The Complete Guide for Replacement Double Pane Windows

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on custom double pane windows and triple pane windows for cold climates. In harsh winters with extreme temperatures, the right type of glass can impact energy efficiency, comfort, and overall home value.

In this article we will look at increasing energy savings and discuss low E options. We will look at shapes, tints, patterns, grillwork, etc. For questions about appearance rather than energy-savings, please scroll further down.

Introduction to Double Pane Windows

Double-panes consist of two panes of glass held apart at an equal distance by a spacer, then sealed on the edges. 

Double-panes consist of two panes of glass held apart at an equal distance by a spacer, then sealed on the edges. 

These windows increase comfort, reduce energy use, and limit exterior noise. With low-emissivity glass, they protect your flooring and furniture from excessive UV light.  They are required by all building and energy codes. 

Like all physical structures, they can eventually fail. Some think window glass failure means glass breakage. More often double- and triple-pane units have seal failure, which causes the window glass to become foggy or wet.

Seals in double- and triple-panes get worn out from UV, moisture, and temperature fluctuations, and gradually deteriorate. 

Note: Shipping double- and triple-panes through high and low altitudes is a separate issue that can also cause seal failure.

Seal failure condensation between two panes of glass
Seal failure resulting in condensation between the two panes of glass.

Extra Energy Efficiency Options

Double-panes improved energy efficiency by adding a second pane of glass with a buffering air space in between. Increased insulation reduces the cold that radiates from the glass.

As a result, a person can feel comfortable at a lower thermostat setting, adding to energy savings.

Triple-Pane Window Glass

A third pane of glass, and a second air space, gets improved performance. This used to be a popular way to increase efficiency and comfort. Improvements in other energy-saving methods have limited its use.

Triple-panes are heavier, harder to open and may require stronger window construction. Still, two panes of low E glass in a triple-pane make a very energy efficient window.

Low E Glass (Low Emissivity)

Low E glass reflects heat back into rooms in cool climates and reflects heat out in warmer climates. It partially blocks UV. In a cold climate the most efficient low E glass reflects heat back into the building and lets some solar energy in.

Two types of low E glass are hard and soft coat. Hard coat is made by putting an ultra-thin layer of metal on the glass during the manufacturing process. Hard coat low E glass are durable and add heat passively from solar energy. It generally is less expensive.

Coating is sprayed onto soft coat low E glass after manufacturing and it is a less durable product. It insulates better and is used in two coat applications in modern HERS-rated windows. 

Your local building code may be stricter than Energy Star and using double soft coat low E glass panes is a good alternative to triple-panes to meet the HERS standard. 

Soft coat low E double-panes are more likely to fail because of low E coating failures. Early stages of failure sometimes look like a petri dish.

Early stage soft coat low E failure
Early stage soft coat low E failure

Color variation of low E application on most doors and simple windows may be slightly noticeable seasonally. For storefronts or other large windows side-by-side, using the same glass manufacturer and the same type of low E glass can help.

It’s not the window manufacturer but the original glass manufacturer that matters most. Local glass companies have advanced tools that can identify the manufacturer and type of the glass.

Other Notes on Low E glass  

  • Brightness:

    Concerns include visible light transmittance (VLT). VLT is the amount of light that passes through your windows. Higher VLT is needed for bright living spaces. In single-pane glass, super clear low-iron glass can have a VLT of over 90, while heavily-tinted glass may be as low as 10.

  • UV Protection

    Low E glass provides some ultraviolet light protection. Low E glass with higher UV protection can protect furniture, flooring, or artwork that may be vulnerable to the sun’s rays.

Argon and Krypton Gas Filled Thermal Pane Glass

New double-pane windows are more energy efficient because they are filled with Krypton gas, but there is some debate about whether it is worth the extra cost. 

Replacement double-panes are filled with argon gas, which has good thermal and soundproofing properties and is reasonably priced. 

Slight leakage occurs every year even with high-quality seals, but the comfort and energy savings of gas-filled units easily outweigh the minor cost of the gas. A properly sealed double-pane should still contain 90% of the gas after 10 years.

Other Energy Efficient Options

  • Warm Edge Spacers.

    A spacer keeps two panes apart and removes stray moisture, but it makes the unit less energy efficient.

    Replacement double pane customers usually want the spacer to match their other windows. Be aware that common spacers do not insulate well. You can upgrade to warm edge spacers for better insulation.

  • Laminated Glass

    (This will be discussed in safety and security glass below).

Spacer material made of light metal
Most common spacer material made of light metal.

Design and Appearance Features

Pioneer Glass is a leading glass replacement company that specializes in customized solutions for residential and commercial properties. 

The company offers a wide range of services, including custom shapes, built-to-spec double- and triple-pane windows, safety and security glass, skylight replacement, specialty glass options, historic glass options, grid work, and storefront and commercial glass.

Custom Shapes and Built-to-Spec Insulated Glass Units.

Our skilled team crafts tailor-made double-pane glass units that perfectly fit any window shape. 

Whether your window is rectangular, arched, circular, Palladian, or has any other distinct design, our expertise ensures a flawless replacement.

Special shape double pane window
Special shape double pane window.
Replacement arched double pane window with grids.
Replacement arched double pane window with grids.
Built to specs double pane windows.
Built to specs double pane windows.

