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Insulated glazing


Windows are a potential site of significant heat transfer[1] and can contribute to problems in maintaining thermal comfort within buildings. The glazing industry has offered several innovations that attempt to improve thermal insulation. The application of multiple panes of glass or special coatings to the glazing unit can significantly reduce heat transfer by radiation, conduction, or convection. Special construction techniques or materials can also reduce heat fluxes through the window frame itself.


Types of special glazing products

  • Insulated glazing units - reduce convection/conduction
  • Tinted glass - reduce thermal radiation
  • Low-e (spectrally selective) glass - admits short wave solar thermal radiation but retards the exit of long wave building radiation

Insulated Glazing unit

Insulated Glazing Unit or Insulating Glass Unit (commonly referred to as IGU) is a set of two or more lites of glass spaced apart and hermetically sealed to form a single glazed unit with an air space between each lite. Its most important function is to improve the thermal performance of glass when used in architectural applications. Another name often used in North America is Sealed Insulating Glass (abbreviated SIG).

The most commonly found IGUs are double glazed, i.e. made with two lites of glass and are therefore also referred to as "double glazing units" or "DGU" (especially in Europe) but IGUs with three lites or more, i.e. "triple glazing" are sometimes used for in very cold climates. Insulated glazing may be framed in a sash or frame or in a curtain wall. IGUs are also commonly used for replacement windows.

Insulating glass

IGU made of glass is called insulated glass, which refers to heat insulation, not sound[1] or electricity. A less accurate term is "insulating glass", since the glass itself has no insulative properties. It is the air space between the glass layers (lites) that provides the insulation.

It is important that the air remains as immobile as possible to prevent convection currents transfering heat across the insulating gap. This limits the thickness of the air gap used and is the reason for triple glazing.

The space between the lites may be filled with air or an inert gas like argon or krypton which would provide better insulating performance. (Argon has a thermal conductivity 67% that of air. [2]) Typically the spacer is filled with desiccant to prevent condensation and improve insulating performance. Less commonly, most of the air is removed, leaving a partial vacuum, which drastically reduces heat transfer through convection and conduction.[3] This is called evacuated glazing. Often the insulating quality is used in reference to heat flow where the gap is the insulating medium. The gap is usually 12mm to 20mm thick. Within this range, the thickness does impact the insulating properties substantially, but smaller gaps have greater heat conduction through the air or other gas, and larger gaps allow more convection within the space leading to higher convective heat loss. A 16mm air gap is often considered the optimum thickness for air although this depends on many factors such as the size of the window, the temperature difference between the two panes and whether it is vertical.

In general, the more effective a fill gas is at its optimum thickness, the thinner the optimum thickness is. For example, the optimum thickness for krypton is lower than for argon, and lower for argon than for air [4]. However, since it is difficult to determine whether the gas in an IGU has become mixed with air at manufacture time (or becomes mixed with air once installed), many designers prefer to use thicker gaps than would be optimum for the fill gas if it were pure. In some situations the insulation is in reference to noise mitigation. In these circumstances a large gap improves the noise insulation quality or Sound transmission class.

As of 2007, argon is commonly used in insulated glazing as it is affordable. Krypton, which is considerably more expensive, is not generally used except to produce very thin double glazing units or relatively thin, or extremely high performance triple glazed units.

In principle, xenon would be even more effective than krypton.

Insulated glass assemblies cannot be cut to size in the field like plate glass but must be manufactured to the proper size in a shop equipped with special equipment.

The effectiveness of insulated glass can be expressed as an R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater is its resistance to heat transfer.

Glass coatings

The heat and sound insulation of glazing may also be improved by the use of a film or coating applied to its surface. This film is typically made of polyester or metal, and may give the window a reflective appearance and one-way mirror effect. It may be used on single-glazed windows as an alternative to insulated glazing, or on the outside layer of insulated glazing to further improve its effectiveness.[2] Such coatings may reduce fading of fabric and improve safety in case the glass breaks.[3]. The Solar Heat Gain Co-efficient is a measure which expresses the proportion of incident solar thermal radiation that is transmitted by a window. Visible Transmittance describes the amount of visible light that can pass. Both of these can be independently altered by different coatings.[5]

Tinted glass

Many of the films impart a color to the glass, typically blue, brown or gold, which may be used to enhance a building's architectural style[4]. In automotive applications, where non-reflective and neutral-color tinted glazing is required, heat reflective properties are created using a nano-metre thick silver oxide layer within the windscreen[5]. Insulating automotive glass is also called "athermic glass", "heat reflective glass" or "comfort glass".

Secondary glazing is sometimes used as a cheaper alternative. It consists of a layer of glazing placed retrofitted inside the window, to provide sound and heat insulation. Plastic sheet may be used for heat insulation, but may only last for one season.[6]

Low-emissivity coating

Low-emissivity (Low-E) glass has a thin coating, often of metal, on the glass within its airspace that reflects thermal radiation or inhibits its emission reducing heat transfer through the glass. A basic low-e coating allows solar radiation to pass through into a room. Thus, the coating helps to reduce heat loss but allows the room to be warmed by any sunshine. The low-e coating is usually on the inside pane of glass; if solar control is required then the outside pane of glass would have either a film or a body tint to reflect or absorb solar radiation. The principle of operation is similar to the greenhouse effect in which short wavelength radiation is transmitted through the pane, but longer wavelength radiation is absorbed. However, low-e glass reflects the radiation rather than absorbing it, improving performance compared the the glass in a simple greenhouse.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ ASHRAE Handbook, Volume 1, Fundamentals, 1993
  5. ^

See also

  • Curtain wall
  • Window
  • Glass
  • G-value
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Insulated_glazing". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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