Installing Double versus Triple Pane Windows to Reduce Sacramento’s Noise Pollution in Your Home

From the roaring rice dryers in the southwest to the McClellan Air Force Base traffic, there never seems to be an escape from Sacramento’s increasing library of sounds. And each neighborhood comes with its own unique set of noises that plague residents at the most inopportune hours. There’s the night-time freight trains in Midtown sounding their horns at three in the morning and the sound of jet engines overhead in Natomas near the airport. Although its beautiful green spaces and charming small-town feel make it an amazing place to live, reducing the effects of noise pollution is a concern for many homeowners. You hear me loud and clear, right?

During one of your many late night attempts to Google the best ways to soundproof your home after being woken up by a ruckus, you’ve undoubtedly come across the recommendation to install triple pane windows. While it makes sense that another layer of glass would help keep out unwanted noise, you may have wondered if buying new windows this spring would be worth the investment. After all, even window experts have varying opinions when it comes to whether or not triple pane windows are worth it for reducing noise in your home. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of double versus triple pane windows so you can decide for yourself whether or not installing triple pane windows to reduce noise would ensure a good night’s sleep for your family—and a quieter home.

Do Triple Pane Windows Reduce Sacramento’s Noise Pollution?

Common sense would seem to suggest that three panes of glass would be better at shutting out sound than only one or two. Generally speaking, (and I mean very generally), this is true. Not only do each of the three panes of glass provide barriers against sound, but the two gas-filled air spaces between the panes also effectively cushion and muffle incoming noise.

are triple better than double pane windowsBut, many experts argue that double pane windows can be just as effective at reducing sound as more expensive triple pane ones. Air spaces generally tend to be thicker in double pane than in triple pane windows to keep the combined three panes slim enough to fit into standard frames. Double pane windows, then, actually have the advantage of being able to cushion more sound. So, chances are, if you have installed double pane windows in the last few years, they’re already cutting down on some of the incessant sounds of Sacramento. Compared to single pane windows, double pane options generally reduce noise by 38 to 43%. It is, however, important to keep in mind that all windows aren’t created equal.

The Importance of Window Glass Thickness for a Quieter Sacramento Home

If Sacramento’s noise pollution is infiltrating your aging single pane windows, installing new, efficient windows is a must. The difficulty is choosing between double or triple pane windows for a quieter living space. Many homeowners I work with are surprised to learn that when comparing noise reduction levels, the difference isn’t all that significant—until you also take into account the quality of the glass.

When it comes to glass, the thicker the better for keeping out sound. Window glass typically ranges from about 3 to 10 millimeters thick. 10 mm thick glass reduces up to 38% more sound than glass that is three mm thick. So, double pane windows with two layers of 10 mm glass would be shockingly more efficient at decreasing noise in your home than three layers of 3mm glass. And, you also have to consider whether to go with laminated or tempered glass:

  • Laminated glass: Laminated windows have panes held together by a laminate product like plastic or polyvinyl butyral (PVB), making them quite durable. They are the most effective for keeping out sound and are also incredibly energy efficient. If laminated glass breaks, it doesn’t shatter, but rather cracks, with the pieces staying stuck to the laminate, making it a safe option as well.
  • Tempered glass: Tempered glass windows are much less energy efficient and don’t do a great job at reducing noise. And because they are more fragile than laminated windows, they typically need to be replaced more frequently. Although they’re less expensive up front, if noise reduction and long-term efficiency are your main concerns, they’re not your best bet.

So, the takeaway is that having triple pane windows installed in your home may not give you any more noise reduction than double pane ones. What’s important is to choose a thick, laminated glass, whether you go with three panes or two.

Sound Transmission Ratings for Glass Windows Make an Impact

So, the quality and type of glass better determine a window’s ability to reduce noise than the number of panes it has, right? Well, let’s throw in another factor to consider when installing new windows: sound transmission ratings. There are a couple of rating systems for how effective a window is at reducing noise: sound transmission class (STC) or outdoor-indoor transmission class (OITC). In both cases, windows that are more effective at reducing sound have higher number ratings.

STC ratings indicate how well a window reduces high-frequency sounds, like your neighbor’s kids screaming or those incessant Northern Mockingbirds singing outside your window. OITC ratings, on the other hand, measure how well a window reduces lower frequency sounds. For Sacramento residents who are plagued with low-frequency noise like the hum of traffic, the roar of rice dryers, or rumble of jet engines, a high OITC factor will likely be a selling point.

Depending on its thickness, your typical single pane window is likely to have an STC rating under 35, and an OITC rating around 27. In areas like Sacramento that tend to be on the louder side, we recommend that you install windows with an STC rating of around 40-43 and an OITC rating of around 36. Also know that a ten point increase in either of these ratings results in an additional 50% reduction in noise.

Expert Window Installation Makes or Break Window Efficiency

While triple pane windows will reduce outside noise, they aren’t the only solution for soundproofing your home. Choosing a double pane window with thick, laminated glass and a high OITC rating could be just as effective—and possibly more practical for homeowners on a budget. Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind that the efficiency of even the highest quality windows is dependent on being installed and sealed correctly. You’d be surprised by just how much sound can seep through the crack of a window that doesn’t sit tightly on its frame—especially if it’s the sound of a train horn in the wee hours of the morning.

Let’s be honest, Sacramento is an idyllic city for the most part, but it’s not going to get quieter anytime soon. Instead of spending sleepless nights being woken up by its dissonant symphony of sounds, shut them out with some quality, triple or double pane windows. Silence never sounded so good.

If you’re looking for quality, professionally installed triple or double pane windows to reduce noise in your home, contact us today. At Bell Brothers, we look forward to helping you make your home as quiet and peaceful as possible. After all, silence is golden.

Image courtesy Unsplash user Olu Eletu