wind turbines

How to Make Old Windows Energy Efficient Without Replacing Them

If you want to make energy savings at home, it makes sense to look at installing double glazed windows.

Double glazed windows work by placing two sheets of glass parallel to one another within the same window.  The space between the panes is either filled with dehydrated air, a vacuum, or an inert gas like argon.  This serves to considerably improve a window’s thermal performance, thus saving homeowners hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of pounds over the lifetime of the window.

curtains

There are some cases, however, where installing a new window simply isn’t feasible.  Replacements carry an up-front cost that future energy savings will justify only after many years.  Moreover, in some conservation areas it will be difficult to obtain planning permission for a double-glazing installation.

So what are the alternatives?  How can we prevent heat from escaping our property without replacing our windows?  Let’s examine some potential solutions.

Secondary Glazing

If double glazing isn’t a viable option, then you might instead consider secondary glazing.  This involves placing a second sheet of glass on the interior of your window, which helps to contain heat in much the same way that double-glazing does.  Since the air between the glass isn’t sealed, there are no differences in pressure to worry about.  If your windows boast a classic, period look, then you’ll be able to keep them looking exactly as they currently do from the outside – while at the same time achieving a considerable improvement in thermal efficiency.

Secondary glazing inserts are usually held into place via a compression tube, which sits around the edge of the window, and holds the panel into place via suction.  This means that you needn’t make any modifications to the window.  Inserts are often made from acrylic rather than glass, and will thus contain the warmth of your interior all the more effectively.

Curtains

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Curtains are often-overlooked as a means of improving the energy-efficiency of windows.  Keep them open in the day (to let in sunlight) and then draw them at night. This will create an extra barrier that prevents heat from escaping the room.  Ideally, you’ll want to use a heavy set of blackout curtains.

Draughts

When single-glazed windows – and particularly wooden ones – begin to age, it’s inevitable that gaps will form in the spaces where the frame meets the glass.  This might be down to the warping effect of the wood, as it changes shape over time in response to changes in temperature and moisture.  It might also be caused by a degradation of the seal at the edge of the window.  In either case, the result is the same – cold air from outside will be able to pass into your property.

Clearly, this is undesirable.  Fortunately, once the seal around your window has failed, it’s relatively easy to replace it using an inexpensive strip of sticky rubber.  Of, if you’d like a more effective and attractive final window, you might hire a professional joiner to refurbish it with a proper draught-excluding system.

It’s detecting where the draughts have formed that’s the tricky part: even if you can feel a stream of cold air in the middle of your living room, you might struggle to pinpoint exactly where it’s coming from. You can find out by simply turning out the lights and running a candle around the edges of the suspect window.  When the flame flickers, you’ll have found your draught.  Alternatively, you might consider an electronic thermal leak detector – a device which functions like an electronic thermometer, except it works from a distance.  Shine the beam over a leak, and the light on the back of the device will change colour.

Treatment

If your windows are made from wood, they will require occasional treatments in order to maintain their appearance and effectiveness.  Fortunately, this isn’t a ritual you need perform very often.  Simply scrubbing the frame and re-applying your finish of choice every few years will be enough to guard the wood against rot and warping.  This in turn will reduce the chance of a draught forming, and will help to extend the lifespan of the window itself.

In conclusion

Replacing your windows is an excellent way to improve the thermal efficiency of your home.  But even if you’re prevented from replacing your windows, it’s still possible to improve their efficiency through incremental improvements and maintenance.  If the other elements of the building, like the roof, are substandard, then the windows might not seem an obvious choice for an upgrade.  By the same token, if your windows have not yet degraded to the point where replacement is beneficial, you might wish to delay replacing them, and take some of the alternative measures we’ve mentioned here in the intervening period.

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

Wooden windows

How to Fit Windows

If you’re looking to install new windows in your home, whether to replace your old, worn-out ones, or in an effort to pro-actively cut down on your energy expenditure, then you’ll be able to save yourself the cost of installation by doing it yourself.

While there are a number of things which could potentially go wrong during the installation, these problems can be guarded against with the right planning and foresight.  In this article, we’ll run through how to get rid of your old windows and install new ones.

window installation

Buy new windows

Before you do anything, you’ll need to have new windows in place to replace the old ones.  You’ll want a window that’s slightly smaller than the opening, with around five centimetres of space on all sides.  If your window is too big for the gap, then you’ll need to make the gap bigger – a major operation that’s far more trouble than it’s worth.  If it’s too small, then you’ll need to make use of window spacers – an unnecessary complication which might interfere with the window’s heat-retaining properties.  Stock replacement windows are far less costly than their custom-made counterparts, and often justify any adjustments you’ll need to make to accommodate them.

