Single-hung vs. double-hung windows: which is right for you?

Image source: US Window & Door

Chris Gennone

By Chris Gennone

July 22, 2021

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Two of the most common types of windows seen in homes today are double-hung and single-hung windows. While they look the same and are similar in several ways, they operate differently. Although both feature a top sash and a bottom sash, only the bottom sash slides up and down on single-hung windows, while both the upper sash and lower sash open in double-hung windows. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between single hung and double hung windows and determine which windows are right for your home.

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What's the difference?

Single and double-hung windows side by side

Operation

Single-hung - The main distinction between these two window styles is their functionality. Single-hung windows feature a fixed top window sash and a bottom sash that only allows for one of the windows to open up and down.

Double-hung - Double hung windows feature two operable sashes which allow for both windows to open for increased airflow.

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Ventilation

Single-hung - While single-hung windows do offer some amount of ventilation, the lack of an additional operable sash decreases the amount of fresh air.

Double-hung - Thanks to its two operable sashes, double-hung windows offer more circulation as cool air comes in through the bottom and warm air blows out through the top.

Costs

Single-hung - While single-hung windows cost less than double-hung windows, it all depends on the type of material and brand you choose. Materials like fiberglass, wood, and aluminum tend to cost more than vinyl windows. But on average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200-$600 for single hung windows.

Double-hung - Because of the additional sash, double-hung windows are usually more expensive. Also depending on the type of material and brand, you can expect to pay anywhere between $350-$800 for double-hung windows.

Window cleaning

A woman cleaning her double-hung window in her kitchen

Image source: Renewal by Andersen

Single-hung - Because one of the windows does not open, it’s harder to clean the top exterior sash.

Double-hung - Double hung windows are typically easier to clean since they can open and be cleaned from inside.

Energy efficiency

Single-hung - According to the US Department of Energy, both single-hung and double-hung windows typically have higher air leakage rates than picture windows and hinged window types such as awnings and casement windows. However, single-hung windows are more energy-efficient because of their fixed top sash.

Double-hung - Because double-hung windows have more moving parts and open from the top and bottom, they are more likely to allow air and water infiltration if the top window doesn’t close all the way.

Single-hung and double-hung window materials

Vinyl

Vinyl single-hung windows installed in a kitchen

Image source: Milgard

Vinyl is one of the most common and more cost-effective materials for single-hung and double-hung window frames. Not only that, but it’s also more energy-efficient than other window material options. Though their traditional aesthetic and low maintenance may be attractive to some homeowners, vinyl is also not very environmentally friendly or as strong as metal frames. Vinyl frames are still a great option for new windows or replacement windows, if you’re on a budget or prefer something a little more basic.

Aluminum

Aluminum double-hung windows installed in a bathroom

Image source: Ply Gem

Aluminum frames are another popular choice for single hung and double hung windows thanks to their durability, low maintenance, and light weight. Though they tend to cost more than vinyl, they still cost less than fiberglass or wood.

Wood

Wood double-hung windows being installed by a professional contractor

Image source: Construction Coverage

Typically found in older homes, wooden window frames also insulate really well and can earn you a potential federal tax credit for Energy Star-rated products. Wood windows do come unfinished and require a significant amount of maintenance so you don’t experience any kind of cracking or warping from extreme temperatures. But bear in mind that removing wood windows in older, historic homes can ruin the character of the home and can even lower your resale value. Restoring them is a better idea than investing in a replacement project.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass double-hung windows installed on a porch

Image source: Pella

While fiberglass frames are not as common as vinyl, they are more durable, longer-lasting, and won’t expand or contract as much. The biggest disadvantage to fiberglass frames is their high price point, which could climb up to $800 or more before window installation.

Single-hung windows and double-hung windows may look and act in similar ways, they both differ in functionality, appearances, and more. But it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more cost-effective or energy-efficient windows, we recommend single-hung windows. But if you want something with more versatility and ventilation, double-hung windows are a good option. Deciding what the best windows are for your home can be difficult, but pointing out the differences will help you make that decision.

Get in touch with an experienced contractor today.

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