What to Consider When Choosing Between Single, Double, and Triple Pane Windows

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated July 11, 2022
woman sitting at home looking out the window
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Double pane windows offer increased insulation and noise reduction.

  • Single pane windows are the least expensive.

  • Double pane windows hold up against extreme weather.

  • Single pane windows are ideal for sheds and garages.

  • Triple pane windows add even more insulation and enhanced security.

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Your windows help brighten your home while also protecting it from the elements and noise. Single pane windows feature one pane of glass, double pane windows feature two panes of glass, and triple pane windows include a whopping three panes of glass. Double pane and triple pane windows also often come with insulating layers of argon gas between the panes, which enhances their ability to regulate interior temperatures. Here are the pros and cons to consider before buying windows that are single, double, or triple pane.

Single Pane Windows Pros and Cons

yellow home with single window pane
Photo: Becky Wright / Adobe Stock

Single pane windows are lighter weight and cost less upfront than double pane windows, but they can be more expensive in the long run due to reduced energy savings. 

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive: Single pane windows cost less than double pane windows, making them ideal for folks on a budget. The average single pane window costs around $50 to $75. 

  • Lightweight: Since single pane windows aren't composed of as much glass as double pane windows, they're lighter weight. This light weight makes them easier to install, which can reduce labor costs should you hire a window replacement professional to install them. 

  • Ideal for sheds and garages: Thanks to being lightweight, inexpensive, and fairly easy to install, single pane windows make great fits for sheds and garages. However, their lack of insulation and noise reduction makes them less-than-ideal for residential homes. 

Cons

  • Poor insulation: Composed of only one piece of glass, single pane windows don't provide very strong insulation from the outdoor elements. This can lead to a drafty or overly warm home, depending on the season, as well as higher energy bills than if you opted for double pane windows. 

  • Poor noise reduction: The single pane of glass also means these windows don't provide great noise reduction, so if you live in a city or on a street with a lot of noise, they're probably not the best option for you. 

Double Pane Windows Pros and Cons

blue home with double window pane
Photo: tamas / Adobe Stock

Double pane windows offer better insulation and noise reduction capabilities than single pane windows, but they're also more expensive up front. 

Pros

  • Insulation: Compared to single pane windows, double pane windows are made with twice as much glass, which offers better insulation from the outdoor elements. This means that they can help to keep heat out during the summer and keep it in during the winter. 

  • Energy savings: Because double panes are better at insulating than single pane, they make for more energy efficient windows. With double pane windows, your HVAC system won't need to work as hard to regulate your home’s temperature, so you can save money on your monthly energy bills. 

  • Noise reduction: Another major benefit of double pane windows is that they offer better noise reduction capabilities than single pane. This makes them particularly helpful for homeowners who live in big cities or on busy streets. 

  • Durability: Double pane windows are also stronger than single pane windows thanks to having two sheets of glass instead of one. This durability means they can stand up to high winds and precipitation better than their single pane counterparts. 

Cons

  • More expensive: Because double pane windows are made with more materials than single pane windows, they also cost more, typically ranging from $100 to $300 per window

  • Most effective when used on all windows: To reap all of double pane windows' benefits, such as insulation and noise reduction, you really need a house full of them rather than just one or two. Otherwise, noise and the outdoor air can come in through the windows that aren't double pane. However, installing double pane windows all over the house can be cost-prohibitive. 

Triple Pane Windows Pros and Cons

Triple pane windows add even more insulation than double pane windows, with enhanced durability and offering a steep increase in energy efficiency. Of course, these perks drive up the overall installation cost. 

Pros 

  • Insulation and noise reduction: Triple pane windows feature three times the amount of glass of their single pane cousins. This translates to a significant increase in insulation, compared to double pane windows. You’ll also experience a modest increase in noise reduction capabilities over double panes. 

  • Thermal regulation: The added insulation that comes with another layer of glass also improves your home’s thermal regulation. In other words, it will be easier to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures during the worst parts of both summer and winter. Additionally, triple pane windows stand up well to heavy winds and even limit condensation.

  • Energy efficiency: Triple panes are even better at insulating than double panes, making them the gold standard of energy-efficient windows. Your home’s HVAC system will appreciate this efficiency boost and so will your bank account, as increased system efficiency leads to a decrease in energy bill costs. 

  • Durability and security: Triple pane windows are extraordinarily durable, lasting 30 years or more when properly maintained. The added layer of glass also makes your home more secure, protecting you from break-ins. It’s tough, after all, for intruders to break through three thick layers of glass. Triple pane windows also continue to work even if one, or two, panes break. 

Cons 

  • Most expensive option: There’s no way around it. Triple pane windows are a considerable investment, costing $300 to $600 per window plus at least two hours of labor. The extra layer of glass and related materials drive the cost up, but the decrease in monthly energy bills even things out after several years. 

  • Installation difficulty: Triple pane windows are much heavier and bulkier than any other type of window, meaning installation is an absolute beast. There are plenty of installation pitfalls here. You may have to replace the entire window unit if the frame can’t handle the additional weight and accidental damage during the installation process is common. Rely on professional window installers with plenty of experience with triple pane designs. 