Apply for approval

You’ll also need to ensure that the windows you buy comply with building regulations, which require that a new window meet certain energy-efficiency and aesthetic standards.  Before fitting the windows, you’ll need to apply for Building Control approval.  If you’re fitting windows to a listed property in a conservation area, then you’ll find that the controls are more stringent.  Be sure to consult your local planning authorities before commencing any work – they will send someone to inspect the window during and after the installation to ensure it meets the required standard.

If you don’t apply for approval, then you will almost certainly run into problems when you come to sell the property.  Be sure that you’re using low-emission glass, and safety glass in any doors and windows near doors, or less than eight metres from the ground floor.

Remove the old windows

Before beginning, you’ll need to get rid of your old window.  Do so using a crowbar.  Be sure to get rid of the entire thing, including the casing, trim and sill plate.

Make adjustments

You’ll need to ensure that the new casing matches the dimensions of your new window, and should include a small gap to allow for adjustment and insulating material.  You might need to install new boards to the frame; this can be done using either wood or specially-made frame extenders.

Mark fixing points

Here’s where you’ll need to begin the job of actually securing your window into place.  You’ll need to mark the points on the interior plaster where you’ll fix your window to the wall.  This will help to eliminate guesswork and ensure that your new window is securely held in place, and that it’s at a perfect right-angle to the wall.

Wrap your window

Before you put your window into place, you’ll need to wrap the exterior frame of the window.  This will ensure that any moisture from the wall isn’t able to enter the side of the window.

Put your window into place

Now you’re ready to finally put your window in position.  Do this from the outside of the building, pushing the window upwards until it’s snug within the frame, then begin to screw your window into place.  Since double-glazed windows can be extremely heavy, you’ll need the help of someone on the interior of the building to do the actual screwing.  This is particularly important when it comes to first and second-floor windows.

Adjust the window

You’ll need to adjust the window in order to properly align it.  Do this with the help of a spirit level, using spacers to make small adjustments until the window is entirely square to the wall.

Wrap the window (again)

Now that your window is in place, it’s time to add a second layer of wrap, this time around the fins of the window – the vinyl strips around the exterior of the window.  Be sure that you’ve created a tight, creaseless protective layer – this will help to guard against unwanted moisture entry.

Insulate the window

In order for your window to effectively exclude draughts you’ll need those gaps at the side to be tightly sealed.  This is done using two different sorts of special expanding foam sealant.  Fill any obvious gaps with filler.  This stuff will expand quickly to fill any gaps – but be sparing with it, as too much will deform the position of the window.  Cut away any excess using a Stanley knife once it’s dried.

You don’t need to worry about creating a perfect fit at this point, as the next phase will involve applying a second layer of frame sealant.  This goes all the way around the edge of the frame, creating a nice, smooth and even finish all the way around.

Apply trim where required

You might want to disguise the sealant and fixings using a trim, which runs around both the exterior and interior of the window.  Trims come in a range of styles to match different windows and tastes, and can be glued into place with frame sealant.

Is it worth the hassle?

Fitting your own windows is a task which, on the spectrum of DIY procedures, ranks somewhere in the middle – while it’s not quite as straightforward as unblocking a sink or changing a light bulb, it’s something which can be done in around half a day – saving money in the process.

Whilst it might be tempting not to involve building control – particularly if you’re not looking to sell the property in the near future – doing so will likely cause stress at some point down the line.  Ensure your house is as well-insulated as it can be, by going about things the right way – and you’ll save yourself hassle and money in the long term!

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

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cleaning window

How to Clean Windows Like a Pro

Cleaning windows might seem a relatively straightforward task, but there’s a reason there’s a thriving industry for skilled window-cleaners – the difference between a professional and amateur approach will be apparent to anyone who’s ever taken a look at a streak-covered, botched attempt at cleaning a window.  So what is it, precisely, that separates the professionals from the rest of us?

As with so many things in life, success is a result of the right tools being combined with the right skills.

What will I need?

