Energy-efficient windows have the potential to significantly enhance the energy efficiency of your home. By opting for these windows, you can not only reduce your energy bills but also contribute to a greener environment. However, it’s important to note that the higher efficiency ratings of these windows may come with a slightly higher cost. Factors such as the type of glass and the material used for the window frame all contribute to improving the overall efficiency of your windows.
Are vinyl windows a better choice compared to aluminum windows?
When it comes to window frame materials, homeowners have a variety of options to choose from. However, the most common choices are aluminum and vinyl windows. Both of these materials are known for their durability and low maintenance requirements. However, it’s important to note that neither of them is completely maintenance-free. Each material has its own unique qualities that may make it more appealing than the other.
In our detailed comparison of vinyl and aluminum windows, we delve into the benefits, drawbacks, energy efficiency features, and much more of each window type.
Vinyl windows are a type of window made from a durable and low-maintenance material called vinyl
Vinyl is a cost-effective, long-lasting, and simple-to-install choice for window frames, which is why it remains highly sought after. Composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a synthetic plastic material, vinyl is resistant to moisture-induced rotting and decay. Its flexibility and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions and temperature fluctuations make it a reliable option. Moreover, vinyl requires minimal maintenance, usually limited to light cleaning and occasional caulking and resealing when needed.
Not all vinyl windows are created equal, as they come in different types with varying qualities. Vinyl is not only a fantastic insulator, but ENERGY-STAR-certified windows can also provide homeowners with an average of 12% in energy savings. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends the most energy-efficient vinyl windows, which are made with UV light stabilizers to protect against sunlight damage and have hollow cavities that can be filled with insulation.
Regular vinyl windows
This type of vinyl is made solely from vinyl without any added materials. Regular vinyl is the most affordable option and is often suggested for temporary replacements.
Composite vinyl windows
Composite vinyl is a combination of various materials, usually fiberglass and wood or vinyl and wood. The blend of materials makes composite vinyl windows more durable than regular vinyl windows. Although composite vinyl requires a bigger investment, it lasts longer.
Engineered vinyl windows
Engineered vinyl windows vary from one window manufacturing company to another. The term “engineered” implies that the vinyl has undergone a distinct processing method compared to standard vinyl. This process aims to improve specific qualities of the windows, such as enhancing insulation, ensuring the frame remains fade-free, or increasing its overall strength.
Aluminum windows offer a combination of benefits such as being lightweight, durable, and eco-friendly due to their recyclability. However, it’s important to note that aluminum is not the best insulating material. Despite their ability to withstand tough weather conditions, aluminum windows tend to conduct heat rapidly. To enhance energy efficiency and minimize heat transfer, experts suggest incorporating a thermal break. This involves using a plastic strip between the frame and sash, which helps improve the window’s insulation.
Aluminum windows boast a thicker frame compared to vinyl and offer a wide range of color options. To enhance their contemporary appearance, frames are often treated with a sleek or powdered enamel coating. If the coating starts to fade or wear, you can easily apply enamel paint on aluminum.
Although aluminum is known for its durability, it can still corrode, making it less suitable for windows in coastal regions. Nevertheless, certain window brands may provide anti-corrosion coatings specifically designed for aluminum windows.
Here are a few key distinctions between vinyl and aluminum windows
Looks and Visual Appeal
Aluminum frames offer a sleek and modern appearance, whereas vinyl frames are often associated with a contemporary style. In case the coating on aluminum frames wears off, you can easily enhance their look with enamel paint. However, it is not advisable to paint vinyl frames as paint does not adhere well to them, and it may also void your manufacturer’s warranty.
If you decide to take on the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, vinyl windows are a great choice due to their flexible frames, making the installation process a breeze. On the other hand, aluminum windows are less flexible and require a precise fit, demanding extra attention to insulation.
However, unless you have prior experience in window replacement, we highly recommend hiring a professional installer. A skilled expert can efficiently handle the task and tackle any unexpected challenges that may arise.
