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Windows: single, double or triple glazing

Posted by Tim Pullen on 3 June 2009 at 10:07 am

If you are thinking about changing your windows you will need to think about U-values. A U-value measures of the rate at which heat escapes through a fabric, so the lower the figure, the better.  A U-value of zero means that no heat is escaping.  It is expressed as Watts per square metre (W/m2) but it is really only the number that matters.

A few basics. Building Regulations Part L(1A) state that windows must have a U-value of no more than 1.8W/m2, compared to walls that must have no more than 0.3W/m2. The very best triple glazed windows might achieve a U-value of 0.6W/m2. So despite anything the double-glazing salesman might say, the windows will always be a weak point in your insulation.

But to put things in context, a single-glazed window will have a U-value of 5.0W/m2, double-glazed will be between 2.2 and 1.2W/m2 and triple-glazed 1.0 to 0.6W/m2.

So replacing a single-glazed window with a reasonable quality double-glazed units will more than halve the heat loss. But bear in mind that only about 10 per cent of the total heat loss from the house will be through the windows. There is really no point in putting expensive double-glazed windows in uninsulated walls.

In a new build, installing double glazed windows is a must, but there is little point in triple-glazing unless you have super-insulated the rest of the house. Triple-glazing will cost about 20 per cent more than double-glazing and reduce the overall heat loss by about 5 per cent.

Upgrading single-glazed windows is always a good idea but you might want to think about secondary double-glazing. It is not as efficient as primary double-glazing – U-value will be about 2.8 to 3.0W/m2 – but it will cost seriously less than replacement windows. And if your frames are in good shape why throw them away?]

Photo by elNico

More information about glazing options from YouGen

Wise up when buying solar, double glazing and insulation

How to maximise the benefit of secondary glazing

DIY double glazing solves chills in Victorian semi

Doors and windows information page

Find a doors and window installer

About the author: Tim Pullen is eco-editor for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine, author of Simply Sustainable Homes and founder of sustainable property consultancy WeatherWorks.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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7 comments - read them below or add one


mikecoulsonComment left on: 10 May 2018 at 5:37 am

Very helpful article has been shared which let us know that we need to change our single glazed window into double glazed. I have already changed my windows and its really secured and beneficial. Thanks for sharing effective information.

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alisontakComment left on: 1 July 2015 at 10:18 am

Although many people would prefer triple glazing but double glazing is always best, it's one of the biggest advantages is the savings on energy bills. I saved a lot in 3 years.

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cartermadsonComment left on: 21 January 2013 at 4:29 pm

Deleted - spam

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ExtremeWizComment left on: 9 March 2012 at 1:16 am

I have had triple glazing from Sureglaze a few years ago and they told me the centre pain U Value for the glass was 0.4 U Value and the U Value for the window was 0.8. I was very fussy on the U Values at the time but in all honesty for an extra 0.1 or 0.2 i didn't think it was worth paying the extra money. The 0.8 U Value is way better than our double glazing and the triple glazed windows have been really good for sound proofing. Our double glazing was draughty but that could have been down to a dodgy installation last time. All in all i think 3 panes are better than one, replacing the glass is also a good option if your windows are still in good condition.

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davidsComment left on: 24 August 2010 at 11:37 am

Is it really only 10% heat that is lost through windows?I would have thought it would be higher like 20%-25%

That’s an interesting point about the triple glazed allot of companies are trying to flog this to customers now days, but weighing up the cost to heat loss it just isn’t worth it. Central London Glaziers

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Tim Pullen

Tim Pullen from Weather WorksComment left on: 25 September 2009 at 1:51 pm

The U-value quoted is for a single pane of 4mm glass as secondary glazing. To work out the U-value of a sealed, double-glazed unit as secondary double glazing would needs some software and I would suggest you download Build Desk. It is free and fairly simple to use - although I must confess I have never tried the calculation you ask about.

As a guess. The sealed unit your are considering will probably have a U-value in the order of 1.8 to 2.2. Using it as secondary glazing will a significant impact. If the original window is a draughty U-value of 5, this could easily get it around 1.0

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vimokshadakaComment left on: 14 September 2009 at 1:42 am

Does your figure of 2.8 - 3.0 w/m2 relate to the adding of one pane or a  sealed unit? How does one work out the U-value of adding a sealed unit as secondary galzing, say with a 100mm drafty gap then a 16mm sealed gap? 

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