world toward a tipping point, where triple-pane windows start making a lot of economic sense.

The new generation of windows have three panes and use advanced glass technology that is similar to what is used in televisions and computer screens. The areas between the glass are filled with an inert gas (such as krypton) to provide additional insulation.

In a recent study conducted by Cort and Edward Louie from PNNL, and Robert Hart of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, results showed that upgrading windows in an existing home from double- to triple-paned could improve the energy performance by 40 per cent.

“Our study showed that boosting the energy efficiency of windows provides builders with more flexibility in design and the ability to make tradeoffs with other components of the envelope, such as exterior wall insulation, while meeting code,” said Cort.

Testing during two 10-week evaluation periods showed the windows could save approximately 12 per cent on heating and 28 per cent on cooling in the 140m2 structures.

Cort notes, however, that the price differential between double-pane and triple-pane windows has been an issue for builders – partly accounting for the slow uptake in the new technology. Another issue was the weight of triple-paned versus double-paned glass.

Cort says most builders aren’t familiar with the newer, thinner, lighter triple-paned technology. She also says the cost has come down to about USD$700–$2,400 for a 220m2 wood-framed home.

PNNL has teamed up with the Department of Energy (DOE), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance to launch the Partnership for Advanced Window Solutions. The public-private partnership will work with builders and manufacturers to help build the production and demand for triple-paned window technology.

The research team continues to test the windows at 10 locations across the US. According to Cort, it’s time to look at windows – not just through them.

The full abstract is available to read here.

Feature image via PNNL.


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