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The Skinny on Skinny Triples

Demands for higher efficiency have driven innovation in the window and door industry for decades—and right now, we’re seeing another technology come closer to more widespread fruition: “skinny” or “thin” glass triples.

Compared with a traditional triple-paned insulating glass (IG) unit, which uses three conventional pieces of glass to create two pockets of insulation, a skinny triple utilizes an ultrathin center lite that is typically between 0.7mm and 1.3mm thick. Filled with krypton, these units can deliver outstanding thermal performance.

Around this time in 2019, we noted the emergence of skinny triples as a viable way to hit the stringent new California energy code. Their adoption has so far been a bit slower paced, but that could be changing as interest in the technology grows and new incentives make them more attractive. Here’s what to know about skinny triples:

Efficiencies for manufacturers and installers. One of the biggest advantages of skinny triples over their conventional triple-paned counterparts for window manufacturers is that they require no change in window framing—they are effectively a direct swap for double-paned glass. If adopting skinny triples as a differentiator, window and door companies don’t have to worry about completely redesigning the entire unit.

Additionally, skinny triples are nearly the same weight as double-paned IG units and don’t require any special considerations for installation or building design. This a big difference from conventional triples, which have largely lagged in the U.S. market for these reasons.

Occupancy benefits.Skinny triples offer very high thermal performance and can lead to lower U-factors and enhanced solar heat gain performance. But that’s not all—they may contribute to greater sound suppression. We know that comprehensive occupancy comfort is something that’s increasingly sought after these days. Skinny triples can make an impact here in addition to thermal benefits.

Widespread applicability. Skinny triples are a versatile technology, suitable for a wide range of buildings including residential single and multifamily, low- and high-rise structures, and nonresidential buildings. They’re also a good option for both new construction and retrofit applications, as they can replace a double-paned IG unit or sash in existing windows without the need to replace the window frame. While the initial need for their type of performance exists primarily in California to meet energy code, it’s easy to imagine them gaining traction anywhere high-performance fenestration is desired.

New incentives. Recently introduced incentives in California for the use of high-performance fenestration in new construction and existing buildings could spur greater adoption in skinny triples. The California Advanced Home Program, for example, is incentivizing the adoption of skinny triples with some attractive cash bonuses for builders—$400 per home can be had by utilizing program-approved thin-glass, triple-paned windows that can fit into a typical double-pane window frame and meets a U-factor of <0.22.

Evolving manufacturing techniques. As it stands today, some skinny triples currently in the marketplace utilize two spacers in construction—one between each piece of glass. Like a traditional triple, however, this introduces additional points of failure versus the utilization of a single spacer in a double-paned unit.

But a single spacer solution is possible for skinny triples. Quanex’s Super Spacer® technology has been shown effective in developing quality skinny triples, utilizing existing production processes to manufacture. This can make for a significant production advantage for window and door companies that want to seize the opportunity presented by skinny triples. And while no automated equipment on the market today is currently available for the manufacture of skinny triples, that may be changing as the potential for these high-performance units grows.

At Quanex, we’re always committed to driving innovation forward and helping our customers success.

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