ADX Florence is America’s only supermax prison. Cells there are reserved for the worst kinds of villains: terrorists, spies, gang kingpins, and hopefully all the people who were mean to me back when I was in middle school. A 7′ by 12′ cell contains a concrete bed, a combination sink and toilet, a shower set to a timer, and possibly a television set if its occupant has behaved especially well. 

Despite being designed for an inveterate wrongdoer, every cell in ADX Florence has a window. It is not much of a window – just a 4″ slit of frosted glass in the wall – but it is a window all the same. This just goes to show how important windows are. We wouldn’t even think of denying a window to Kyle Lamphere, who smashed my Game Boy in seventh grade and called me a pansy.

Assuming you did not take this issue of Shop.Dine.Live. with you to prison, you get to enjoy far nicer windows wherever you live. We’ll save the discussion about all the styles of windows you have to choose from for a special occasion. Right now let’s talk about all the different kinds of glass you can choose for your windows.

Single Pane

While a single pane window offers the poorest noise reduction and insulation, it does cost considerably less than any alternative. Its low price tag may make a single pane window seem appealing, but beware: Installing one in the Midwest is tantamount to donating money to whoever sends you heating bills.

Single pane windows may be made out of float glass. It’s the most basic kind of glass, and its tendency to create jagged shards when shattered makes it kind of dangerous. Float glass can be annealed for added hardness, but even then it will create a considerable safety hazard if broken. Annealed glass that has been tempered becomes harder still, at which point it offers the added benefit of shattering into smaller, safer pieces if broken. (You still wouldn’t want to walk across it barefooted.)

Safety Laminated Glass

As its name suggests, safety laminated glass (SLG) is very strong. It’s made by fusing two panes to an inner layer of polyvinyl butyral. SLG will crack under enough force, but unlike tempered or annealed glass it will not shatter apart into countless bits; its central resin layer keeps all those shards in place. Go take a hammer to your windshield if you want to see SLG in action. This type of glass also offers excellent soundproofing and protection against UV rays.

Insulated Glass

Insulated glass consists of two or three panes separated by argon gas. Argon is colorless, odorless, and has the very pleasant property of not poisoning you if it escapes from between two panes. Most importantly argon is denser than air, thus giving it superior insulative properties.

Wired Glass

Commonly used in commercial buildings and public schools, wired glass is designed to keep its panes in place under the intense heat of a fire. It will even stand up to a direct blast from a fire hose! Although wired glass looks secure, it’s not fortified enough to deter a determined thief. A poor choice for your home, all in all, unless your aim is to make it look like the DMV.

Low Emissivity Glass

Low-e glass receives a special coating that repels infrared rays while still permitting light to pass through. This means low-e glass directs heat away from a home in the summertime, but also traps in heat during the winter. You can save money in the long run with low-e glass, although it costs relatively more to install upfront. Certain types of coatings also give a tinted appearance, so make certain to observe some samples before committing to low-e windows in your home.

Tinted Glass

Or maybe you want tinted glass. Even a low-tech tinted coating can offer some protection against harmful UV rays, and its availability in virtually any color makes tinted glass an excellent accent to a home. Consider installing a tinted glass window in your bathroom for added privacy while you’re practicing delivering speeches in front of the mirror.

Obscured Glass

The next step up in privacy, obscured glass lets in some light while totally baffling the efforts of lookie-loos. Obscured glass may be coated, frosted, or decoratively etched and is most commonly used in bathrooms and entryways. You can even get custom etched glass with any image or pattern imaginable. Commission an etching of yourself making a stern expression and thieves will know to steer clear of your compound.


By David Scheller