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I've lived in both Germany and the US and one of the biggest construction differences is the style of windows used. In Germany, the most common window design is tilt and turn. In the US, a variety of windows are used, but I would argue that in private homes, sash windows are the most common. I have never seen a tilt and turn window in the US.

Here's an illustration of the different types for those who haven't heard them described by these names before.

Illustration of tilt-and-turn and sash windows

In words, tilt and turn windows can be opened in two ways: (1) on a hinge at the side of the window similar to a casement window, and (2) on a hinge on the bottom of the window similar to a hopper window. The position of the handle determines the direction in which it opens. A sash window slides up and down in its frame, in the US sash windows are often called double or single hung windows depending on whether both halves of the window can open.

I have found no source comparing tilt and turn to sash windows. The arguments that I have read in favor of sash windows in general cite 2 main reasons to prefer sash windows

  1. Aesthetics i.e. people like the way they look
  2. Ventilation i.e. you can open either the top or bottom half of the window without needing to prop the window open

But tilt and turn windows arguably have similar advantages

  1. Aesthetically, you can have a larger uninterrupted piece of glass or you can use several panes to get the same visual effect as a sash window.
  2. Because you can open the window in two ways, you can control the amount of ventilation
  3. Additionally, because the window opens all the way horizontally, you can easily clean both sides of the window. There are modern sash windows that allow the window to pivot for cleaning, but this is not part of the basic design.

Other than historical reasons, i.e. tilt and turn windows were first adapted in Germany, sash windows were first adapted in England, why are tilt and turn windows not more common in the US? Are there other pros of sash windows and cons of tilt and turn windows that I am overlooking?

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    Also, sash windows do not intrude into the room when open, allowing more flexibility in the positioning of furniture and walkspace – bib May 7 '15 at 21:43
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I think this probably has more to do with regional building habits than any systematic optimal decision. I agree, what you call "tilt and turn" windows seem to be more common in Europe. In the US (and elsewhere?) a similar style is a "casement" window, although it's not as functional (doesn't open as far and doesn't offer multiple ways of opening).

I have seen "tilt and turn" windows used in the US in basements, since they can satisfy emergency egress requirements. Perhaps they are less common in general use because they are more complicated / expensive? The latching and hinging mechanisms are much more complicated than a sash window, which typically is just held in place by friction.

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One benefit of tilt and turn windows, as well as casement windows that are more common in the US, is that they provide a more airtight seal than sash windows (single-hung, double-hung, sliders). This reduces heating and cooling energy use of the building. The better airtightness also means the windows are less drafty and thus more comfortable.

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    Are you sure this is true? I think any window in good shape should be pretty much airtight. – Hank May 8 '15 at 15:53
  • Yes, there is variation within each window type, but it is generally true. See efficientwindows.org/otypes.php for a discussion of air leakage of different window types. – littleturtle May 8 '15 at 19:29
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    Here's an explanation: "Casement and awning windows offer excellent air infiltration performance because pressure from the wind tightens up the seals. Tilt-and-turn windows, with their dual compression seals and multiple locking points around the perimeter offer equal or better performance. Traditional double-hung windows cannot do as well due to their sliding surfaces where compression seals are not possible. And, horizontal sliders generally have the worst air infiltration performance of all window types." from: wascowindows.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/… – littleturtle May 8 '15 at 19:32
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European Tilt & Turn (not to be confused with a Double Hung, which window sellers try to do) is better by most every measure. The hierarchy of Energy efficiency for operating windows is Sliders (worst), Double Hung, Single Hung, Awning/Casement, Tilt & Turn (best).

These same Efficiencies translate across Air Leakage, Condensation and Sound!

Security? For Sliders or Hung windows, it takes a 12 yr. old kid about 12 seconds with a coat hanger to break in. For the Tilt and Turns, it takes a large man with crowbar and ya really gotta smash through the glass.

The Tilt action of the Tilt & Turn is great. Europeans leave their windows like this most of the time. Always open (yet secure) windows without worrying about rain getting in. No condensation, no mold, fresh air. No drafts in high winds. Still mitigates outdoor sounds. Screen on outside means zero bug-gage. Kid & Pet Safe.

And yes, you can often replace 2 side by side casements with a single Tilt & Turn because they can go 48" wide and 78"+ tall, Great for Heritage houses.

Cleaning? No special yoga positions, no disassembling the window (at risk to life and limb), no strength or agility required and no ladders needed. Simple.

And after The Big One hits... or your foundation shifts, it always fits because it's highly adjustable 5, 10, 35 years into the future with the patented German hardware that no one seems to be able to replicate 45 or so years later.

