What’s the Difference Between Single Hung vs Double Hung Windows?

What’s the Difference Between Single Hung vs Double Hung Windows?

May 20, 2024
Martin Whitmore, President of US Window & Door
Photo of Kitchen with Milgard Vertical Double-Hung Windows

Two of the most popular vertical sliding window styles in modern homes are single-hung and double-hung windows. While both window types have been around for hundreds of years, they may not have been the primary choice for every homeowner's budget due to their higher cost. However, with modern manufacturing, the cost difference between the two is significantly less today, making them a solid consideration for your next installation

On the other hand, nearly everyone is familiar with a single-hung window as they are the most common windows with a vertical opening. While they may look similar at first glance, some differences in how they function and perform are important to understand. If you're looking for new windows and want a comprehensive overview of all your options for vertical sliding windows, our team brings over thirty years of experience to explain which type of window is best suited for your specific needs and preferences.

Understanding Single-Hung Windows

A single-hung window has two sashes, but only the bottom sash is operable. The bottom, operable panel can slide vertically to open, allowing fresh air to enter the home, while the top sash remains stationary. Single-hung windows are a more traditional style and are commonly found in older homes. They are the slightly more affordable option when compared to double-hung windows.

A key advantage of single-hung windows is their simplicity. With fewer moving parts, they are generally easier to operate and maintain over time. They provide a timeless look, complimenting various architectural styles. Similarly, because of their single opening sash, they have screens covering only half of the window, which some people prefer for visibility.

However, single-hung windows do have some limitations when it comes to ventilation and cleaning. Because only the bottom sash can open, they offer less flexibility in terms of airflow compared to double-hung windows. Milgard windows have a tilt-in or sash removable functionality for operable sashes, allowing you to clean the window from inside the home. However, since single-hung windows have only one operable sash, cleaning the exterior of the top sash can be challenging as it cannot be tilted for easy access from inside the home. 

Exploring Double-Hung Windows

Double-hung windows also feature two sashes, but both the top and bottom sashes are operable in this window type. Each sash can slide vertically, independent of the other, providing greater control over ventilation. You can open the bottom sash for cool, fresh air to enter while simultaneously opening the top sash to allow rising warm air to escape. This unique double-hung window feature creates a natural circulation effect that can help improve air quality and comfort in your home.

Another significant benefit of double-hung windows is their ease of cleaning. Most designs allow you to tilt both sashes inward, making it convenient to clean the exterior glass from inside your home. Ease of access for cleaning is beneficial for windows on upper floors or hard-to-reach areas that would otherwise require external cleaning.

Double-hung windows offer a more modern and versatile look than single-hung windows. They are available in a wide range of materials, colors, and finishes to suit various design preferences. However, due to their additional functionality and features, double-hung windows typically come at a slightly higher cost. 

Key Differences Between Single-Hung and Double-Hung Windows

When deciding between single-hung and double-hung windows, there are multiple differences to consider. Our sales team can help you decide on the most critical factors for your home and each window opening to select the right fit for your window's purpose, but we'll cover some of the most important points below. 

Rending of a Double-Hung Window with Arrows Showing Ventilation and Circulation

1. Difference in Screens

Since single-hung windows have only one moveable sash, they usually come with a screen that only covers the bottom half of the window, giving you the full view from the top sash. Some owners prefer this look instead of a double-hung window screen, which, by necessity, covers the entire window from bottom to top. However, Milgard develops the screens to ensure excellent visibility while blocking unwanted critters and debris. With Milgard screens, you may not even realize they are there at a glance. 

2. Differences in Ventilation 

One of the most significant differences is the amount of ventilation each type provides. Double-hung windows offer superior ventilation options because the top and bottom sashes are both operable. This unique function allows the top sash to release rising warm air while opening the bottom sash draws in cooler fresh air from outside. The ability to create this natural circulation makes double-hung windows ideal for maximizing airflow, especially on upper floors.

In contrast, single-hung windows only allow you to open the bottom sash, limiting the amount and flexibility of ventilation you can achieve. While they still provide airflow when the bottom sash is open, single-hung windows are better suited for rooms requiring less ventilation, such as ground-floor spaces. However, in Southern California's warm weather, having that additional ventilation in every room may be a nice feature to have as the air cools down at night. Rapidly swapping warm for cold air helps your family stay comfortable while saving energy because they would likely use the HVAC system less often than with single-hung windows. 

3. Potential Differences in Energy Efficiency

Single-hung windows are generally considered slightly more energy-efficient than double-hung windows. Because single-hung windows have fewer moving parts and seals where air can potentially leak, they allow less air infiltration. The fixed upper sash creates a tighter seal.

However, the difference in efficiency is often minimal, and Milgard ensures energy efficiency ratings above code requirements for all its products. Therefore, their high-quality, well-made double-hung windows also provide excellent energy efficiency. Factors like the window material, the number of glass panes, low-E coatings, gas fills between panes, and proper installation tend to have a more significant impact on the overall energy performance than the operating type.

Photo of a Woman Cleaning her Double-Hung Window

4. Differences in Cleaning and Maintenance

Double-hung windows are typically easier to clean and maintain. Milgard's designs have a tilting function for each sash, enabling you to clean the exterior glass surface from inside your home, which is incredibly convenient for second-story or hard-to-reach windows.

