You've already heard about the general benefits of vinyl windows. Yes, they are energy efficient, and they do not require as much maintenance as traditional wooden windows. While you think that you know enough to make a decision about the window replacement, there is still more for you to learn about vinyl.
Gauging and Vinyl
Vinyl products, including windows, are available in different gauges. The gauge has to do with the thickness of the material, and how well it holds up to high winds, exposure to extreme temperatures, and scratching. Manufacturers offer windows in different gauges, with the sturdier versions including a higher gauge. Read the product descriptions, and only go for window designs that will withstand gale winds of over 100 miles per hour.
Condensation on window panes can pose a problem if some of your family has allergies or respiratory ailments. That's because the condensation can support the growth of mold around interior casings. Be aware that the vinyl is non-porous. Unlike wood, it will not soak up the moisture that could lead to mold development. That translates into fewer attacks for those family members.
Good Vinyl is in the Middle Price Range
Some contractors will tout vinyl as the windows of choice based on price. You should know that these statements are focusing on lower gauged vinyl that may or may not be fine for your purposes. Sturdier vinyl will run roughly along the middle of the spectrum, right around the cost of a good set of aluminum windows. You'll still find that the higher gauge vinyl is more cost effective than traditional wooden windows.
Vinyl Replacement Windows are Environmentally Responsible Choices
If you hear someone dismiss vinyl as an environmentally responsible alternative to wood or aluminum, don't believe it. In the manufacturing process, vinyl releases a lower amount of greenhouse gases in comparison to other materials. Once the windows are installed, they'll make it easier to keep the home at a comfortable temperature. If and when they are replaced, know that all the window materials can be recycled with ease. From start to finish, they are an environmentally responsible choice.
Understanding the R-Value
R-value is a term using in the construction industry to determine the level of heat resistance associated with a building product. With the vinyl used for windows, the level of thermal resistance is higher than with wood and aluminum. This just means vinyl does not conduct heat and cold as easily as these other products. For you, this lower conduction rate means less energy is needed to keep the inside of your home at a comfortable temperature.
Differences in Low-E Coatings
The glass in your vinyl windows is treated with a clear coating. That coating is rated based on the ability to limit heat transference. Before you invest in any set of vinyl replacement windows, ask specifically about the Low-E rating of those coatings. Keep in mind that you can use windows with a higher rating in rooms where you want to block more heat, and opt for windows with lower ratings if you want to let in more of that natural heat.
Vinyl and House Fires
You may not know that vinyl is a fire retardant material. The vinyl used in window construction exceeds the requirements necessary to comply with LEED building rates and codes. If a house fire breaks out and getting to an exterior door is impossible, know that the windows will retain their integrity longer and provide a safer way to escape.
Only you can decide if vinyl is the right choice for replacing those older windows. Work with a contractor to explore all the possibilities, and ask plenty of questions. Doing so will ensure that when the replacement is complete, you'll be happy with your choice.