Of all the decisions in the window buying process, glass can be the easiest to overlook. There are no styles, colors or trendy designs. It’s just glass. It’s clear. You can see through it. What else is there to think about?
“Clear” and “see-through” describe the visual side of your window glass options. Any clean window fits the bill. There’s a lot more to consider than visibility to get the right glass for your home and meet your individual needs.
3 things to think about before choosing window glass
Your local climate should factor into your decision. Different glazing, tint and protection technologies offer different benefits. And many are designed specifically for certain climates or regions. If you live in Ohio, you want windows that help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But if you call Florida home, you’re more concerned with blocking the sun’s rays and holding up through hurricane season.
Reducing energy costs and protecting the environment are common goals for homeowners undergoing the window replacement process. ENERGY STAR® windows are independently-certified products that are proven to do those two things.
Glass is one of many factors that contribute to the energy efficiency of windows. The coating, insulating air or gas and number of panes all play a role in the overall energy efficiency. Each of these elements can have different benefits in different climates and combinations. The options you choose can affect your home’s heating and cooling costs and your impact on the environment.
Every window serves a purpose — just not always the same one. A large picture window in your living room brings the outdoors in and provides a beautiful portrait of your outdoor environment. You probably aren’t looking for the same thing in your bathroom. Tinted, glazed, obscured, and patterned glass can provide additional privacy in the places you’d prefer to keep behind closed doors — and windows.
Sorting through the window glass options
Your options for glass go far beyond “clear.” You can choose the number of panes, the level of insulation and energy efficiency, the film or coating, and much more. To help you sort through all these options, we’ve laid out each decision point, along with the major benefits and best uses.
Windows with two or three panes offer additional insulation. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, choosing high-performance windows that have at least two panes of Low Emissivity (Low-E) insulating glass will help improve your home’s energy performance long-term. Thanks to the extra pane of glass, triple-pane windows are even more energy-efficient than dual-pane windows.
- Reduced cold air and window condensation
- Consistent, comfortable temperatures in the home
- Savings on heating and cooling costs
Best for: Energy efficiency. Older, drafty homes.
Double-pane and triple-pane windows often have yet another layer of insulation in between the panes. Argon or another gas fills the gaps between the panes to help increase energy efficiency.
- Versatility to pair with many window styles and materials
- Protection from the cold, heat, or both
Best for: Energy efficiency. Climates with extreme heat or cold.
Window tints and glass coatings
Low-E glass coating is like a layer of sunscreen on your window. This special coating minimizes the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light from the sun, keeping your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
There are two different types of Low-E glass coating — hard-coat and soft-coat. Hard-coat Low-E glass is fused to a hot pane, creating a stronger, more durable bond. Soft-coat is applied at room temperature and is sealed inside insulated glass for better UV protection.
There are also solar window tints that offer similar sun protection and additional privacy. Like the tint of car windows, they use a thin layer of film to darken the window.
- More consistent, comfortable temperatures throughout the seasons
- Reduced heating and cooling costs
- Protection from fade damage to carpets, furniture, and window treatments
Best for: Energy efficiency in any region of the United States. Hard-coat Low-E glass is best for climates with extreme cold. Soft-coat Low-E glass works in any region that experiences both hot and cold temperatures.
Privacy, reflective and obscure glass
Sometimes you want a clear line of sight out, but not one in. Reflective glass preserves your views from inside your home while protecting against prying eyes outside. Privacy and obscure glass creates a frosted or etched look that blocks or distorts the view both ways.
- Natural sunlight
- Private, obscured sights into the home
- Decorative patterns and textures for added aesthetic
Best for: Bathrooms, bedrooms, basements, and other areas you prefer extra privacy.
Hurricane season lasts half the year, making storm protection an important consideration for residents in those regions. Impact-resistant glass is manufactured to help withstand hurricane-force winds and the flying objects those winds bring. There is an interlayer so if the glass is broken by flying debris, the interlayer remains intact helping to keep air and rain from entering the home.
- Stronger interlayer that holds glass together when shattered
Best for: Regions that experience hurricane-force winds along the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Coast. Homes and buildings near baseball stadiums or golf courses.
Understand your climate needs, desired energy efficiency, and privacy concerns before you buy windows. Knowing what’s important for your home helps you sort through all the window glass options yourself or preps you for a consultation with a professional who can find the right type of glass for your needs.