Why Soundproof Windows are a Good Idea (And the Importance of Soundproofing)
June 30, 2020
In the last fifty years we’ve seen an incredible shift in homeowners cutting ties to their rural neighborhoods and transitioning to suburban and urban metropolitan centers. Infrastructure in these hubs has taken off: public transit is in motion, jobs are prevalent, and opportunities abound. So it’s really no wonder that so many choose to live amongst the hubbub, in the heart of it all. Yet our worldwide migration to urban centers comes with it a host of unique problems; chief among the issues of mass urbanization is noise pollution.
Living in and amongst so many people (and their cars, and their phones, and the industries at which they work) means cities are just inherently noisy and becoming increasingly so. Finding ways to soundproof your home is, in light of this shift, absolutely vital.
But is there a need to soundproof your home beyond combatting the general annoyance that ambient noise brings?
The EPA would tell you ‘yes.’ According to the EPA, noise pollution is considered a health hazard. Continuous exposure to acute or ambient noises adversely impacts millions of people every day, causing stress-related illnesses, speech interference, high blood pressure, hearing loss, productivity loss, noise-induced hearing loss, and sleep disruption, among other issues.
Homes built thoughtfully, with well-insulated walls made of highly soundproofed materials (think CBS construction instead of wood framing), can help mitigate a lot of the ambient noise that causes these issues, but certainly won’t eliminate ambient sounds entirely. Installing soundproof windows and doors in a home takes this noise mitigation much further: soundproof windows are vitally important in reducing noise and thereby mitigating adverse impacts that noise pollution can have on the inhabitants of the building or home.
Soundproof windows have come a long way over the past few years thanks to recent advances in manufacturing technology and our greater understanding of the physics behind sound transfer. Soundproof windows (also known as noise reduction windows) are now constructed to eliminate up to 95% of external noises that might come through a window or glass door. Compared to windows manufactured to mitigate noise only ten or so years ago, that’s incredible!
But how does soundproofing work?
There are a number of ways to manufacture the best noise-reducing windows and doors, and creating the perfect window can be as much an art as it is a science. Blocking out unwanted noise from a home can be achieved by adding either mass or air space to a glass windowpane (or both). Adding mass means making a thicker window – the thicker the glass, the better the noise reduction.
Thicker glass also comes with it benefits like energy efficiency, as heat transfer is lessened. Adding air between sheets (which is accomplished by increasing the distance between the layers of glass) offers a similar effect. Another way to help reduce noise is to use laminated glass.
Laminated glass looks, in theory, a bit like a “glass-plastic-glass sandwich,” and it too will help with serious noise mitigation and some degree of household insulation. Laminated glass windows are unique in that they account for low frequency sounds, like thunder or the thumping bass of a car stereo passing by. These are harder to block than higher frequency noises (like a bird chirp). Relying on windowpane glass that’s fairly thick, has substantial air space between panes, and is laminated should work well in covering the spectrum of typical noises heard, regardless of frequency.
So, how do you know if your windows are soundproof?
All windows manufactured today will come with an industry rating: this rating (the STC or Sound Transmission Class Scale) reflects the ability of the glass to block out noise. The higher the rating, the better quality the window and the better able it will be to block out noise. Generally, a single-pane window will carry an average STC rating of about 27; dual-pane windows, which have two panes of glass pressed together, average 28 on the STC scale.
Windows that have been specially manufactured to be soundproof (with multiple thick glass panes, ample air space between panes, and/or laminating), will have an STC rating around 45, reaching as high up as the mid-50’s. With an STC of 50 or more, you’d be hard-pressed to hear much of anything going on outside your home (though admittedly, no window is 100% soundproof).
And while a single-pane glass window might seem like the more cost-effective option, consider this: every year, we have more and more reasons to limit the ambient noises that assail us, and to put our hearing first. More employees than ever are working out of their homes. Important conference calls and business meetings are now happening in the home office, and disruptions like passing cars or barking dogs can cause some real embarrassment for the savvy professional. More young families are also moving to major cities, so young babies are being raised in homes surrounded by much more ambient noise than they were fifty years ago.
Finally, we’re simply becoming a more populous society: more and more individuals are migrating to the same large cities to live in close proximity with each other, and as a result, the amount of noise in our lives has simply increased, at an exponential rate. In light of these changes, new homebuyers are recognizing that the soundproofed window is a significant value-add to their new home.
Soundproofing your home will increase resale price and appeal. So while it may not feel prudent at the moment to invest in pricier, soundproofed windows, your future self will thank you for the investment. We’ve got a wide range of soundproof windows available and would be more than happy to talk through the benefits of each.
Still have questions about soundproofing? Talk to an expert at Alumalco – we’ll help you choose the best soundproof windows to fit your budget, your home, your needs, and the lifestyle you deserve!