If you’re looking into replacing the windows in your home, I’m sure you’ve discovered the myriad of choices offered to you these days. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and hard to make a decision. Maybe you’re still trying to decide which type of replacement window is right for you…check out our blog post on which replacement window is right for you? But, if you’re leaning towards vinyl windows, you’re making a good choice.
Vinyl windows were first manufactured in 1959 as an alternative to traditional wood windows. However, it wasn’t until the 90’s that vinyl windows really took off. Over the last few decades, vinyl window manufacturers have improved the process as well as the quality of vinyl used. While in the past, some homeowners noticed their vinyl windows beginning to sag and discolor over time, today’s vinyl windows will last decades and are virtually maintenance free.
Vinyl windows are made using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the same material used in many plumbing products and other household items. Vinyl windows come in different grades, the most popular being Recycled Vinyl or Pure Virgin Vinyl. Recycled vinyl is made from a variety of recycled vinyl products. While this can reduce the cost of the window, it can also affect the durability and longevity. Pure virgin vinyl is a stronger material and is more durable than the alternative.
While most modern windows today will be far more energy efficient than your old, drafty windows, there are some things to look out for. Not all vinyl windows are built the same. Make sure your window is Energy Star Rated. Look for windows manufactured with Low-E glass and possibly filled with argon gas. Both of these options will help to reflect heat from the outside during the summer and keep heat in during the winter – seriously saving on energy bills!
Vinyl windows are the most cost effective type of window available today. They cost less than wood windows and less than fiberglass windows. Vinyl windows are just as energy efficient as the alternatives and are virtually maintenance free. That being said, there is a wide variety of prices and quality when looking at vinyl windows. For the same size vinyl window, a homeowner could pay $200 for a low quality, short life-span window or $800 for a top of the line vinyl window with all the bells and whistles (plus additional installation costs). While you don’t always get what you pay for (like everything else in life), the cheapest vinyl windows will usually not last long and you can run into broken seals, hardware, etc. pretty quickly. Be sure to do your research on window manufacturers and remember that most companies sell many different lines of windows that can vary greatly in quality, material and construction. (For example, a Simonton vinyl window sold at a big box construction store is different in quality, material, and construction than the lines we prefer to carry and install. While you won’t pay as much at the big box store, you are also getting a lower quality window.)
Vinyl windows are made for easy installation, especially when replacing existing windows. As long as you’ve found a quality contractor, replacing your existing windows should be quick and easy. This effects not only the mess and construction you have to deal with, but also the installation cost per window. This can make a dramatic difference in the price of your improvement project when compared with wood or fiberglass installation costs.
I guess we can’t claim that anything is maintenance free, but vinyl windows are pretty darn close. Once installed there’s really not much you need to do to your windows, other than keep them clean. It’s recommended to not use a high-pressure hose to clean windows. Instead, anything that normal weather doesn’t clean off can be cleaned with a soft cloth and, if necessary, non-abrasive cleaners. Most double-hung windows today offer the ability to swing inside your home so that you can easily clean the glass without a ladder or leaving the warmth of your home! Vinyl windows will not rot, peel, or chip even in severe weather climates, making them a long-lasting, low-maintenance product.
With vinyl windows, you have the most style and color options of all. Vinyl windows can be made to be sliders, double-hung, single-hung, casement, picture, etc. (visit this page to learn more about window types). You can also create custom shapes and sizes and finish your window with a huge variety of color options.
Again, all vinyl windows are not created equal. Depending on the manufacturer and specific window you choose, the warranties can vary. Many vinyl windows today (especially the best quality) offer full lifetime or double lifetime warranties. These double lifetime warranties can be a huge factor when selling your home as the warranty transfers to the new owners.
The manufacturing process and the material itself is all chemicals. While vinyl is cheap to manufacture (thus keeping prices relatively low), it’s not a natural product and does have an environmental impact. Companies have tried to curb this impact in a number of ways. Recycled vinyl is used in some windows today, but quality and durability are compromised. The ability to recycle the vinyl windows themselves has improved, but finding a place to bring the old windows is difficult and the cost to recycle can be more than manufacturing the PVC from scratch.
Some people prefer the look and feel of natural wood in their homes and this isn’t something that can be replicated. Many wood window manufacturers can create wood windows that look like a piece of furniture. It can be painted to match the color palette of the home and provides a warmth that vinyl windows don’t have. However, wood windows are more expensive than vinyl and offer only similar energy efficiency with more maintenance.
Vinyl windows are the most popular type of window today. With the increased demand, came an increase in manufacturers as well as quality. Homeowners need to be vigilant in their research to be sure they’re getting the best quality and value. Be sure to read reviews of contractors as well as window companies. Make sure you’re getting a great warranty with a company that will be around in 20 years. Look for Energy Star ratings and be sure you’re researching the exact window, not just the manufacturer.
Phew! That was a lot of information for one post. Once you’ve decided to go with a vinyl window, be sure to do your research. Vinyl windows offer so much value and longevity and are really a wonderful option for any home. But there is a lot of variety – make sure you’re choosing right. If you need additional help, HRTI‘s professional window consultants would be happy to come to your home. We will provide you with information on all types of windows and help you decide which is right for you. Contact HRTI for more information or to schedule a free appointment for window installation or replacement.