Ensuring that your home is equipped with modern windows is an essential first step in achieving the best possible energy efficiency. Heat lost or gained through old, damaged, or improperly installed windows can significantly decrease the efficiency of your heating and air conditioning, costing you extra money on your energy bills and making those systems work harder to control the temperature inside your home.
One of the ways in which modern windows prevent this heat transfer is by using a carefully chosen gas in between the panes of glass. These gases are chosen for their reduced ability to transfer heat and they act as an important buffer zone between the air inside your home and the air outdoors. Viscous, slow-moving gases like argon, krypton, and xenon are commonly used.
Less than 1% of the atmosphere consists of argon but it is a non-toxic, clear, and odorless gas with a thermal conductivity about 67% less than that of air.
An inexpensive and highly efficient thermal barrier, argon gas can play a significant role in managing your home’s internal temperature. Krypton shares many of the same qualities and provides slightly better insulation. However, as it is more expensive to produce than argon gas, and the extra cost may not always be worth the amount of additional efficiency it provides. Xenon is even rarer but can also be used for superior efficiency.
Argon gas can be used in double or triple paned windows with triple paned windows offering extra efficiency, for a cost. Heavier than double paned windows, they are harder to install and often more expensive.
Whichever you choose, gas-filled windows carry several benefits for your home:
- Increased R-values
- Improved soundproofing
- Minimize heat exchange
- Reduce or eliminate condensation and frost
- Block ultraviolet rays
- Improve energy efficiency and prevent premature wear and tear of heating and cooling systems
One common criticism of gas-filled windows is that the gases inside tend to leak out slowly over time. While this has some truth to it, in reality it does not affect the effectiveness of the product.
Even at a rate of 1% per year – a high estimate – it would take 20 years for your windows to lose any effectiveness at preventing heat transfer. There are several factors which will affect how quickly the gas escapes – building climate, exposure to the sun, and altitude to name a few – but the most important factors are the quality of the window and the skill of the installation team.