Over the last few years, vinyl windows have become a popular option for homeowners who want windows that are both energy-efficient and low-maintenance. Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is known for its durability, superior thermal performance, and ease of maintenance, vinyl windows also tend to be one of the less expensive options in the marketplace; adding to their popularity and making them an excellent choice for homeowners looking to replace or upgrade existing windows and those who are building new homes.
In this article, we will explore the benefits of vinyl windows, their drawbacks, and how they compare to other window materials.
The Benefits of Vinyl Windows
1. Vinyl Windows Are Energy Efficient
Vinyl is an excellent insulator and performs very well in both hot and cold climates. Some vinyl windows offer the option of having some of the internal chambers filled with additional foam insulation which increases their efficiency even further. Reducing heat loss and gain translates into reduced energy costs and lower utility bills for you. A report on energy.gov states that heat gain and loss through windows accounts for 25%-30% of residential heating and cooling energy use. Closing this loop can save you as much as 30% on your energy costs!
2. Vinyl Windows Are Affordable
Of all of the materials on the market for replacement windows (fiberglass, clad wood, & aluminum) vinyl is the most cost-effective and it’s simply a matter of the raw material cost and ease of production. Your vinyl window starts as raw material pellets which are melted and extruded into lineals which are then cut to length and assembled into windows of all shapes and sizes. Another cost-saving measure in the vinyl window process is the use of “regrind” where excess PVC material is ground up and reintroduced into the “batter” for extrusions, reducing waste in addition to cutting cost.
3. Vinyl Windows Are Durable
Are vinyl windows good for the long haul? Yes, they are. Vinyl doesn’t rot or rust and can stand up to the harshest temperature extremes, both cold and hot. Again, we are referring to premium vinyl windows. One of the additives in a great vinyl is Titanium Dioxide which helps protect the material from breaking down due to exposure to the elements. It also happens to be costly and cheap vinyl windows will skimp on this to cut costs. Don’t be surprised when that same cheap window will start to yellow and get chalky and brittle in a few years while a quality vinyl window can last 30, even 40 years.
4. Vinyl Windows Are Low Maintenance
In the previous paragraph, we noted that Vinyl doesn’t rot or rust but they also don’t need to be painted, stained, or sealed every few years. Most vinyl windows are available in a handful of “extruded colors” which just means that the vinyl itself is pigmented throughout so if it were to get nicked somehow the color remains the same. Simply keep them clean and lubricated and you’ll have years of trouble-free enjoyment.
5. Vinyl Windows Are Beautiful
Vinyl windows of old were known for their thick, chunky frames and tended to be, quite frankly, ugly. The design of vinyl windows has moved ahead in leaps and bounds and today’s vinyl windows are available with narrow frames to maximize the glass area and give you the best view. They also come in a wide range of colors, grid options, and styles. Vinyl windows can be designed to accent any style of home from traditional to contemporary and every stop in between!
The Drawbacks Of Vinyl Windows
1. Color Options
We mentioned before the extruded colors and how the actual material is pigmented so the color is through and through. Since the extrusions are made this way window manufacturers typically only offer two or three of the most common extruded colors.
That said, most will also have a variety of custom colors but you really need to pay attention to what process is used to apply the color. Painting vinyl is notoriously difficult and the finish can be prone to scratch and chip. Windows made from aluminum and fiberglass can be powdered-coated, which is extremely durable, but vinyl can not. If you’re interested in a custom color, look for a coating that is thermally applied and not just wet paint. Also, make sure that the finish is backed by a warranty that is satisfactory.
If the window frame were to get damaged somehow there really isn’t a way to repair it and a window replacement is likely. To be fair, it’s unlikely and the same applies to most other windows with the exception of fiberglass which could be repaired with resin but if it were powder-coated you wouldn’t be able to refinish the repair, and again, replacement is the best option.
How Do Vinyl Windows Compare?
1. Vinyl vs. Clad Wood Windows
When we speak of wood windows today, it’s understood that we’re referring to wood windows with exterior cladding, usually aluminum. Because all-wood windows need constant maintenance, like painting and sealing, the only place you’ll find them is in historical homes.
Comparing vinyl and wood windows really comes down to aesthetics and cost. Clad windows are significantly more expensive than vinyl since the material itself is more expensive and the process is much more labor intensive. For the homeowner who demands the warmth and beauty of a wooden interior that can be stained or painted as they wish, there is no substitute.
2. Vinyl vs. Fiberglass Windows
Fiberglass windows are among the most recent innovations in window technology. As such, there are only a handful of fiberglass window options available, and they come at an increased cost to the consumer. The added cost over vinyl will get you a window that has greater strength and is capable of window sizes that could exceed the limitations of vinyl. Fiberglass is also ultimately longer-lasting than vinyl; but as we stated previously a premium vinyl window is going to last for decades.
3. Vinyl vs. Aluminum Windows
Like fiberglass, aluminum windows are regarded for the strength of the material and are also capable of great sizes while still maintaining narrow profiles and large, uninterrupted views. Once again, this comes at a greater cost than their vinyl counterparts. However, when it comes to efficiency, aluminum conducts the transfer of heat and cold extremely well which makes them much more inefficient than vinyl windows.
The exception would be aluminum windows that are thermally broken, which means they have second material incorporated between the inner and our surfaces to interrupt the transfer of heat. While this does significantly improve the thermal performance over standard aluminum, it does add to the cost, and the vinyl will still typically outperform it.
Are vinyl windows good at thermal performance?
Yes. Vinyl is an efficient material choice that can save on your utility costs.
Are vinyl windows durable?
Yes. A quality vinyl window will perform for decades.
Are vinyl windows good for cost savings?
Yes. Of all of the window materials available today, vinyl is the most affordable.
Are vinyl windows a good investment?
Yes. Replacing your old windows with vinyl windows will increase the value and curb appeal of your home.
Are vinyl windows a good choice?
Yes. Whether you’re in need of replacement windows or building a new home, for all of the reasons listed above, vinyl windows are an excellent choice.
Where Do I Start?
I’m glad you asked, if you’re in the Houston area look no further than Houston Window Experts for your project needs. With years of experience and thousands of happy customers, Houston Window Experts knows how to get the job done right!
If you’re not in the Houston area go to JeffsList.com and enter your information to see if we have a preferred window company in your area.