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Vinyl or Aluminum Windows?

Courtesy of HomeRite Jacksonville
By Gates Dearen

There are many choices when it comes time to upgrade the windows on your home.  Everything from single and double hung windows that are a breeze to swap out for your existing windows, to casements and specialty windows that can transform an ordinary room into a visual masterpiece with spectacular views are available nowadays.  However, when it comes to selecting the material from which your windows are constructed, there are really only two choices to make: Vinyl or aluminum.  Since both materials have pros and cons, I thought I’d devote this blog to helping you decide which is best for your home.

How Important is Energy-Efficiency?

If the primary reason you are replacing your existing windows is to save money on your electric bill, vinyl windows are hard to beat.  Available in a variety of colors and finishes, vinyl windows offer outstanding energy efficiency. Plus, they are as close to maintenance-free as you can get.  If your existing window frames are composed of wood, vinyl windows come in a wood grain finish that looks just like the real thing, yet never needs to be scraped or painted.  Vinyl windows also create less heat transfer and condensation than either wood or aluminum.

If you want to up the ante on energy savings, consider adding a Low-E coating and/or argon gas that can be inserted between the panes.  Even without the addition of an inert gas, vinyl has a relatively high R-value, which means it doesn’t conduct heat as readily as either wood or aluminum. 

Courtesy of HomeRite Jacksonville
Durability:  Vinyl windows are highly resistant to dents, scratches, and chips, as well as being 100% corrosion-free.  They never need to be painted and have a life expectancy between 20-40 years. (Most manufacturer warranties are 15-25 years.)  This means vinyl windows have on average twice the life expectancy of other comparable windows.

Maintenance: Provided you clean your vinyl windows twice per year as recommended by the manufacturer, they should last well into the future without any noticeable change in their appearance.  Unlike wood, vinyl does not absorb water, and it is also pest resistant.  No risk of carpenter ants or wood-boring bees taking up residence inside your vinyl windows.

Cost: This is one of the main reasons many people opt for vinyl windows.  Whatever your budget, there is a vinyl window frame that can fill the bill.  The cost will depend largely on the type, size, and features you desire.  But dollar for dollar, vinyl windows are usually priced lower than other comparable windows.  Plus, you will recoup some of the cost based on the energy savings you reap once you install vinyl windows.

Cons: The only downside with vinyl windows is that they can discolor or even warp if they are exposed to extremely hot or cold climates.  They are also devilishly difficult to paint.

There She Blows!

If you live in an area that must contend with frequent wind storms, aluminum windows could be just the ticket.  Available in a wide range of colors and sizes, they can be easily painted, as opposed to vinyl windows which can’t.  If you’re looking to have large panes of glass added to your home, aluminum frames might be a better choice than vinyl, since aluminum is more than three times as strong.

Courtesy of HomeRite Jacksonville
Durability: Once mounted, aluminum frames are nearly impossible for wind and weather to dislodge.  Since they are more sturdily built than their vinyl counterparts, they also reduce the amount of external noise that gets into your home.  This means less traffic noise and barking dogs to disturb your slumber.

Maintenance: A broken pane of glass is a breeze to replace in an aluminum frame since all it takes is to remove a few screws to swap out a pane.  Aluminum frames should be lubricated regularly since their moving parts are made of metal.

Cost: Not as expensive as wood frames, their prices fall somewhere in the mid-upper price range of vinyl replacement windows.

Courtesy of HomeRite Jacksonville
Cons:  The one drawback to aluminum window frames is that they conduct heat and cold, which reduces their energy-efficiency.  Also, aluminum windows can corrode if placed in environments prone to high condensation.

Whether you choose to opt for aluminum or vinyl windows is also an aesthetic as well as a functional choice.  The best way to decide between the two is to take a trip down to your local replacement window showroom to talk to a trained professional.  After all, this is one choice you’re going to have to live with for many years to come.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, FloridaHe and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They strive to match homeowners with the right windows and doors for their homes and budgets. They make the home improvement process pleasant with first-rate, energy-efficient products, affordable pricing, and award-winning installers who employ the best practices and who always treat customers and their property with the utmost respect.

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