With single-hung windows, you can only tilt in or remove to access the bottom sash from the inside for cleaning. To wash the exterior of the upper sash, you may need to clean it from the outside, often requiring a ladder for large or upper-floor windows, making a thorough cleaning of single-hung windows more challenging. The additional cost of a cleaning crew to handle these types of windows may make up the difference in initial costs compared to being able to clean the windows yourself. 

5. Differences in Cost

Single-hung windows are usually less expensive than comparable double-hung windows. On average, they cost 10-20% less than double-hung windows of the same size, material, and style. 

The simple design and fewer moving parts of single-hung windows make them more affordable to manufacture and install. Homeowners on a budget often opt for single-hung windows to save on costs. The price difference can add up if you are replacing many windows at once. However, their added features may justify the slightly higher cost of double-hung windows and flexibility for many homeowners.

6. Differences in Security

While Milgard makes its products as securely as possible no matter which style you choose, there are some inherent user and functionality security considerations to consider. Since single-hung windows have one fixed sash, there are fewer moving parts to leverage or break if someone tries to get in. The frame has some additional strength from that fixed sash, which may not be available for double-hung windows. Additionally, since there's only one sash to open or close, a homeowner is less likely to forget to close and lock it.

With a double-hung window, the homeowner may not remember if they opened the upper window for venting while getting used to their new window style. If they aren't commonly looking at the window's top edge to see if both sashes are closed, they may inadvertently leave the window open before leaving the house. Additionally, Double-hung windows require both sashes to be fully closed before they lock. Pushing the upper sash closed by moving it up is less natural for people than pushing a window sash down. Depending on the window's height compared to the operator, closing the window may be more challenging. Luckily, with Milgard SmartTouch locks, it's much easier to know when the window is fully closed, and if it's closed, it's locked. 

How to Choose Between Single and Double-Hung Windows and When to Combine Selections

When deciding between single-hung and double-hung windows, evaluate factors such as affordability, energy efficiency, ventilation, and ease of cleaning. Each window style has unique benefits, making it suitable for different situations. Our team can help you decide on the best option for each window in your home, but below are some common considerations.

Rendering with Arrows Showing How Single-Hung Windows and Double-Hung Windows Operate

Single-Hung Windows: Affordable and Energy Efficient

Single-hung windows are a great choice for homeowners looking for an affordable, energy-efficient option. With only the bottom sash operable, single-hung windows tend to be more cost-effective and offer slightly better energy efficiency due to fewer moving parts and a fixed upper sash. They also provide cleaner sightlines, as the screens only cover the bottom half of the window, allowing for a clearer view of the outdoors and more natural light to enter your home.

Additionally, single-hung windows offer slightly enhanced security compared to double-hung windows. Since the upper sash is fixed and cannot open, it reduces the potential entry points for intruders, making it difficult for them to access your home through the window. If you aren't concerned with added ventilation or ease of cleaning, a cost-effective single-hung may be your best choice. 

Double-Hung Windows: Versatile and Easy to Clean

Double-hung windows offer versatility and ease of cleaning. With both sashes operable, you can tilt them inward for convenient cleaning of both sides of the glass from inside your home, reducing the need for a ladder or special equipment. This feature is especially helpful for windows on upper floors or hard-to-reach areas.

Double-hung windows also provide enhanced ventilation options. Opening both the top and bottom sashes creates a natural airflow that allows cool, fresh air to enter the bottom while warm, stale air escapes through the top. This improved air circulation can help maintain a comfortable and healthy indoor environment. If ease of cleaning and circulation are most important to you, a double-hung window may be the right choice. 

Combining Single and Double-Hung Windows for Optimal Functionality and Cost Savings

Luckily, you don't have to choose just one window style for your entire home. Combining single and double-hung windows can provide the best of both worlds regarding functionality, cost savings, and energy efficiency. For instance, in a multi-story home, you can install single-hung windows on the ground floor and double-hung windows on the upper floors. This approach allows you to take advantage of the affordability and energy efficiency of single-hung windows, which are easily accessible for cleaning from the outside. On the upper floors, double-hung windows provide the convenience of tilt-in sashes for easy cleaning and increased ventilation options. They also offer increased ventilation in an area of the home that tends to need it more. 

By strategically combining single and double-hung windows throughout your home, you can optimize your budget while ensuring each room has the most suitable window style for its specific needs. This mix-and-match approach allows you to prioritize factors such as cost, energy efficiency, ventilation, and ease of maintenance based on the unique requirements of each space. Our sales team can help you better understand the benefits of each window style and consider when to combine them so you can make an informed decision that enhances your home's comfort, functionality, and aesthetic appeal.

Making the Right Choice for Your Home

Ultimately, deciding between single-hung and double-hung windows comes down to your home's specific needs as well as your preferences and budget. Consider factors like the location of the windows, your home's architectural style, and your priorities in terms of ventilation, cleaning, and energy efficiency.

Single-hung windows can be a practical and cost-effective choice for hard-to-reach areas like above kitchen sinks. On the other hand, double-hung windows are ideal for maximizing ventilation, particularly on upper floors where rising hot air should escape through the top sash.

If easy maintenance and cleaning are top priorities, double-hung windows offer the convenience of tilt-in sashes for accessing both the interior and exterior glass. The classic look of single-hung windows may be a better fit for traditional home styles, while double-hung windows provide a more updated and versatile appearance.

If you're looking for a quote on new windows and want excellent advice from a company that's been around for decades, request a free estimate* so our team can help you decide between single-hung and double-hung windows.