Home Improvement Basics
Vinyl Replacement Windows and Siding
Replacement windows and siding are an important aspects of home improvement, the former improving home appearance inside and outside while providing energy efficiency savings, the latter improving a home’s appearance outside dramatically. New energy efficient replacement windows and vinyl house siding are options to be considered in any home improvement plan.
Choosing the Best Vinyl Windows and Siding for Your Home
Good Housekeeping has recently recommended steps to prevent heat loss from doors and windows (Good Housekeeping, Feb 08): opening blinds during the day to let the sun in, hanging drapes to help block drafts from windows, applying interior and exterior caulking to fill gaps around window frames. While these suggestions are helpful, the reality is that the quality of the windows and doors is the most important factor in energy efficiency and savings. And Good Housekeeping estimates that heat loss from faulty windows adds 10-25% to your monthly heating bill.
It helps to understand why windows and doors affect heating and cooling costs, according the Des Moines Register. Energy flows through windows through sunlight (solar radiation), radiant heat, conduction, conversion, and infiltration. Conduction involves heat transference through physical contact: heat conduction from the warmer to the cooler side of the window. Conduction occurs not only through solid materials (spacers, glass, window frames), but also through the air space between the layers of glass. The amount of heat transmitted through a material due to a temperature difference is given by its U-value. The smaller the U-value the less the heat that has been conducted. Conduction accounts for a significant amount of heat loss in a window or door.
Vinyl windows improve the appearance of a home, but for energy efficiency, not all vinyl windows are created equal. It helps to have windows with a solid silicon foam glass spacer because it flexes with temperature fluctuation to reduce glass seal failure and is more thermally efficient. Look also for vinyl windows with an overlapping, interlocking meeting rail that eliminates air and water infiltration where sash meet and dead-air chambers inside the vinyl that create small, airtight pockets for better insulation.
Vinyl windows with Argon or Krypton gas within the glass panes also are more energy efficient, with excellent R-values and U-values. Krypton gas is actually an even better insulator than Argon, so, unless Superman hangs around your house, windows with Krypton gas-filled glass are far superior.
It’s helpful when shopping for vinyl windows to obtain information on the warranty applied to the windows you are looking at. A good warranty will include a Lifetime (though limited) Warranty covering the vinyl, hardware, screens and glass units, including accidental glass breakage, for example, when the glass is struck by a rapidly moving solid object, such as a baseball.
Vinyl siding is optimal for a home’s appearance. Naturally, the durability and color-fade resistance of vinyl siding are issues. The thickness of the siding relates to its durability with a .050 nominal thickness providing superior rigidity that resists warping and rippling and has greater resistance to impact. Siding with a larger nailing hem places more product on the wall to prevent against “blow off” in high winds and an extra heavy-duty lock adds strength to the panel to prevent sagging.
One should expect a wide selection of colors when choosing vinyl siding and should look for properties of color-fade resistance in the vinyl, for example, through a capping resin in the vinyl that is a U-V stable acrylic polymer. Good quality vinyl siding should also look good in general and be maintenance-free in the sense of not needing to be scrapped, sanded, or painted ever.
The warranty package for vinyl siding should be a good one. It should include strong homeowner protection against manufacturing defects and lifetime fade protection.
Finally, one should choose a windows and siding contractor carefully both from whom to buy windows and siding and for their installation capability. For general tips and rocommendations when selecting a contractor check out our article: Choosing a Siding Contractor