  • I often say Europeans 'leave their windows on TILT 95% of the time'. A European corrected me "99%!" he insisted, "We only open to clean them". That's weird, unless you know a TILT achieves 71% of the airflow of a fully open casement. That's amazing and the research did Not take into account the hot air escapes out the top and cold air comes in at the lower portion i.e. summer. Windows on TILT in a hurricane? Great breeze, nothing knocked over at all. Leave TILT in the pounding rain - for negative ions - the total of Fresh Air w. TNTs is much greater. Anything a window does, it does it better. – Green Window and Door Inc. Jul 10 at 21:08
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I have both, here are advantages and disadvantages.

Sash windows offer ventilation top and bottom and do not get in the way of anything but have an interrupted view between the sashes.

Tilt and turn offer an uninterrupted view but the top open does not allow as much ventilation since window is still in the way, and when the door opens can hit furniture.

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Here are some advantages of sash windows:

  • The window can be open while an exterior screen is in place to prevent insects (such as flies and mosquitoes) from entering the home.
  • The top and bottom of the window can be opened independently.
  • Child-proofing. By opening just the top of the window, it is possible to prevent young children from climbing out the window.
  • No need for clearance outside of the window.
  • Opening requires a click and a push or a pull.
  • No crank jutting into the home.
  • No need for clearance around a crank.
  • If one sash has a privacy film, the other sash can be opened without compromising the privacy.
  • The division between sashes is a true, three-dimensional lite divider.
  • Divided lites make the exterior façade look better.
  • Divided lites also improve the view from inside the home. They create multiple "picture frames" for looking at parts of the view separately from the combined view through the whole window.

Here are some advantages of casement windows:

  • A larger fraction of the window area can be counted toward egress requirements.
  • No need to click a latch open while adjusting the window.

In the United States, it is possible to buy sash windows whose sashes can be tilted (along a horizontal axis) into the home for cleaning. It is also possible to buy sash windows whose sashes can be removed (from inside the home) for cleaning.

  • You can get divided lites in a turn window as well. They are [very] uncommon for uPVC windows, but can be found in wood turn windows The US term for divided lites is more or less "French windows" (and "French doors"). – Fizz Jul 30 '17 at 6:31
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Having also lived many years with both types, I agree with littleturtle and I'm goning to expand on his comment. Keep in mind that US starter homes have sash windows made of wood, while most European homes nowadays have windows made of hard plastic with rubber seals and and at least partly metal frames. From a sealing perspective, the US solution is [far] cheaper. I had wood windows that tuned toward the inside (but had no tilt) during communism and they had a terrible seal.

On the other hand the sash windows in US starter homes exhibited a great variance in the effort required to open and close them. Some were extremely difficult to operate. A German-quality (tilt and turn) plastic window is extremely easy to operate. I suspect that using equally expensive materials a sash windows would also be user friendly, although I personally haven't encountered one.

  • My understanding is that most new American homes have insulated vinyl-framed windows. Window manufacturers charge extra for wood veneers or insulated pseudo-wood frames. – Jasper Jul 29 '17 at 4:17
  • American "Building Science" professionals often point to the better seals of European casement windows as an advantage of the casement style. – Jasper Jul 29 '17 at 4:18
  • @Jasper: Interesting. Do you have more details or a reference? Do they mean the rubber seals on uPVC frames common in EU nowadays? I rather doubt they mean the turn window design by itself. BTW, it's rather hard to find glazing compound (for wood windows) in the EU (only 2 of 4 big box chains carry one at all where I'm at the moment, and those that do, carry a single [and the same] product). – Fizz Jul 30 '17 at 6:28
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    See the end of Section 3.1.3.1 of Building Science Corporation's 2014 Research Report "RR-1401: Design Challenges of the NIST Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility". It states "One low energy use strategy would have been to use only casement and awning windows since these are generally more airtight than double hung windows. This approach was not used for the NZERTF since that would not be typical for a house of this style." – Jasper Jul 31 '17 at 15:43
  • I guess the commies were just really bad at building windows then. Still, it seems to me the NIST stuff applies to modern materials – Fizz Jul 31 '17 at 18:39
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Tilt and turn windows have a great advantage for cleaning, if they are on upper floors. You can just open the window and so easily clean it from inside. We have lived in Croatia for 12 years and have learned to love tilt and turn windows. They are wonderful in every way, regardless of whether or not they have greater environmental efficiency. Now that we are moving back to the US, I am investigating the cost of these windows, compared to the local conventional, American types, and whether the quality available in the US matches the excellent quality of the vinyl windows we had in Croatia, which probably came from Germany. Marvin sells tilt and turn windows, but I haven't seen them yet to see if they are of good quality and sell at a reasonable price.

  • Some window manufacturers (such as Milgard) offer sash windows with tilt-and-turn functionality. As you mention, the sales pitch emphasizes ease-of-cleaning of upper floor windows. Insulated vinyl-frame windows are the most common type of new window in the United States. For these windows, models with tilt-and-turn functionality cost about 50 percent more than models without this functionality. – Jasper Jul 29 '17 at 4:27

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