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Insulating Glass


Insulating glass IGU made of glass is called insulated glass, which refers to heat insulation, not sound 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 transferring 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. Typically the spacer is filled with dessicant 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 conduction. This is called evacuated glazing. Similar techniques are also used in insulation products called vacuum insulate panels.

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. 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. Asymmetric double glazing, using different thickness of glass rather than the conventional 4-12-4 symmetrical systems, is more important than air gap thickness in improving the phonic insulation properties. This is often overlooked.

As of 2007, argon is commonly used in insulated glazing as it is affordable. Kryton, 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.





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