Exterior doors built since the 1970s are required by code to have double-pane glass for energy efficiency and safety glass. 

An occasional door may not easily swap out, but that is rare. We can install a double- or triple-pane made with safety glass in sliders, patio, French, front doors and others.

Replacement double-pane door glass
Replacement double-pane door glass.
Shattered tempered door glass
Shattered tempered door glass

Safety Glass and Security Glass

Passage doors, and sidelights and window glass within 24” of the door, must use safety glass.  

Glass in a “wet” room must be safety glass which includes bathrooms with tubs or showers within five feet of a window. Most building inspectors will want all glass in a “wet” room to be safety glass, period. 

Windows larger than nine square feet may need to be safety glass depending on their location. 

When it comes to double- and triple-panes, the most common safety glass by far is tempered glass. But there are times where you may want to consider laminated glass. 

Pioneer Glass offers tempered glass and laminated glass for safety and security purposes:

    • Tempered Glass

      This is the glass in the side windows of your car. It is four times stronger than regular “annealed” glass and it breaks into small pebble-size pieces rather than more dangerous shards. 

      Its cost is reasonable, and its typical 1/8” thickness is lightweight.

    • Laminated Glass

      Laminated glass is two panes with a PVB (polyvinyl butyral) interlayer and was invented as windshield glass. It often stays in place upon breaking. 

      It’s secure because the polyvinyl interlayer is hard to penetrate. It is used in storefronts and business doors to prevent smash and grab entries and delay intruders.

      Laminated glass insulates more than regular glass and blocks up to 98% of UV rays. It reduces noise significantly. Laminated glass is probably underused in replacement double- and triple-panes.

Broken tempered glass
Broken tempered glass.
Broken laminated glass
Laminated glass. Stays in place when broken.

For more comprehensive information on safety glass and its benefits, visit our safety glass page.

Skylight Replacement Double Pane Glass

Skylight glass is unique because glass breakage from above is disastrous. Skylights can break when branches or birds crash into them. They can also have seal failure and fog up. 

Replacement skylight double-panes combine both types of safety glass. Tempered glass reduces the outer pane’s risk of breaking and laminated glass holds the inside pane in place, blocking debris. For more on skylight glass click here.

Replacement skylight glass
Replacement skylight glass.

Specialty Glass Options

Double- and triple-panes are made using a wide variety of glass types. You can choose decorative or privacy glass panes on one side and low-E glass on the other for energy efficiency. 

Argon gas can be used to enhance insulation. These double-panes offer style and substance.

Glue chip glass with a reverse bevel
Glue chip glass with a reverse bevel allowing a peek at who is at the door.
Flora custom double-pane door glass
Flora custom double-pane door glass.
Shower stall with obscure glass
Shower stall with lower pane in obscure glass.

Historic Glass Options

You may think window replacement is difficult in older properties with character and historical charm. Replacement may be needed due to damage, energy inefficiency, or aesthetics.

Owners of older homes try to restore their original windows as best they can, even adding storm windows. Sometimes the windows cannot be saved, or the owner is dissatisfied with the storm windows. Then, the windows need to be replaced. 

If wavy glass is a must for aesthetics or code, we make custom double panes with historic wavy glass that meet local historical standards.

For more information on wavy glass watch our video: A Guide to Historic Restoration Wavy Glass.

Double pane with GoetheGlas (hand drawn restoration glass)
Double pane with GoetheGlas (hand drawn restoration glass).

Grid Work 

Many double-pane units have grids in between panes. These are for appearance only and do not affect unit operation. 

Grids can usually be replaced. We can fabricate new double- and triple-panes with matching grid size, shape, and pattern.

A window grid sometimes has its own unique color. We can remove that grid and insert it into a new double- or triple-pane. 

We cannot insert custom painted gridwork as the paint may release fumes which attack the seals.

Stocked double pane grid material
Stocked double pane grid material.
Arched window grids
Arched window grids.
Casement double pane window with grids.
Casement double pane window with grids.
Prairie style grids.
Prairie style grids.

Storefront and Commercial Glass

Commercial buildings may have special requirements. Laminated glass reduces “smash and grabs” and road noise. Tempered glass is commonly used. Commercial glass is generally larger and generally uses tinted or specialty low E glass in double- and triple-panes.

We would be delighted to provide you with a detailed quote for new or replacement storefront glass tailored to your specific needs. 

Simply give us a call or send us an email outlining your specifications. We will promptly create a custom quote.

Our team of experts is dedicated to delivering top-notch service and quality products to ensure your complete satisfaction.

Commercial skylight glass.
Commercial skylight glass.
Storefront replacement double pane glass
Storefront replacement double pane glass.

Get Expert Assistance with Double-Pane Glass

We welcome all inquiries related to double-pane glass, and our team of experts is available to assist you in any way possible. 

Whether you have questions about our products or services, or need advice on selecting the right type of double-pane glass for your specific needs, we are here to help. 

You can easily reach us by email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-234-7063.

Please visit the links below for detailed information on our double- and triple-pane insulated glass replacement options, skylight replacement glass, sliding patio door glass replacement, and custom-made double pane glass units. 

We provide our customers with the highest quality products and services, and we look forward to working with you on your next project.