When it comes to washing windows, you won’t need too many items:

  • Warm, soapy water
  • A sponge
  • A squeegee
  • A dry rag

In order to make things a little easier, you might choose to use a specialist window-cleaning solution – or a tried-and tested combination of newspaper and vinegar, which we’ll get to later.  Be sure that whichever detergent or chemical additive you’re using isn’t going to damage the frame of the window.  The last thing you’ll want is discolouration on the wood or uPVC surrounding the glass – as this will ruin the look of the window, and therefore the building as a whole.

How Do I Clean My Windows?

window cleaning

Now you’ve assembled your materials, it’s time to actually clean the windows.

First, you’ll want to remove any obvious dust and cobwebs from around the window.  This will form an unsightly and sticky mess if you try to clean it off with water, so use a dry, soft brush, or a duster.  If there are any particularly stubborn marks, simply dab on your soapy water and scrub with a toothbrush or a cotton bud.  Once they’ve been eradicated, you’ll be able to move on to the window as a whole.

Using a soaked sponge, wash the panes of your window one by one.  You’ll want to move from top to bottom, in a zig-zag shape, in order to prevent drips.  As soon as you’re done washing a single panel, you’ll need to remove the suds, as allowing them to dry will cause those undesirable stains.

The tool we use to remove suds is a squeegee.  They work by forming a tight seal against the glass.

If you’ve seen a professional window cleaner at work, you’ll have noticed that they tend to move their squeegee in a long, snaking pattern down the length of the window.  This is on order to ensure that suds aren’t able to collect in any one area, but are instead scooped from the entirety of the glass in a single motion.

Clearly, this is a skill that requires a little bit of practice to master, but once you’ve achieved that mastery, you’ll be able to clean every window of your house in no time at all – and achieve a professional finish for a miniscule investment.

For more info on cleaning windows, read our articles on How to Clean uPVC Window Frames, How to Clean Wooden Window Frames, and How to Clean Aluminium Windows.

Windows with external shutters

How Does Double Glazing Work?

If you’re concerned about the amount of heat escaping from your property (as all responsible homeowners should be) then you’ll want to identify its weakest points.  Almost invariably, the weakest points in any building are its windows.  After all, it’s impossible to make glass that’s as tough for heat to penetrate as the solid walls around it!

Fortunately, things have come a long way since glass windows first achieved widespread popularity in the 18th century. A large part of the advance is down to a technology that’s now ubiquitous:  double glazing.

How does double glazing reduce heat loss?

Double glazing works by placing two sheets of glass parallel to one another, with an empty space in between.  This makes it much more difficult for heat energy to pass through the window, for much the same reason that it’s difficult for you to burn your hands on an iron skillet if you’re not touching it: the metal of a skillet is a great deal more effective at storing and conducting heat than the air around it.

window cross section

If we think about things at a molecular level, this might make more sense. The molecules of a solid material, like the handle of a frying pan or a sheet of glass, are packed closely together. As a result, vibrations impact those adjacent, causing heat to spread quickly through the material.  By contrast, the molecules of a gas are spread far apart – which means they’re far less likely to bounce into one another, and thus the transfer of heat is slowed.

Things are made even more efficient if, instead of simply packing the cavity between the two panes with ordinary air, we suck all of the air out of it, leaving a vacuum.  In modern double glazing, the cavity tends to be filled with an inert gas like argon – which is even more effective an insulator.

How effective is double glazing?

If you’re looking to invest in double glazing for your home, you’ll likely have one question on your mind: just how much heat does double glazing save?

The extent to which double glazing will reduce your energy bill will depend on the quality of the window.  Windows are rated on a scale of A+ to G, in much the same way as home appliances like fridges and freezers.   The Energy saving trust estimates an annual saving of around £80-£110 for a semi-detached house – provided it was entirely single-glazed beforehand.

This added efficiency will also help to boost the price of the property – provided that it doesn’t impact the outward appearance.  It’s worth remembering that some listed properties will be unable to obtain planning permission for double glazing, as it can cause a warping effect on the glass which might undermine a traditional-looking property.

Coloured wooden windows

Double Glazing vs. Triple Glazing

Double glazing is a technology that’s revolutionised windows – and no new build can afford to do without it.  We all know that sandwiching a vacuum between two panes of glass produces an enormous improvement in thermal efficiency.  But, that being the case, surely things are improved still further if we use three panes of glass?  Or, better yet, why not four, or even five?  Norway and Sweden have legislated that all new builds should come equipped with triple-glazed windows.  If they can do such a thing, then why can’t we here in the UK?

