Single-hung and double-hung windows are the most common types of windows used in housing and commercial buildings in the U.S. Single-hung windows, which cost less, are more common, particularly in older construction, but they are harder to clean. Double-hung windows allow for greater ventilation flexibility and are easier to clean; however, they cost more to install and repair.
"Hung" here refers to a window's sash(es) — i.e., the glass panels of a window. While it is common to think the sash refers to the movable panel of a window, both single-hung and double-hung windows have two sashes (panels). Confusion stems from the fact that a single sash is movable in a single-hung window, while both sashes are movable in a double-hung window.
Single-hung windows, the most common type in the U.S., are those that open by lifting the bottom panel. This panel slides up and overlaps the top panel, which is fixed in place. In double-hung windows, each panel opens separately, often by sliding or tilting, allowing for greater flexibility in ventilation. Alternatively, some designs feature panel(s) that slide to one side.
As for aesthetics, both window types come in a wide range of styles and materials that are suitable for all kinds of architectural designs. However, as the more expensive option, double-hung windows tend to have a slightly larger variety of options when it comes to materials, colors, etc.
Watch the video below to learn more about different types of windows, including single-hung and double-hung windows.
Single-hung windows are more difficult to clean, especially if they are on an upper floor, as when the bottom window panel slides up, it partially covers the top panel. Cleaning the complete surface of the panels or the window's frames becomes difficult.
With double-hung windows, tilting or sliding each panel individually allows for easier access, especially from inside the home. On double-hung windows that tilt open and closed in either direction, it is especially easy to clean the outside of the window while inside the home.
For single-hung windows on second floors and higher, a ladder and/or long brush may be needed. However, the brush must have soft bristles to avoid scratching the frame or pressing too hard on window panes, possibly breaking them. With double-hung windows, water pressure is often enough to clean those on second floors or higher because there's no obstacle to reaching the panes or frames, but the water stream pressure must be moderated to avoid stripping paint or loosening the frame due to water infiltration. This type of cleaning is not advisable for single-hung windows, which are lighter and less sturdy.
Cost and Installation
Due to their simpler construction, single-hung windows are about 10-25% cheaper to buy and install, with prices ranging from $95 to $800 depending on materials and features (double-paned for insulation, UV protection, etc.). The window comes as a fixed unit in standard sizes that can be installed in a frame, then secured. Because of standardization, installation can be a DIY project with only a small amount of effort needed to lift and place the window properly. To learn how to install and/or replace a single-hung window, watch this video.
Double-hung windows present a different challenge, as each panel (upper and lower) requires its own installation check to ensure that it will open and close properly. Although double-hung windows also come in standard sizes and fit all common frames, they are heavier and require more precise seating in frames. Professional installation is recommended unless the person is an experienced DIYer. Average prices range from $150 to $1,000, depending on materials and features.
In most buildings, roughly 40% of heat transfer occurs through windows, so one factor to consider when choosing between single-hung windows and double-hung windows is their energy efficiency.
Single-hung windows are more energy efficient because of their immovable panel (sash), which results in fewer gaps that could let in drafts. Insulation to avoid heat loss is improved by double-paned construction, where the window has dual layers of glass with a vacuum between them. The vacuum blocks heat transfer to better regulate the house's temperature. Though single-hung windows remain more efficient, double-hung windows have improved greatly in this respect and as also come in double-paned models.
Depending on the type of window and its energy efficiency, some windows may come with an additional benefit: a discount on an electric bill. Some local jurisdictions and state governments have created tax breaks for businesses and individuals who install energy-efficient windows.
Double-hung windows are more secure than single-hung windows. Not only do double-hung windows have two locks, versus one for most single-hung windows, but they also have stronger frames and sashes to accommodate their additional weight. This makes them more difficult to break.
The residential construction boom of the 1990s pushed double-hung window sales past single-hung for the first time, though most of the windows installed in the U.S. are still of the single-hung type, as many homes' windows installations predate the double-hung windows' popularity. After the 2008 collapse of the housing market, sales for single-hung windows rose from 18% market share to 26%, approaching that of double-hung vinyl window types at 31%. This growth can likely be attributed to the affordability of the single-hung window style.