If you're a home owner thinking about buying new windows, one of the many choices you'll have to make is whether or not to get windows filled with argon.
Argon windows are more energy efficient than air-filled double and triple paned windows, so they can help lower your home's utility bill over time.
To make the right decision, you'll need to know what argon is, why it is commonly used in windows and how argon windows compare to other windows.
Here’s what every homeowner should know and what we will cover:
- What Is Argon Gas?
- How Is Argon Gas Used in Window Construction?
- Why Is Argon Gas Used in Windows?
- Is Argon Gas Safe?
- Can Argon Gas Be Replaced in Windows?
- Argon vs. Krypton Gas
- How Long Does Argon Gas Last in Windows?
- Benefits of Low-E and Argon Gas Windows
What Is Argon Gas?
Argon is a gaseous element that is found in the earth's atmosphere. Because it is inexpensive, non-toxic, odorless and dissipates rapidly in well-ventilated areas, argon serves a variety of industrial purposes (1).
Argon is found in light bulbs, luxury car tires, window construction and SCUBA dry suits. Argon is also used in arc welding.
How Is Argon Gas Used in Window Construction?
Argon is used to fill the spaces between double and triple paned windows. These types of windows are known as "gas fills."
To fill the panes, argon is pumped in via a small hole along the spacer, while air is allowed to escape out another small hole in the spacer (2).
Therefore, one of the ways that homeowners can tell if their windows are made with argon is by checking for these holes.
Why Is Argon Gas Used in Windows?
Argon gas does not conduct heat as well as air, so it's an excellent insulator. Gas filled windows also prevent a buildup of frost at the bottom of the window during cold weather (3).
Argon is one of two types of gas that may be used in windows for this purpose; the other gas is krypton.
Is Argon Gas Safe?
Argon is a naturally occurring, non-toxic, non-reactive gas found in the environment. If the window seal breaks and the argon leaks out, no damage is done to the environment or the occupants of the home. The gas will dissipate quickly in an open, well-ventilated environment (4).
Can Argon Gas Be Replaced in Windows?
Window professionals can use a special meter to detect the presence of gas in the windows. This same meter will also measure the quantity of gas present in the windows. Argon can be replaced using special instruments.
To replace argon, the gas is pumped in via the hole in the spacer. If the seal is broken, the window may need to be repaired or replaced, or the problem will simply occur again.
Work with a window contractor to determine the level of argon in your windows and decide what to do about it (5, 6).
Argon vs. Krypton Gas
Krypton is denser and more expensive than argon, so while it is a better insulator, it's far less popular. Argon windows are the industry standard because argon is a reliable and readily available gas.
That said, argon is best used in 1/2-inch spaces found between double paned windows, while krypton is more effective in the smaller spaces between triple paned windows.
Therefore, some homeowners who choose to purchase triple paned windows will opt for krypton instead of argon gas fills (7, 8).
How Long Does Argon Gas Last in Windows?
Argon should last a long time, if the window quality is good. It's typical for some argon to leak out of the windows over a period of time, but good windows can last 20 years or more with argon still inside. Even if only a small amount of argon is left, the argon is still an effective insulator and the windows should still be effective (9).
Homeowners who are concerned about their windows can have them checked by a professional to find out whether or not there is still argon inside. If the gas has all leaked out, fog or frost may be visible between the panes.
Benefits of Low-E and Argon Gas Windows
Low-e coatings are frequently paired with argon gas windows to ensure maximum efficiency. There are many benefits of buying low-e and argon gas windows together. For example:
- Insulation. Low-e and argon gas windows are excellent insulators, and windows with both low-e and argon together have increased R-values over windows without.
- Works in summer and winter. Whether the temperature outside is hot or cold, argon gas/low-e windows provide insulation in all temperatures and all climates.
- Safe. Argon is safe for people and safe for the environment.
- Block ultraviolet light. Low-e coatings reflect ultraviolet light back into the environment, which in turn can help reduce damage to the furniture and flooring in the house.
- Soundproofing. Argon helps insulate against noise, which can be helpful for homeowners who live in loud areas.
- Inexpensive. Compared to other gas fills, argon is relatively inexpensive and is therefore a practical option for homeowners as well as business owners.
- Reduced utility costs. These windows can improve the performance of a home's HVAC system and therefore can reduce utility bills over time.
- Works with nearly any design. Argon works best in double paned windows spaced 1/2 inch apart, but aside from that, any window size or shape will work with argon and low-e coatings.
- Less frost in the winter. The insulator qualities of argon can prevent a buildup of frost on the windows in winter.
- Improved property value. New windows, especially new energy-efficient windows, can improve your home's property value by thousands of dollars.
Finally, low-e windows create a more comfortable environment indoors for you and your family. Your home will feel more comfortable and people living in it will be at a more comfortable temperature throughout the year.
You won't need to worry about closing window blinds to block summer heat or adding weather stripping in winter to keep in the warm air. With argon gas fills and proper insulation, your home will be naturally sealed against the elements for a more comfortable environment overall (10, 11).