Swedish house

As you might have gathered, there are good reasons that we’re not all using triple glazing. Let’s examine the problem, focusing on these obstacles – and exploring how they might be overcome.

Measuring thermal performance

While it might not be a perfect way of measuring insulating ability, the energy efficiency of a window can be roughly described using the U-value.  This figure is a little bit like the ‘tog’ rating of a quilt:  it’s calculated by dividing the transfer of heat per square metre (in watts) by the difference in temperature across the entire building.

As you might expect, ordinary single-pane windows have high U-value, typically in excess of 5. When double glazing was first introduced, it came with a U value of around three.  But thanks to incremental improvements in the way that these windows are manufactured, this figure came down to two – and then even lower.

These improvements include:

  • The cavity being filled, not with a vacuum, but with an inert gas. Argon is most often used, as it’s inexpensive and effective.  In situations where space is limited, however, the even more effective Krypton or Xenon might be called upon.
  • Naturally, fatter cavities mean that heat must travel through more gas. Thicker windows, then, will produce better results.
  • The use of low-emissivity (low-E) glass, which comes with a coating of metal oxide on the internal panes. This helps to limit the amount of heat that can flow in a given direction, acting as a sort of valve which allows heat to enter your home but not leave it.

These steady improvements in technology might explain why the industry hasn’t been so ready to add more panes.   But this isn’t to say that such improvements will keep on coming forever – we might be approaching a time where no more savings can be made from improving on double glazing, and we must make the switch to triple-glazing.  Triple glazing can offer us U-values which go as low as 1 – and sometimes even lower.  So what’s stopping us adopting it?

Cost

As you might imagine, triple glazing costs more than double glazing. Not only does it demand more materials, but it also demands more precise manufacturing conditions, and generates more errors.  Also, since triple glazing is heavier, the cost of shipping it is also slightly higher.

In order for this cost to be justified, the building surrounding the frame must be of an accordingly high standard of energy efficiency.  There is little point, in other words, in installing a triple-glazed window into an older, more heat-porous property.

Light penetration

Adding an extra pane of glass will reduce the ability of light to break through the window.  With another pane there to reflect a little of it outward, the interior of the window will be appreciably dimmer.

Heat penetration

Walls and doors have higher U-ratings than windows.  Windows, then, are the weak points in a building – and we should devote special care to ensuring they’re as efficient as possible.  But it’s not quite as simple as that.  When the sun is shining, windows are able to allow heat to enter a house.  Modern double glazing actually allows windows to become net contributors to a building’s heating during the summer.

When we add more panes to a window, this crowning virtue is dispensed with, and we’re actually placed back a step.  In Scandinavia, where the temperatures are cooler, the winters longer, and the sunshine less frequent, this drawback might not amount to much.  In the UK, it’s a significant consideration.

Noise penetration

One of the crowning virtues of double glazing is its ability to exclude ambient noise.  Open a double-glazed window and you might hear the distant drone of traffic. Close it and the noise abruptly stops.  The technology is therefore wonderful for anyone looking to lead a peaceful life while indoors.

One might suppose that if double glazing can keep a little bit of noise out, then triple-glazing might be able to exclude a lot more.  But when compared to rival technologies like secondary double glazing, the noise-reducing power of triple glazing leaves much to be desired.

When we consider that sound travels more easily through a solid than it does through the air, it becomes clear that triple-glazed windows perform badly compared to double glazed ones of the same thickness, since the extra pane will be occupying space that might otherwise be occupied by empty space.

Condensation

Many new owners of triple-glazed windows are surprised to see condensation form on the outside pane of their windows.  This occurs as a consequence of low heat-transference; with less heat from the inside there to keep airborne moisture airborne, it will settle onto cold surfaces and condense.

What’s next?

While there already exist companies which produce quadruple-glazed windows, these windows are suitable only for very limited circumstances, as they severely reduce light penetration.  It’s more likely that improvements in materials and coatings, like the low-E glass we mentioned, will make the technology more feasible, allowing windows to absorb energy when they’re bombarded with sunlight, without releasing it on those cold winter nights.