  • Reduced brightness: Some triple pane designs reduce the level of sunlight entering your home, with glazed windows being a primary culprit. There are only so many layers of glass that light can travel through before lessening in brilliance, after all, so take that into consideration before going ahead with the installation process. 

  • Work best in groups: Like double pane windows, you won’t see many of the positive effects unless you change up every window in your home. In other words, window replacement of just one or two of your single pane windows with triple pane windows will not impact energy efficiency, noise reduction, or insulation. The significant uptick in price over double pane windows makes a whole-house swap cost-prohibitive for many. 

Single Pane vs. Double Pane Windows

Still not sure whether single pane or double pane windows are right for your household? Here's a breakdown of their benefits and drawbacks by feature to help you decide. 

Appearance​

Single pane and double pane windows look very similar. Often, you can't tell the difference between the two unless you closely inspect it to determine how many panes there are. Therefore, when it comes to appearance, single and double pane windows are fairly evenly tied. 

Winner: It's a tie

Customizations​

Both single pane and double pane windows offer similar customization options, as well as the potential to add on features, like removable storm windows and hurricane shutters. As a result, single and double pane windows are evenly matched on the customization front as well. 

Winner: It's a tie

Durability​

Thanks to an added sheet of glass, double pane windows are typically much more durable than single pane windows. Durability is a particularly important factor if you live in an area with extreme weather, like high winds and precipitation, which can cause more damage to less durable windows. 

Winner: Double pane windows

Price​

Aptly, double pane windows cost about twice as much as single pane windows, so single pane windows are definitely the more affordable option. 

Winner: Single pane windows

Ease of Installation

Single pane windows are much lighter weight than double pane windows, which makes single pane windows easier to install. An easier installation can also mean less expensive labor costs, potentially saving you some money.  

Winner: Single pane windows

Energy Savings

Thanks to two panes of glass compared to one, double pane windows are much better at insulating your home. This increased insulation results in better interior temperature regulation and higher energy savings. 

Winner: Double pane windows

Length of Life​

Both double pane and single pane windows have an average lifespan of around 15 to 20 years. However, because double pane windows have an added layer of glass, it's often not as urgent to fix them when damaged, so they might be able to last longer than single pane windows in some cases, saving you window replacement costs.

Winner: Double pane windows

Double Pane vs. Triple Pane Windows

Thinking about making that jump from double pane windows to triple panes? Here’s a detailed breakdown of the benefits and drawbacks of each window type to help you make an informed choice for your home. 

Cost 

Triple pane windows cost 15 to 25% more than double pane windows, due to the added materials. Additionally, you’ll pay extra for labor, as triple panes are notoriously difficult to install, due to their extreme weight and bulk. Of course, the upfront costs of installing triple panes are eventually offset by a decrease in energy bills, but this takes anywhere from three to seven years, depending on the actual savings you experience. 

Winner: Double pane windows 

Energy Savings 

Generally speaking, triple pane windows are more energy-efficient than their double pane counterparts, leading to a decrease in utility bills. These savings are modest, but add up over time. However, the quality of the window and its installation also make a huge difference here. Make sure your triple pane windows are made from high-quality materials and that they are installed properly to maximize monthly savings on that energy bill. 

Winner: Triple pane windows 

Noise Reduction

Yes, triple pane windows offer increased noise reduction over double panes, but this is contingent on quality craftsmanship and professional installation. A poorly installed triple pane will offer no sound dampening benefit over a double pane window. If noise reduction is the main reason you are shopping for new windows, make sure they are installed properly, with an airtight seal. 

Winner: Triple pane windows 

Appearance and Customization

Both single pane and triple pane windows ship in a wide variety of designs to suit different tastes. If you want to customize your windows with added flair, the option is there. Additionally, it is hard to tell the difference between these two types of windows without a close inspection. In other words, it is an absolute draw here.

Winner: It’s a tie  

Installation Difficulty

Even seasoned pros run into trouble installing some triple pane windows onto pre-existing window units and frames. Triple panes, after all, are extremely heavy and bulky, placing a strain on these frames and, in some cases, damaging them. In other words, it takes a careful hand to successfully install a suite of triple pane windows. Despite the risk of damaging window frame components, there is no risk of damaging anything else on the exterior of your home with triple panes. Still, if you want a fuss-free installation no matter what, think about double pane windows. 

Winner: Double pane windows 

Durability  

Just as double pane windows offer increased durability over single panes, so do triple pane windows when compared to double panes. As previously mentioned, triple pane windows last at least 30 years with proper maintenance and care. This added durability also helps triple pane windows outperform double panes with regard to wind resistance and dealing with extreme weather scenarios. 

Winner: Triple pane windows 

Security 

Both double pane and triple pane windows offer improved security over single panes, due to the added thickness and additional layers. However, triple panes are the champion here. All but the most dedicated intruders are stopped in their tracks by the extra pane of glass. Triple pane windows won’t protect other entrances from interlopers, however, such as first-floor doors and back doors. 

Winner: Triple pane windows

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