“How Long Do Double Pane Windows Last?” Jim in Sacramento Asks an Expert

Jim in Sacramento made the smart decision to upgrade to double pane windows years ago. But wait, exactly how long ago was it? He says:

“I can’t for the life of me remember the exact year I went from single pane to double pane windows in my house. I think Mitch Richmond was still playing for the Kings and Seinfeld was on TV. It’s been at least two decades. So, my question is, how long do double pane windows last? I bought them for energy-efficiency and the other benefits they provide over their thinner counterparts. Do the benefits diminish over time, and if so by how much?”

Wow, Jim, it has been quite a while since you bought new windows. So long, in fact, I don’t think my kids would get your pop culture references. The short answer, I’m afraid, is that, yes, the benefits that motivated you to buy those double pane windows in the first place do diminish as they get older. There is, however, a pleasant caveat. In the many years since your first upgrade, windows have improved even more. Installing new double pane windows will offer your home all the initial benefits you once enjoyed—and then some.

The Benefits of Double Pane Windows

We’re lucky in Sacramento to have wonderful historic homes with character, especially in neighborhoods like Midtown and Land Park. We’re not so lucky that many of these homes, and even a great deal of newer tract houses that have gone up in the last two decades, have single pane windows.

double pane windows replacement

Image courtesy Unsplash user Freestock.org


Exactly like they sound, they’re a basic window with a single pane of glass separating you from the outside world. There are many reasons why Jim, and scores of other homeowners like him, have upgraded to energy efficient double pane windows with two panes of glass. Here’s a brief list of advantages:

  • Increased energy efficiency: On average, windows are responsible for as much as 25 percent of residential energy loss. If you replace single pane windows with qualified double pane ones, you can save 2,660 kWh annually according to the US Department of Energy. Now, that number may not mean much to you, but it’s enough to power most homes for three months. The reason is that a double pane set up allows only about 75 percent of the sun’s heat inside your house, as opposed to nearly 100 percent let in by single pane windows. They also provide a better seal, meaning air won’t pass freely in and out of your home where the glass connects to the window frame.
  • Reduced outside noise: You don’t want to hear your neighbors all the time, and, let’s face it, with Downtown Sacramento adding new bars and restaurants every year, some of our streets have gotten noisier. Double pane windows reduce noise saturation in your home the same way they reduce solar heat. Added glass and space between panes provides a buffer zone to reduce loud sounds that is almost as effective as triple pane options, but considerably less costly.
  • Save on storm windows: If you have single pane windows, you know the hassle of taking down or changing storm windows. Make no mistake, storms windows are important, especially like in the winter we just had in Sacramento. Well, double pane windows essentially do the job of storm windows for you, using the extra layer of glass to give your home added protection from the elements.
  • Upgraded curb appeal: Windows are the eyes of the home, and changing their size, shape, or clarity gives your place a whole new look and feel. A good window contractor can help you revitalize your home’s curb appeal while installing or replacing double pane windows.

Signs That Your Windows Are Worn Out

There’s no debating the positive effect double pane windows have on your home, and, in fact, you may have made the switch years ago, just like Jim. But how can you tell if your double pane windows are worn out and your home is in need of an upgrade?

You could try and remember what you were watching on TV when you bought them. Or, even better, you could consult your careful records to see the exact date of purchase. However, if you don’t watch much TV, and aren’t great at record-keeping, there are other ways to tell whether your double pane windows are aging:

  • Fogging: When a window starts to fog, it’s starting to fail. It’s that simple. See, double pane windows are sealed for maximum insulation, meaning moisture can’t penetrate the panes unless there’s a crack in the seal. If a seal is broken—this just happens naturally over time—the window’s ability to insulate is gone. After the heavy winds, pounding rains, and fallen tree branches we heard about all over Sacramento during our winter storms this year, I’ve seen a major increase in broken window seals. If you have any concern about this at all, I suggest getting yours checked.
  • Drafts: This is a companion to the issue above. Our area isn’t the most humid, especially during the summer, and you might not have obvious moisture penetration. But, as I’m sure you know, wind and dust are always prevalent around here. If you’re feeling a draft near your windows, you need to call a window company and talk about replacement.
  • Visible Damage: Can you see hairline cracks in your windows? Yeah, that’s not good. There’s no long-term fix for that. It’s time for you to install new windows.

The good news is that you don’t have to simply replace your windows: you can upgrade them. In the past 20 years or so, window manufacturers have done a great job of creating products that boost your home’s energy efficiency and insulate you from the outside climate without sacrificing aesthetic appeal that’s so important to any home.

So yes, like Jim in Sacramento, your double pane windows may have served you well over the years as you watched all kinds of shows and sportsmen that aren’t around anymore. But, as with most things in your house, they slowly wear down, losing efficiency. It may be time for you to embrace a new generation of windows. No comment on your shows or sports teams.  

Professional installation companies in your area may offer free evaluations of your existing windows. They can also evaluate your home’s energy efficiency as a whole and make recommendations for your entire home—a great way to save money on your utility bills. But I don’t have to tell you that. You probably invested in double pane windows way back before Schwarzenegger ran for office. No way you want to give all those benefits up now—especially since PG&E rates are on the rise from Elk Grove to Elverta.

If you suspect your double pane windows may have outlived their usefulness—and are contributing to your increasing energy bills. Contact the professionals at Bell Brothers today to explore your window replacement options.