Low-tech alternatives

Before we invest in costly new glazing technologies, we should ensure that we’re getting the best possible use out of our existing windows.  Drawing heavy curtains in front of windows during winter nights will enormously reduce the loss of heat through those windows.  Through a combination of clever manufacturing by double glazing producers, and sensible behaviour on the part of homeowners, it’s possible to wring more savings from double glazing before we make the switch to its costlier – though undeniably promising – counterpart.

Looking for triple glazed windows for your home? Take a look at our high-performance Stormsure casement triple glazed windows. Manufactured using FSC Chain of custody certified sustained timber they come with a 40 year rot and fungal guarantee, black warm edge spacer bar, and espagnolette multi-point locking and projecting hinges as standard. Available in standard and bespoke sizes. 

Girl sat on sofa with dog

A Formula for Happiness

What is “happiness”? Since the days of Aristotle happiness has been believed to result from a healthy mix of Hedonia (pleasure) and Eudaimonia (a life well lived). In other words, we need to regularly feel life’s simple pleasures – the taste of chocolate; the sun on our face; the sound of our favourite song – and we need a comfortable life that meets our basic needs and sets us up to flourish. We need a happy home.

But what makes a home “happy”?

Every year the World Happiness Index surveys people from various countries to determine the world’s happiest population. Consistently since 2012 countries from Scandinavia have dominated the top 5, with the US in 13th place and UK in 23rd!

So what is it that makes Scandinavian countries consistently come out tops in the happiness stakes? What are they doing (or not doing) that makes for such happy homes? And is there a way to take these habits and turn them into a fool proof formula for determining happiness in the home?

Turns out, there is…

how to have a happy life formula

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The Formula for Happiness

the formula for happiness explained

Every year the World Happiness Index surveys people from various countries to determine the world’s happiest population. Consistently since 2012 countries from Scandinavia have dominated the top 5, with the US in 13th place and the UK in 23rd!

2016 Happiness Index:
Top 5 happiest countries

  1. Denmark
  2. Switzerland
  3. Iceland
  4. Norway
  5. Finland
Bottom 5 happiest countries

153) Benin

154) Afghanistan

155) Togo

156) Syria

157) Burundi

 

City vs. Country

So, now we’ve picked a rough geographical region, let’s try and narrow it down a bit. Which is best: city-living or the country life?

Factor:CityCountry
Air QualityPoorGood
Technology (e.g. broadband)GoodPoor
Open spacePoorGood
Noise LevelsNoisyQuiet
Night Life, Restaurants etcGoodPoor
PrivacyPoorGood
Access to JobsGoodPoor

So whilst there are pros and for both (and much of this is down to personal preference) there are definite health benefits to living in the countryside:

According to research by the Office for National Statistics (UK), people are much happier in the countryside compared to the city.

  • In some of the remotest parts of the UK, people rated their life satisfaction as between 9-10
  • urban parts anxiety levels between 6 and 10
  • 1 in 5 Londoners said the had high anxiety levels
  • A room with a sea view is often wished for and increases the price of a house by £25k more according to Savills Estate Agents.

Distance to Work:

A survey conducted by Santander Mortgages suggests around 33% of people cited proximity to work as a priority for their next property and 28% of people said proximity to public transport was a top priority,

Studies by the ONS and The Young Foundation showed that every additional minute of your daily commute increased your anxiety levels and decreased your ‘life satisfaction’.

 

 

Local Amenities:

19% of homebuyers wanted to be within the catchment area of a good school and 17% said that proximity to a green space was important.

Living near to pubs, bars or restaurants or in an “up and coming” area appeared to be less of a priority, with only 8% and 2% of potential home buyers respectively mentioning these factors.

Pets:

Pets undeniably make us feel happier (so long as you don’t have allergies). They have been proven to:

1) Decrease stress

2) Reduce loneliness and depression

3) Petting can boost levels of feel-good chemicals in our body

4) Dogs in particular make us exercise = health benefits

Living Space:

27% said more space in their next house was important, and that they would, on average, pay £10,207 more for a home which had “extra space”.

Garden:

12% of people said a south-facing garden (i.e. one that gets maximum sun through the day) was a priority and that they would be willing to pay £5,413 more for this. Add to this both the health benefits of sunshine and how happy it makes people and you’re on to a winner.

Salary:

$75k (around £50k) is the optimum salary for a happy life. Happiness supposedly increases up to that point before leveling off.

