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Aluminum vs Vinyl Windows

Nov 04, 2019

If you’re considering replacement windows, you may be wrestling with whether or not to go with aluminum or vinyl windows. Both popular choices, vinyl frames are the relative newcomer to the industry. Even though they didn’t begin to become popular in the United States until the 90s, these windows have quickly become a contender in the window market.

Aluminum windows came into play after World War II, they were cheaper than wood or steel windows and didn’t fall prey to corrosion.

Both options are still less expensive than wood windows and offer other benefits we’ll explore as well.

Comparing the materials

Both vinyl and aluminum windows resist corrosion brought on by exposure to the elements. Over time, though, aluminum frames may change in color. Moreover, the steel or zinc fasteners holding the aluminum unit in place will corrode and pit.

Extremely large windows are usually installed with aluminum frames because aluminum windows are generally considered stronger and more durable than vinyl windows. However, choosing a manufacturer that uses the heat-welding system could make that statement questionable. We couldn’t find any statistics or studies on the topic, but we’re curious.

The heat-welding process melds the sides of the frame together forming one solid piece. It looks more attractive, increases energy-efficiency, and definitely strengthens your window to boot.

Because aluminum is a “soft” metal, it is prone to dents, so a hail storm could leave noticeable damage. Comparatively, such damage is likely to be less noticeable on vinyl frames due to their thickness.

In the early days of vinyl window production, the vinyl was prone to damage if exposed to direct sunlight on a hot, summer’s day. However, while that is still a possibility, it’s not a likelihood thanks to advances in technology.

From a visual perspective

There’s no question, though, when stating that windows play a huge part in the visual appeal of a home. Many homeowners find vinyl windows to be far more aesthetically pleasing than aluminum windows. Aluminum has a dull finish that some think takes away from the visual appeal of a home. Vinyl windows, on the other hand, have a crisp, clean look that draws the eye, thereby, adding to a home’s curb appeal.

Another point in vinyl’s favor is the wide range of options they offer homeowners. Smooth, textured, colored, and even wood grain effects add to the appeal of vinyl frames. To counter, aluminum frames can achieve a wood grain effect as well. However, it’s merely a coating that is painted on the surface of the frame.

Energy efficiency

Aluminum readily conducts heat and cold which has been a deterrent for homeowners looking for the most energy-efficient windows on the market. However, in all fairness, we’ll state that advances in technology have created a “thermally improved” frame option. Moreover, some manufacturers offer “thermal breaks” which means they’ve installed added insulation within the frame which—oh, by the way—is usually made of vinyl.

Since we dropped that little spoiler alert, it should come as no surprise that properly installed vinyl frames seal the entire window unit blocking the airflow—no matter which side of the window it’s on.

Both aluminum and vinyl frames that hold impact resistant windows increase your home’s energy efficiency. The material used to absorb impact and hold your glass in place, usually a sheet of high-tech polymer, also blocks airflow and the transfer of heat and cold.

Look for the EnergyStar rating to determine the best windows for your climate zone.

Decreased noise levels

And, while aluminum frames do a better job with noise reduction because of its mass, installing impact windows breaks the difference barrier between aluminum and vinyl there too.

The polymer sheet sandwiched between the glass blocks noise as well as storm debris! No matter which framing material you choose, impact glass does a great job at muffling or completely eliminating outside noise.

Low maintenance vs lower maintenance

Both aluminum and vinyl windows are considered to be virtually maintenance-free. However, they’re going to need a quick cleaning now and then.

In addition, though, aluminum windows may need a bit more sprucing up from time to time. And, frankly, it can get tough finding a paint or coating material that adheres well. Vinyl windows, though, are the same color throughout and never need anything other than a quick wash to sustain that “like new” quality.

From the bottom-dollar…

Of course, it depends on who you talk to in the industry as to what the percentage is, but according to Bob Villa, vinyl windows can cost as much as 30 percent less than aluminum windows. That’s a remarkable difference, especially, if the overall cost is a huge factor in whether or not you proceed with your window replacement.

Both vinyl and aluminum frames are long-lasting, but vinyl has more visual appeal. The energy efficiency of aluminum frames is increasing, however, homeowners need to seek out the products as they aren’t an industry standard. On the other hand, properly installed vinyl frames adequately block airflow making them extremely energy efficient.

To the bottom line

Homeowners decide to replace their windows for many reasons. The added storm protection that impact windows provide tops lists around here. Perhaps you’re replacing windows due to age or damage. Or, maybe, you’re just upgrading.

Ultimately, choosing the right windows can seem like a pretty big decision. If you’re unsure which way you should go, contact a professional for guidance. They can answer any questions for you and even guide you through the selection process if you’d like.

New windows provide aesthetic value to your home from the moment they’re installed. Furthermore, if your home ever goes on the market, window replacement is a recoupable expense. In fact, you can regain as much as 74% of your cost when you sell your home.

That’s a pretty impressive figure when you think about it.

If you’re considering window replacement, we’d like to throw our name in the ring. We’ve been providing area residents with high-quality windows and doors for nearly 50 years. We’ve also gained a reputation for our exceptional customer service, which makes us very proud of each and every employee that works for us.

We’ll be looking forward to hearing from you.

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