Taking a Closer Look at Low-E vs. Clear Glass

February 15, 2018

 Much has been written in both trade publications and the general press about the benefits of low-emissivity glass; indeed, many residential and commercial building codes even now require it. 

Industrywide efforts have been made over the years to create more-sustainable working and home living environments for occupants. A main reason has been the ever-growing desire of business owners and homeowners to be eco-responsible citizens, doing what’s best as corporate and private “groundskeepers” of planet Earth. Their earnestness - coupled with a basic desire to save on their energy bills - has caused them to take a closer look at whether low-emissivity windows can provide them with greater advantages over clear windows.

What should you make of low-emissivity, or low-e, glass? How does it compare with clear?

The Difference in Color

A key feature of low-e glass is its hue, which makes it distinguishable from colorless glass. Low-e glass has a microscopically thin metallic coating that is a subdued greenish color, not a striking shade that would be distracting or attention getting. In fact, its reflective green cast can be so light - unless it’s a triple coating, in which case, the color is significantly darker - that some have had a hard time telling the difference between low-e and clear glass without getting up close.

Tinted glass, another high-performing, energy-efficient glass option, and a common choice before low-e coatings were developed in the early 1980s, also has color. As a result, it is frequently mistaken for coated glass. Low-e and tinted glass are each different, though. Low-e glass with its special metal oxide coating reflects energy far more than tinted glass; tinted glass is a heat-absorbing glass.

The Difference in Energy Savings

The average person is aware they must apply high-SPF sunscreen and wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat to protect themselves from harmful ultraviolet rays - and many do so religiously. However, few appear to realize that those same rays can come straight through clear glass in a building, completely unblocked.

Low-e coatings serve as barriers. Unlike clear glass, which pulls in heat energy from both outside and inside - letting in nearly all visible light as well as high concentrations of harmful ultraviolet radiation and solar heat - low-e glass coatings push such energy back to its source. This property enables building occupants to receive UVB and infrared light protection that they would not receive from clear glass.

When heat energy is reflected, as opposed to merely absorbed, business owners and homeowners are able to maintain comfortable, productive environments. They can meet their energy-efficiency goals as a result of reducing their cooling and heating costs throughout the year.

Finding the Best Glass Solution

Today, newer window technologies, such as low-e coatings, enable you to have more-sustainable options than ever before, and you are sure to see paybacks that make your investment worthwhile. Replacement window professionals can easily help you make the best energy-efficient window selections for residential or commercial applications. You aren’t limited to plain styles, either, but rather can choose from a wide range of architectural glass, including beveled, tempered, and decorative styles for storefronts and other purposes.


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