Windows serve many purposes that aren’t obvious at first glance. The things most people think about windows – you can look outside, let the sun in, open them when it’s nice out – don’t necessarily illustrate other important factors you should consider when choosing a window. One of the things windows allow you to do is insulate your home; a good set of windows will warm your home in the wintertime, and cool it in the summertime. Winnipeg’s extreme continental climate means we have some very particular insulation requirements. Triple pane windows are a great way of regulating your home’s temperature, even in the most extreme temperatures.
What are triple-pane windows? Put simply, they’re windows with three panes of glass. A lot of the windows you’ll see around Canada are double pane; you’ll almost never see single-pane windows because they aren’t insulating enough. The reason to get triple pane windows, then, is to keep your home warmer in the wintertime; how much warmer they stay is the subject of much debate. You’ll see people throwing numbers around from 2-3% better at keeping your home warm, to 10-20% better at keeping your home warm. These are not, however, the numbers you should be looking at.
The numbers you should be looking at can be found on the energy efficiency for windows search page, provided for consumers by the Government of Canada. There’s 3: the U-factor, the Solar Heat Gain (SHGC), and most importantly, the Energy Rating (ER). The U-factor shows how quickly heat transfers from warm areas to cold areas; you want a lower number, so in the winter your house stays warm and in the summer it stays cool. The SHGC shows you how much of the sun’s heat can pass through; you want a relatively high number, to keep your house toasty in the winter. The ER is the most important number; it’s calculated using a wide variety of factors, and the higher the number is, the better.
Now that we’re done with that tangent, we can better explore triple-pane windows. They’re particularly effective because the U-factor tends to be quite a bit lower than with double pane windows, owing to the extra layer of glass; well-made glass means they won’t affect the SHGC too drastically. All in all, that means the ER of triple pane windows tends to be better than a double pane window, all other things being equal. Of course, there’s a lot more to windows than just how many panes are used; the type of glass, the type of insulation, the frame, and more can all affect the ER. The best way of knowing if triple-pane windows are right for you in terms of ER is to compare the ER of the triple pane versus the ER of double-pane, then to calculate how much you might save per year on heating and cooling costs using triple pane.
There are a lot more reasons that just ER to consider triple pane windows, though. Owing to the extra layer of glass, triple pane windows are better at soundproofing your home, particularly nice if you live close to a busy thoroughfare like Portage or Main. Triple pane windows can also help keep your home’s humidity at a comfortable level during our dry winters; they’re also particularly effective for Winnipeg’s climate, as the insulation is more relevant when the weather gets extreme.