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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Thermal performance and potential annual energy impact of retrofit thin-glass triple-pane glazing in US residential buildings

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Heat transfer through the building envelope and associated air leakage comprise the largest HVAC loads in most climates, and windows, which are known as the weakest link in the thermal envelope, are responsible for about 5 Quads, or approximately 10%, of building energy use. Therefore, windows offer a significant opportunity for building energy savings. High performance windows, such as triple glazing, though comprised of less than 2% of all US window sales in 2016 and has remained stagnant because they typically require a full and expensive redesign of the typical window sash and frame. One potential low incremental cost solution to kick start the market is upgrading the glazing with a thin-glass triple-pane design that does not require modifications to existing frame and sash. In this work, we first define the characteristics and performance of current “typical” residential windows through an examination of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) Certified Products Directory (CPD). With knowledge of the typical window, we determine the potential thermal performance impact of replacing typical glazing with thin-glass triple-pane glazing. Finally, with an understanding of the potential improvements to traditional performance metrics, such as U-factor, we show the energy savings potential of the thin-triple glazing in place of typical low-e windows in residential buildings is 16% in heating dominated climates such as Minneapolis, MN, 12% in mixed climates such as Washington DC, and 7% in cooling dominated climates such as Houston, TX.

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