What is Argon?
Argon gas is one of the primary components of air, consisting of about 0.93% by volume as compared to 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, and 0.039% carbon dioxide.
Argon occurs normally as a gas and is very inert. That means that it does not react chemically with anything, indicating that it is useful in industry for some types of arc welding such as metal arc welding and in atmospheres for growing crystals.
This gas is separated from air by the use of a cryogenic process. In this process, air is cooled and the components heated somewhat to separate them. Argon’s boiling point is slightly more than that of oxygen, so it is relatively easily and inexpensively separated from nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. This relative ease of separation makes argon an inexpensive alternative to other heavy gases.
Use of Argon Gas in Thermal Windows to Help Conserve Energy
Argon does not conduct heat or cold, which is what makes it desirable for use as an insulation layer in thermal windows. Thermal windows consist of one or two layers of an inert gas between sealed layers of glass. This gas layer prevents the normal conductivity of glass from conducting temperatures from one side of a window to another. In a warm climate, particularly where sunshine radiates directly into windows, the thermal layer does not conduct directly from outside temperature to the inside, but an argon gas layer is useful. A thermal layer of argon gas is vital in cold climates such as exist in the northern tier of states in the United States and in Canada. Energy savings are substantial in cold climates.
Advantages of Argon Gas in Windows
Argon, in addition to providing insulation, has other advantages. It is heavier than air so it maintains the seal better than air. Condensation will not accumulate on the glass because of the insulation. It is clear to see through and non-toxic even if the window shatters.
Some manufacturers warn about installing argon-insulated glass at high altitudes because of the pressure differentials. This can be overcome with a slight adjustment in the manufacturing process, making argon-insulated glass a valuable asset at high altitudes where temperatures are often bitterly cold.
The United States Government has given most argon-insulated windows an Energy-Star Rating so homeowners are able to qualify for tax credits in return for using these windows. It is best to check with the manufacturer and installer to see what the tax advantages may be. In conclusion, argon-insulated windows will eventually repay the investments made it them. They are available for new construction as well as for replacement windows.