Metal is known for its excellent heat conductivity, resulting in increased heat loss during the winter when using aluminum window frames. However, the thermal properties of aluminum frames can be enhanced by incorporating thermal breaks. On the other hand, vinyl windows offer superior energy efficiency, and homeowners have the option to further improve insulation by adding it to their vinyl frames. It’s worth noting that one drawback of vinyl frames is the occasional need for caulking to seal gaps and prevent any potential leakage.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Vinyl and aluminum window frames have different maintenance requirements. Vinyl windows are generally low maintenance, only needing occasional cleaning to remove dirt or algae. On the other hand, aluminum frames require a bit more attention as they can rust over time. Additionally, aluminum windows may need repainting to cover any scratches. If you live in a coastal area or a place with high humidity or heavy rain, it’s important to remove moisture from the frames to prevent rust and corrosion. You can use a specialized aluminum cleaner to clean and remove rust, as well as lubricate the moving parts. In areas with extreme temperatures, it’s advisable to regularly check the caulking on your vinyl windows, as it can crack due to dramatic temperature fluctuations.
Power and the Probability of Harm
Aluminum is generally a stronger material, although it is prone to dents and scratches. Scratches can usually be easily concealed with a coat of paint, but dents tend to be more conspicuous. On the other hand, damaged vinyl is harder to detect and often appears more appealing than aluminum in the long term.
Energy Efficiency Comparison
If you’re in the market for energy-efficient windows, it’s important to consider a few key factors. Look for windows with energy-efficient glazing options, a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), and a U-factor.
The U-factor is a measurement of a window’s insulating properties, ranging from 0.20 to 1.20. The lower the U-factor, the better the window’s insulation. For windows in colder climates, the Department of Energy recommends choosing windows with the lowest U-factor possible, especially for north and south-facing windows. Similarly, windows in warmer climates also benefit from a low U-factor.
The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is a measure of the amount of heat from the sun that enters through a window, and it is represented by values between 0 and 1. A lower SHGC indicates that less solar heat passes through the window. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), in colder climates, south-facing windows should have the highest SHGC, while east and west-facing windows should have a lower SHGC. In warmer climates, east and west-facing windows should also have a lower SHGC, and southern windows should have a low SHGC along with ample shade.
Homeowners can enhance the energy efficiency of their windows by considering various glazing options, including:
1. Multiple panes of glass: The more panes of glass a window has, the better its energy efficiency. Experts often recommend double or triple glazing for optimal results.
2. Spacers: These components separate the glass panes and contribute to improved insulation. Energy-efficient spacers are typically made from vinyl, wood, or fiberglass.
3. Low-e coating: By applying a low emissivity coating (low-e) to the glass, radiant heat transfer is slowed down, and heat from the sun is reflected away.
4. Gas fill: To further enhance insulation, windows can be filled with either krypton or argon gas between the panes. This gas helps to reduce heat transfer between the interior of your home and the outdoor environment.
These options provide homeowners with effective ways to make their windows more energy-efficient, ultimately leading to increased comfort and potential energy savings.
By opting for ENERGY STAR-certified windows, homeowners can save anywhere from $101 to $583 annually when they replace single-pane windows. If they choose to replace double-pane, clear-glass windows, the savings range from $27 to $197 per year.
- This information is based on data from Fixr, Remodeling magazine, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
How to Hire a Professional
Here are the steps to hiring a professional window installer:
Check online reviews for pros in your area, and ask friends and family for recommendations.
- Look up the business on the HomeStars, Google Business, Houzz, and other similar sites.
- Get a quote from at least three window companies, and ask about their experience, availability, and rates.
- Check whether the company has the proper licensing and insurance in your local area.
- Ask for a project timeline.
- Get cost estimates, guarantees, or warranties in writing.
There are various factors that can impact your decision when choosing between vinyl and aluminum windows. These factors include:
1. Longevity: Vinyl windows have the potential to last anywhere from 10 to 40 years, depending on the installation and quality of the windows. On the other hand, aluminum windows typically have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years with regular maintenance.
2. Sound insulation: When it comes to reducing noise, aluminum windows have an advantage over vinyl windows. However, it’s important to note that they won’t completely block out all noise.
3. Customization options: Aluminum windows offer a smooth or powdered enamel coating finish, but they are more susceptible to scratching and denting. On the other hand, vinyl windows come in a variety of finishes, including smooth, textured, or even faux wood. Additionally, investing in high-quality vinyl windows can significantly enhance your home’s curb appeal, with a relatively high return on investment of 69%.
Considering these factors can help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and preferences.
We recommend seeking the advice of a professional specializing in patio doors or visiting a Welda Windows & Doors showroom to explore the various options available for sliding patio doors or French doors.