Double pane windows are some of the most critical parts of your home energy efficient shield. If you want to avoid wasting heat (and therefore money), you need to make sure that your entire home is free from leaks and drafts. After all, your home is only as strong as its weakest part – and this applies to energy efficiency. A double pane window system is excellent at retaining heat. However, if they break, they lose their effectiveness, and the money you spent installing them is being wasted.
Around 25% to 30% of heat gain (in the summer) and heat loss (in the winter) comes through the windows of your home. If you have a broken double pane, this number can be even higher. As such, it’s imperative that you make repairs as soon as possible. On top of that, a small repair in the short term can prevent a major repair down the line.
Although double pane windows can be tricky to repair because of the difficulty of working with two panes, there are plenty of professionals who can help. The below guide will discuss what you need to do – and who you need to speak to – when and if your double pane window breaks. You’ll be back enjoying lower energy bills before you know it.
THE ANATOMY OF A DOUBLE PANE WINDOW
Understanding how a double pane window works is crucial so that you can make the right decision with regards to fixing it. If one of the pane cracks, simply patching it up may not work because of the way that panes are constructed.
Double pane windows consist of two panes of glass, with a gap in between them. The gap is filled with one of three different materials: special insulating glass, regular air, or a vacuum (although this option is somewhat rare). A crack in the pane will allow gas to escape or prevent the vacuum from working, thereby requiring more repair than simply patching.
The gas used in double pane windows is most commonly argon or krypton – inert gases that can be tricky to buy unless you are in the industry. In addition, before inserting the gas, you will need to pump out the air in the space. This demonstrates why it is extremely hard for the amateur to repair their own double pane windows.
If your windows have gas in them, the most common terminology you will hear is ‘Insulated Glass Unit’ or IGU. If an IGU window breaks, the gas will be released.
The gas is not harmful, so you’re not at risk of any health problems, although it will mean that you’ll require more than just a patch job to get it up and running again. Failing to do so will render your double pane window useless since heat will be able to readily pass across the cavity where the gas previously was.
If your regular double pane window breaks, it may be an opportunity to convert to IGU windows, since you’ll often be hiring a professional to fix the cavity anyway. The below sections will go into more detail about what is involved in repairing and the costs you may incur.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO REPAIR A DOUBLE PANE WINDOW?
Assuming you’ve decided to have your double pane window professionally repaired, you will pay more than would be the case with a single pane window.
THE OVERALL COST
Usually, a single pane window will cost $100 or so to fix; a double pane window will usually set you back somewhere between $170 and $180. The extra cost comes from the labor of having to repair something trickier than simply a pane of glass.
The following factors will all influence the price of repair, meaning that the above figure should serve as a ballpark amount.
Additional labor required.
If you need specialist work done, or if you need the window fitted or removed from a tricky location, you will pay extra for labor costs. Similarly, if there are additional repairs required, you will pay more.
Type of windows.
If you have casement windows, or any sort of specialist design, it’s likely you will need to pay more than the standard figure.
If you have wooden-framed windows, it’s likely you’ll pay more than the average figure. By contrast, if you have vinyl or aluminum windows, it’s likely that you’ll end up paying somewhere between $20 and $25 less than the average price.
Type of damage.
Given there are no moving parts in a double pane window, there are a lot of different things that can go wrong. From a crack in the glass to a damaged frame, there are plenty of different levels of repair. If the damage is severe, you should aim to get quotes from at least three different companies before you decide how to proceed.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO FIX A DOUBLE PANE WINDOW YOURSELF?
It is always tempting when it comes to home repairs to attempt to fix it yourself. However, when it comes to double pane windows, there’s more involved than simply patching up a crack in the glass. As shown above, there is a lot of complex technology involved in something as simple as a double pane window.
In short, therefore, the answer is no, you won’t be able to repair a double pane window yourself unless you are also a professional in the industry. For most of us, that means we’ll need to call in the experts. If you are insistent on doing some part of the process yourself, you can remove the window from its frame to make it easier for the professional to repair. This will save time, and therefore help reduce your overall bill.
In order to remove a double pane window, you’ll need to do the following:
If you are in any way unsure of your ability to remove the pane safely – stop. It’s better to have a professional fix a minor issue than turn it into a major issue.
HOW IS A FOGGY OR WATERLOGGED WINDOW REPAIRED?
One of the most common problems with a double pane window is that it frequently becomes fogged, or water is visible on the inside. This usually indicates a fault with the sealing and, while it’s not hugely problematic (i.e. it is a problem that doesn’t require an urgent fix), it is something you’ll need to address at some point. Again, you will need a professional to come and fix it.
This relatively simple solution will work extremely well for a long time. Other solutions involve placing a valve or a vent in the pane to allow the moisture to exit. Once the air in the cavity is dry, your window will be back to its advertised R value. Any fog or water is a sign that the R value is not where it should be, and therefore needs to be addressed.
If your double pane windows do break,
there are plenty of options when it comes to repairing them – as shown above. Often, the time to repair means that there’s potential for an upgrade. Repairing the structural issues and then opting for insulated glass units, for example, can be up to 70% more efficient than simply fixing what’s broken.