Did you know that old, inefficient windows cost the U.S. an estimated $45 billion in wasted energy? Such waste results from the heat gains and losses that transpire through them.
Aging windows also affect indoor comfort and can pose safety hazards. For instance, deteriorating window seals can lead to foggy windows. This can be a health concern as that fog indicates humidity, which can encourage mold growth.
If all that sounds familiar, it may be time for you to invest in window replacement. But before you do, it’s best you learn first what sets vinyl vs. composite windows apart. These are the two main types of windows you can get for your home in Lower Michigan.
This guide covers the most crucial things you need to know about vinyl and composite windows, so read on.
Materials Used in the Frame
Vinyl windows have frames consisting of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They’ve been around since the 1970s, a testament to their popularity. They’re so sought-after that they boast the largest share of the global windows market.
Composite windows are newer than vinyl and have frames made of various materials. These include aluminum, wood, fiberglass, and sometimes, even plastic. Combined, these materials create a strong, rigid, and durable structure.
Of all replacement options, vinyl window benefits your wallet the most. These PVC-framed windows often cost less than other windows.
No wonder vinyl window replacement is among the most popular home improvement projects. It’s one of the top remodeling projects this 2023 in East North Central, including Grand Rapids, MI. Their affordability also makes them ideal for those needing new construction window installation.
Vinyl windows are affordable because vinyl itself is easy to manufacture. This ease of manufacturing makes the material widely available and, thus, cost-effective.
Vinyl is also easy to mold. As a result, manufacturers can build vinyl windows to fit any size opening.
Another reason behind vinyl windows’ affordability is their less complicated installation process. They’re usually easier to install because they’re lightweight.
Composite windows often cost more than vinyl, although not as pricey as wood. Their price is somewhere between vinyl and wood window frames.
The higher price of composite windows is due to their use of more materials. Manufacturing them is also more labor-intensive.
High-quality vinyl and composite windows have higher thermal resistance than their metal counterparts. This makes them more energy-efficient than, say, aluminum windows.
Vinyl windows are energy-efficient because of their honeycomb-like chambers. These trap air, helping improve their insulating ability.
Vinyl-frame windows also have hollow cavities. You can then have a professional window installer fill these gaps with insulation. Doing so can further boost your new windows’ energy efficiency.
Composite windows are energy efficient because of their wood or timber content. Timber is a natural thermal insulator, thanks to the air pockets inside its structure.
You can also boost the efficiency of vinyl or composite windows with better glazing. Instead of sticking to single-pane, consider investing in double-pane windows. If you have the budget, you can even get triple-pane windows.
The more panes your windows have, the more energy-efficient they can be. This is because you can have insulating gas pumped inside the space between the sheets of glass.
Lifespan and Durability
Windows made of vinyl or fiberglass (including composite) can last 20 to 40 years. So, these two materials’ lifespans are typically on par.
However, vinyl frames can soften, warp, and sag if continuously exposed to high heat. This is due to PVC being heat-sensitive. Still, it’s thanks to vinyl being plastic that it can resist corrosion and rot.
Composite windows, like vinyl, can also soften, warp, and sag. The primary cause is usually uncontrolled moisture. While they resist moisture, their wooden elements can still sustain water damage.
The good news is that both composite and vinyl window repairs are possible. For example, a professional can fix them if their panes crack or break. Window repair experts can also help address wood rot and discoloration.
Vinyl windows require little to no maintenance. You can easily clean them with mild dish soap diluted in warm water.
You also don’t need to paint or stain vinyl windows. However, this can also be a disadvantage if you want to change your windows’ looks. While you can paint PVC frames, the coat will unlikely last long as most paints don’t adhere well to vinyl.
Also, please note that some primers are too harsh and can weaken vinyl. As such, some vinyl window manufacturers prohibit their use. Disregarding this rule may lead to the window warranty becoming void or invalid.
Composite-frame windows are also just as low-maintenance as their vinyl counterparts. For instance, they don’t require refinishing every few years, unlike wood-frame windows. You can clean them the same way as you would vinyl windows.
Design and Aesthetics
Vinyl windows used to be available only in a few colors, including white, off-white, tan, and brown. But thanks to innovations, you can now get them in more colors, including black.
However, as mentioned above, paint and primers don’t work well with vinyl. So, if you decide to go with vinyl when replacing windows, you’d have to choose a color you’d want to stick to in the long run.
While composite windows aren’t as widely available as vinyl, they come in more colors. You can also get them in textured surface styles that mimic the appearance of solid wood. Some even resemble wood so closely that you can paint them in different hues.
Vinyl vs. Composite Windows: Which Is Better Then?
Whether you choose vinyl vs. composite windows primarily boils down to cost. If you’re on a budget but want to invest in energy-efficient, durable windows, go with vinyl. If price isn’t that much of a concern and you want the same benefits as vinyl can give, choose composite windows.
If you’re still on the fence, our team of experts here at Michigan Screen & Window Repair can help. Contact us now, and we’ll be happy to discuss your options with you. We’ll even throw in a free estimate!