Exterior Windows

Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows: What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re building a home from scratch or giving your residence a facelift, there are a few factors to consider when deciding on the type of window you’ll use. Choosing between single-hung and double-hung windows comes down to cost, maintenance, and energy efficiency.
The Single Hung Vs Double Hung Windows Option
Photo: depositphotos.com

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

When it comes to picking out windows, there can be an overwhelming number of window types from which to choose. But before you start looking at trims and shapes, your first decision is to decide between single-hung or double-hung windows. Single-hung windows have the top sash fixed in place, so only the bottom sash can be moved up. Double-hung windows allow both the bottom and the top sash to move so you can have two sashes open at the same time. Even though they look identical from the street, there are some major factors to consider when comparing single-hung versus double-hung windows. Understanding these seven key differences can help you decide which is the right style for your home.

Single-hung windows are more common than double-hung windows.

Single-hung windows (also known as sash windows) are more common than double-hung windows because they’ve been around longer. While the exact origin of the single-hung window is not determined, Historic England, an organization that champions protecting old architecture, reports that architects began using sash windows in home design as far back as the 17th century. That’s why single-hung windows are more likely to be used when restoring older, historic homes. In addition to their long history, single-hung windows are also cheaper to purchase and install.

On the other hand, double-hung windows are a modern style that has recently grown more popular, largely because they are easier to clean than single-hung windows. They’re more likely to be used in newer homes. The best window replacement companies offer both single- and double-hung windows in a variety of materials.

Double-hung windows are more expensive to purchase and install.

A handyman finishing window install with caulk.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Single-hung windows tend to be a more affordable option. Even when they are identical in style and size, double-hung windows can cost around 75 percent more than single-hung windows, according to Fixr, an online marketplace to hire contractors and builders for home projects.

Single-hung windows average around $150 to $400 per window. Double-hung windows range anywhere from $500 to $700, and that’s not including the installation. Costs for installing a single-hung window are also lower, ranging from $75 to $100, while installing double-hung windows costs between $150 and $250 per installation. Double-hung window costs can go even higher due to more options for size, energy efficiency, window frame material, and UV protection.

These high costs make single-hung windows a better option for those operating within a tight budget.

Single-hung windows can be difficult to maintain and clean.

Despite being a cheaper alternative to double-hung windows, single-hung windows require extra effort to keep clean. You have to be inside to clean the window interior, and outside to clean the exterior. Meanwhile, double-hung windows tilt inward, which means you can spray both the window’s interior and exterior sides with a quality glass cleaner from inside the home. Some single-hung windows do tilt inward, but only on the bottom panel. You’d still have to reach through the window outside (or go outside) to clean the upper panel.

Depending on where you live, and the current season, windows should be cleaned at least every other month. While it might be a bit of a pain to clean first-floor single-hung windows, it will be much more difficult to clean those installed on any upper stories.

Double-hung windows offer more ventilation.

The top of the double hung window is open for ventilation.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Would you like better air circulation in your space? Then double-hung windows might be the type for you. Because they open from both the top and the bottom of the frame, double-hung windows offer much more ventilation than single-hung windows, which only open at the bottom.

With the double-hung window, you not only have the option to open the top of the window instead of the bottom, but you can also open both panels halfway at the same time to create a recirculating effect. Opening your window like this will, in theory, allow warm air from the home to escape outside while simultaneously allowing fresh air from outside to come in.

Single-hung windows are more energy efficient.

A row of four double-hung windows with brown trim in an airy, white room.
Photo: depositphotos.com

When it comes to being energy efficient, single-hung windows are typically thought of as being more energy efficient because they have fewer moving parts. However, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, both single- and double-hung windows tend to have higher air leakage rates than projecting or hinged windows. Double-hung windows in particular don’t always seal properly at the top edge of the frame, leading to higher electricity bills. High-quality, well-sealed double-hung windows do exist, but you’re going to have to pay a little more money to get that versatility in a more energy-efficient way.

Some double-hung windows can be less secure if they’re not shut properly.

Person holding handle to close top of double-hung window.
Photo: istockphoto.com

As with any other opening through which someone could enter your home, window safety is a huge issue. Double-hung tend to be less secure. If you don’t adequately shut a double-hung window, gravity can ever so slightly pull down the upper sash and cause it not to lock completely. Of course, this issue can easily be fixed by testing to make sure the window is locked after you shut it.

On the other hand, single-hung windows can be dangerous in homes with small children. With a double-hung window, it’s possible to open the top sash while leaving the bottom closed, which is something you can’t do with a single-hung window. Cracking open a single-hung window means that young children may be able to reach—and even exit—the open lower sash.

Still, both double-hung and single-hung windows can be secure so long as you take proper safety measures.

Many different styles are available for double-hung windows.

One reason double-hung windows are growing in popularity is the wider variety of options manufactured today—the more choices, the more likely you’ll find a finish and design that works best for your style. However, there are still many options for single-hung windows, even though they are commonly used in historic-looking homes. Both window types come in vinyl, fiberglass, wood, and aluminum frames.

No matter what aesthetic you’re looking to achieve with the exterior of your home, there’s a good chance you can find both a single- and double-hung window option to complement it.