Work:

According to The Guardian newspaper these are the world’s five happiest jobs:

  1. Engineer, £40k
  2. Teacher, £30k
  3. Nurse, £26k
  4. Medical Practitioner, £70k
  5. Gardener, £18k

No. of bedrooms:

Happiness increases linearly with the number of bedrooms we have in our home. The happiest homes have a ratio of more than 1.5 bedrooms per occupant. So a couple in a house would want 3 bedrooms, whereas a family of two adults and two children would have a house with 6 bedrooms.

 

Diet & Excercise:

Get some. Exercise keeps you happy and keeps you fit. Do the math(s).

Family: 

Bounty, a UK parenting website says 2 daughter families are happiest. Girls are said to play nicely together and are less likely to fight. Don’t have any more though as the least harmonious of families were those with 4 daughters!

Colours:

It’s no secret that colour affects the mood. Amongst the possibilities are:

Colour:Associated with:Possible use:
YellowIncreases focusHome office?
BlueCalmingBedroom
Red or OrangeUpliftingLiving room
GreenBalance, refreshment and peaceBring in some houseplants to add green to any room

It all depends on what makes you happiest. With colours though, a little goes a long way. Use whites and off-whites to brighten and splashes of colours to add vibrancy and energy to a room.

Feng Shui:

Although most Feng Shui theories are disputed, (such as how your bed is aligned, or how ‘balanced’ your furniture is) there is a lot to be said for keeping your house decluttered and organised – “a clean home is a happy home.” 

 

 

 

A row of roof windows

Double Glazing vs. Secondary Glazing

Energy is expensive. That’s why it’s crucial homeowners take steps to ensure they get the most from every penny spent.  If you’re looking to keep your home warm and energy efficient, particularly during winter, then you’ll want to concentrate your efforts on the areas of your property most at risk.

Almost inevitably, windows form a weakness in a building’s outer shell.  Through them, heat can easily escape into the world outside, which in turn cools the property and necessitates further energy expenditure.

We can combat this problem in part with double glazing, or to a lesser extent, secondary glazing.

jw-longleat-insulux-high-performance-timber-composite-doorset-in-reed-green

What is double glazing?

Double glazed windows are formed of two panes of glass, separated by a thin cavity.  When the technology was first developed, this space was filled with ordinary air.  Then it was realised that dehydrating the interior of the window would prevent condensation from forming during cold spells, and improve performance.  At that point manufacturers began to drain the air entirely from their windows, filling the space instead with a vacuum.

Today double glazing is most often filled with an inert gas, like argon, krypton or xenon.  Of these, argon is the least effective – but it’s also the least expensive – which means it’s a popular choice with many homeowners.

One of the most significant downsides of double glazing is the effect it has on the window’s appearance.  The air (or lack of it) on the inside of the window will be composed differently to the air outside, and so changes in atmospheric pressure will create a difference between the inside and outside of the glass.

Because of these pressure differences, the glass can often bow inwards or outwards.  This effect is especially obvious when the sun is shining on the surface of the glass, and is part of the reason why it can be difficult to obtain the necessary planning permission to install double glazing in certain conservation areas. In such areas, homeowners must seek alternatives.

What is secondary glazing?

Secondary glazing works via a similar principle to double glazing, except instead of both panes being part of the same window, secondary panes are attached to the existing single-paned window from the inside.  Because there’s no seal, there’s no pressure difference between the inside and outside of the window.  What’s more, secondary glazing doesn’t require an entire window be replaced – it’ll simply slot behind the existing one.

While not as effective as double glazing, secondary glazing can be installed with minimum fuss to the rear of an existing single-glazed window, and will yield considerable improvements in thermal efficiency.  They’re therefore a popular solution for owners of period property.

Secondary glazing also tends to be considerably cheaper than double glazing, so is ideal for homeowners with a limited budget.

Which should I choose – double glazing or secondary glazing?

Your decision will depend largely on the sort of property you’re looking to buy for, or your budget.

Often your choice will be dictated for you by conservation laws or your budget.

Cost of double glazing vs. secondary glazing

Fitting secondary glazing is understandably considerably cheaper than installing double glazing.

On average, secondary glazing costs £97 per window, although this will of course be impacted by the size of the window.

The cost of a double glazed window depends on the materials used and of course, the size of the window; however the average cost for a double glazed window is around £500.

