The Top 2 Reasons Why NOT to Choose Vinyl Windows
Choosing a replacement window today may have become at little easier; that is, if you know what you don’t want. For the past 30 plus years, vinyl replacement windows have been the prevalent front runner across the country.
Advancements in manufacturing, as well as new technologies in glass coatings, along with the insertions of inert gases like Argon & Krypton, have improved the thermal efficiency. But two issues still remain a constant blight on the industry as a whole.
- The high pressure tactics of home improvement firms, along with their dubious claims regarding return on investment.
- The fact that is, vinyl is just plastic. That may be fine for classic LP record collections, but not for windows.
The main ingredient in vinyl windows is Poly Vinyl chloride (aka PVC). It is arguably one of the most environmentally hazardous consumer materials ever created. All the way from its production to disposal, its key ingredient, chlorine, makes it toxic.
A dangerous chemical called dioxin, a potent carcinogen, is produced during the manufacturing, and often the disposal, of PVC. Some European countries are considering legislation that limits the use of such plastics. Hamburg, Germany, for example, has banned all single-serve coffee pods and plastic water bottles in an effort to promote sustainability and limit the amount of non-biodegradables that go into landfills
Vinyl is Final?
While that may be the case with regards to the disposal of vinyl, when it comes to vinyl windows the catch phrase falls short. Nearly 1 out of every 5 windows replaced today is a made of vinyl and is less than 18 years old. While original wood windows have lasted three and four times that long, the crazy fact is, most of the vinyl windows that are replaced are replaced with, you guessed it, another vinyl window! The Umwelt Bundesmt, Germany’s equivalent to the EPA estimates the lifespan of vinyl windows at 15 years. Unlike Zippo Lighters and Cross Pens, the alleged “Lifetime” Warranty that most manufacture’s and contractors give to vinyl windows is about as useful as a wooden frying pan
Perhaps it’s because we live in a disposable society that most vinyl windows have become more or less a commodity item. While they are being manufactured better than they were, at the end of the day this leopards’ spots are still the same bright white Poly Vinyl Chloride of their predecessors.
Another reason for their popularity is the ease of installation. With few exceptions, in remodeling projects vinyl windows are installed as a retro-fit item, or pocket installation. Meaning a new window is made slightly smaller than the original opening so the unit can easily slip into the space once the old window has been removed. While this isn’t the best practice for replacing old windows, it’s certainly faster and less costly.
What’s the Alternative?
Windows made of fiberglass and wood are environmentally friendly. For those concerned about sustainability, fiberglass is glass, made from sand. It’s a natural and abondant resource unlike vinyl, it won’t expand and contract with temperature changes. Neither will it warp, crack, or discolor. Plus, It’s 15 times stronger. Fiberglass windows, like Beechworth, manufactured in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, are made with a real wood interior. That provides you with a truly paintable or stainable finish.
As for thermal efficiency, fiberglass windows that use insulated glass with Low E and Argon Gas give the same U-Factors and R-Values as vinyl. And fiberglass is more compatible with glazing materials, since the materials have nearly identical expansion coefficients.
Cost vs Value
The upfront cost of fiberglass is 10-20% more than vinyl. But when you consider the return on investment, longevity, aesthetics, and environmental impact, fiberglass is the better choice. Indeed, it’s the right choice, for you, your home and the planet.