When is it time to replace your windows rather than just replacing the insulated glass unit or getting your windows defogged? If you have already typed the words “foggy windows” into an online search engine, the results you saw likely came mainly from manufacturers, distributors or installers. However, nowadays there are also companies on the market that specialize in replacing insulated glass units or defogging windows; you can find them both on the Internet and in person at events such as home shows.

Are you familiar with exactly how thermal windows work? They do a lot more than simply provide a clear view of the outdoors. A large share of the energy lost from your home flows out through your doors and windows, so you should ensure that you have a solution in place that meets your needs.

Insulated glass unit and its role in a window

An insulated glass unit, or IGU, consists of two or three panes of glass that have been factory-sealed together to form a single unit. Since its main function is to improve the energy performance of windows, it also features a low-E coating and a gas fill.

The lifespan of windows—depending on the materials used—can be upwards of 20 years or even longer. The lifespan of the IGUs themselves, meanwhile, can vary depending on the following factors:

  • broken glass
  • thermal breakage
  • deterioration of sealant
  • worn seal
  • fogging between panes

If your main problem is condensation, monitor it closely before coming to any conclusions. If the moisture is on the inside or outside of the windows, this is entirely normal. If it is occurring between the panes, however, the seal may be damaged. This situation is understandably annoying since, besides spoiling the view, it makes cleaning difficult.

Solution #1 for foggy windows: Defogging

Window defogging is a service gaining in popularity in recent years. Although condensation is annoying, it does not at all compromise the structural integrity of your home. However, it’s also important to note that defogging simply improves visibility—it does nothing to improve energy performance.

One technique used to defog windows is to drill two holes in the glass, one on the inside and one on the outside. An anti-fog solution is then applied inside to help clear the glass. Lastly, a device is inserted into each hole to allow the air to circulate.

This solution is cosmetic but also temporary, as it lasts only a few years. At first glance, it may appear economical, since it does not involve installing any new products. However, there is still a cost for the labour required. We therefore recommend comparing this expense with the price of installing a brand-new IGU.

Solution #2 if windows are in good condition: Replacing IGU

If your window is structurally sound and all parts and mechanisms are operating properly, then replacing the IGU is definitely worth considering. This option is less expensive than having a new window installed, and the new thermal panes will have direct positive impact on your heating and cooling costs, so you are sure to see a difference on your power bill.

With this option, the original window is left in place. Note that if the window was not installed correctly or properly insulated to begin with, then you probably will not notice any difference in terms of efficiency.

Also, although anyone can go out and purchase a new IGU and install it themself, proper installation is critical to prevent any air infiltration or water accumulation. As well, depending on the condition and materials of your original window, there is always a risk of breakage of the glass stop, spacer or other parts during installation.

Solution #3 for greatest comfort and long-term savings: Replacing the window

Replacing the window entirely is the solution that offers maximum performance when it comes to energy efficiency, soundproofing, insulation and seal effectiveness. This costs more, of course, but many manufacturers and distributors—including Vaillancourt Doors and Windows—offer financing. It’s worth considering when you think of the energy savings.

Keep in mind also that defogging and IGU replacement are compromise solutions to extend the life of your windows. And before making any decisions, check the warranty on your IGU; in some cases, it may be 10 to 15 years or even longer. IGUs from Vaillancourt Doors and Windows are guaranteed for life, which makes replacing them inexpensive for sure!

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