Secondary glazing and the environment

Both double glazing and secondary glazing are beneficial to the environment on account of the fact they will reduce your energy use in the home.

However, replacing windows creates waste. Secondary glazing on the other hand, simply builds upon the existing window, which helps to minimise waste materials.

Installing secondary glazing

Another benefit to secondary glazing vs. double glazing is the ease of installation. You shouldn’t try to install a double glazed window yourself (unless you’re very experienced with DIY), but it’s relatively simple to install secondary glazing – meaning you can cut back on costs.

Looking to install new windows on your property? View our sliding sash windows, triple glazed windows, or our handmade bespoke windows.

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new york street

Best Windows for Noise Insulation

Noise pollution is a growing concern for homeowners across the UK.  If you live in an especially noisy area, such as the vicinity of a busy road, airport or nightclub, then you’ll want to keep the clamour of the outside world at bay.  By the same token, if you’re fond of blasting loud music or shouting at the television at the top of your lungs, then you might want to offer the outside world the same protection.

When it comes to sound insulation, much as with heat insulation, windows represent a weak point in any building.  Glass, after all, vibrates more easily than brickwork.  Fortunately, it’s a weak point we can address by upgrading to a more modern window.  Let’s take a look at some of the available options, and consider how they might help protect you from outside noise.

How is sound absorbed?

Before we can establish how best to stop sound, it’s vital we understand what sound actually is.  When we hear anything, whether it’s Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto, or the barking of a neighbour’s Alsatian, we’re perceiving tiny changes in air-pressure around our ears.  These vibrations can be measured in two different ways – their amplitude, which is most commonly measured in A-weighted decibels (or dBA), and their frequency, which is measured in hertz (the number of vibrations occurring per second).

Sounds waves are extremely difficult to destroy altogether.  They don’t just vanish when they encounter an obstacle; they’re forever bouncing around, reverberating, and changing shape as they do so.  When sound impacts the glass of your window, it’s effectively split into three: a certain portion echoes back in the opposite direction (which we might call an echo), another portion is absorbed into the material, and a third passes through to the other side.  In order to produce the most effective noise-reducing glass, our aim should be to keep this final quantity as low as possible.

sound waves

The human ear is better at perceiving some frequencies than others (most often those in the range of human speech).  Moreover, certain mediums will be better at transmitting certain frequencies than others – which is why the top end of the audio spectrum might seem muffled when your head is underwater, or the source of the sound is in another room.  Once you open a door, however, things will immediately sound much crisper.

Provided we’re not talking about extreme noises, like that of a gunshot or a bomb going off, we can think of sound waves passing through air as akin to a weight on the end of a spring. When the weight is moving very quickly up and down, the damping force of the spring will be high, causing it to slow more quickly.  When the weight is moving more slowly, the spring will act upon it less – even if the speed of the weight is the same.

What this means is that higher frequencies will naturally encounter more resistance than lower ones – which is why you won’t be able to hear a cymbal through a wall, but you might be able to hear a bass drum.  This consideration is vital when we’re thinking about how to protect our homes from outside noise – as certain sorts of noise will be more easily dealt with.  If you’re irritated by the yapping of next door’s dog, or of a baby who won’t stop crying, then a suitably sound-resistant window might be just what’s required; if you’re worried about your neighbour’s Lamborghini roaring, or of house music being playing at a neighbouring nightclub, then your choice of window alone might not be enough to make the difference.

How effective is double glazing at reducing noise?

Double glazing is among the most popular options for combatting both noise and heat transference.  So much so, in fact, that your property is likely to already have it equipped.  The technology works by sandwiching a layer of vacuum, inert gas, or dehydrated air, between two layers of glass.  This makes it difficult for sound waves and heat to get from one side to the other, as each successive layer of glass will be able to absorb a given portion of the wave.  This effect is made all the more pronounced when we introduce a third sheet of glass.

That said, while multiple sheets of glazing might confer some benefit, the most considerable improvements in noise-dampening are to be achieved through thicker sheets of glass, and larger areas of empty space.  These improvements will also result in better heat efficiency, too.  Of course, thicker glass will require a sturdier surrounding frame – which is why weaker plastic windows and doors are at a comparative disadvantage to stronger wooden and aluminium frames.

What other steps can I take?

If you’d like to reduce the amount of noise that’s leaking through your windows, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are a few other steps you can take to address the problem.   These include hanging heavy, thick curtains, which will act as a barrier to soundwaves and help absorb the sound waves reflecting around your room.

If you’re the owner of a property that’s listed or in a conservation area, you might find it difficult to obtain planning permission for double-glazing.  In this instance, you might consider secondary glazing instead.  This works by placing a second sheet of glass directly behind your existing window to help improve both noise and heat insulation.

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timber window

Is Triple Glazing Worth It?

Windows are a notorious point of thermal weakness in any building, and it’s essential that they’re made as heat-resistant as possible. Double glazing is a popular means of doing this; it sees two panes of glass placed in parallel with one another, with the space in between occupied by a vacuum, or an inert gas like argon.

But if double glazing yields such dramatic improvements in thermal efficiency, then why should we not also consider adding more panels of glass? Wouldn’t that improve heat-retention even further? Let’s get the facts on triple glazing.

What is triple glazing and how does it work?

Triple glazing is made up of three individual panes of glass secured in a sealed frame (unlike double glazing, which is formed of two panes of glass, or single glazing, which features just one).

As with double glazing, each pane of glass is spaced slightly apart and the cavities are filled – usually with an inert gas such as argon, xenon, or krypton.

The type and thickness of the glass, alongside the width of the cavities, the gas used to fill them, and the fact that there are three panes of glass instead of just one or two, combine to create a window with far superior insulation properties compared to single or double glazing.

triple glazed window

How thick is triple glazing?

A typical triple glazed window will be formed of three 4mm panes of glass separated by two 16mm filled cavities – 44mm in total.

By comparison a standard double glazing unit is 28mm thick. While there is a significant difference in the thickness of double and triple glazed units, most walls can still comfortably accommodate triple glazed windows.

How effective is triple glazing?

The performance of windows is rated with a U-value. This is the rate at which heat can transfer through a material – so the lower the number, the better.

Again, windows and their performance vary, however as a general rule quality double glazing will have a u-value of 1.4W/m² or even 1.2W/m². The typical u-value of a triple glazed window is 0.8W/m².

What’s holding triple glazing back?

Since double glazing has been around for decades, and we haven’t all moved on to triple glazing, you might imagine that the technology isn’t quite perfect. And in most situations, this is so. There are several reasons for this:

The cost of triple glazed windows

Triple glazed windows are considerably more difficult to manufacture than double glazed ones. Since demand (in the UK at least) is so low, triple glazing is considerably more costly than double glazing.

Triple glazed windows reduce light transmission

As well as preventing heat from escaping your property, triple glazing will also impact the amount of sunlight that can get in. The result is a markedly dingier look to the room, which might be precisely the opposite of what you’re looking to achieve. By the same token, this lack of sunlight will reduce the extent to which your home is heated by sunlight in the daytime – which, during summer, can actually increase your energy expenditure.

Triple glazing has minimal impact on noise penetration (compared to double glazing)

Sound travels more easily through a solid piece of glass than it does through the air – just place your ear against your window and tap it if you’d like an illustration of this. Consequently, triple glazing – while it might offer passable protection against noise – will not perform as well as double glazing where the gap is the same size.

What’s better? Double or triple glazing?

It’s clear that triple glazing is, all other things being equal, superior to double glazing. In areas of the world where sunlight is limited, and winter temperatures are especially frosty, this is particularly so. That’s why Scandinavian governments go to great lengths to subsidise triple glazing installations.

The reason that double glazing has been around for so long without eventually morphing into triple or quadruple glazing is that successive improvements have seen an evolution in the technology – one which eliminates the need for a revolution. Specifically:

• The gaps between the panels have increased, improving soundproofing.
• The manufacturing process has been refined, slashing costs.
• The gap between panels has been filled with exotic inert gases, which yield superior performance.

All of these improvements mean that the double glazed windows of today far outperform those of decades gone by. With this in mind, there’s little reason (excepting in the circumstances we’ve touched upon) for homeowners to choose anything else.

If you find that you’re unable to stretch to installing triple glazing, then be sure that you’ve explored more low-tech alternatives. Drawing heavy curtains in front of double glazed windows at night-time, for example, can provide considerable protection against heat loss.

For more information, read our article “Double Glazing vs. Triple Glazing“. Alternatively, shop for triple glazed windows here.

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