Are Vinyl Replacement Windows Your Best Option?
Vinyl windows are the most popular choice for replacement windows. Made of polyvinyl chloride, they provide durability, require low-maintenance, and improve energy efficiency. For someone other than a chemist, they also pose a spelling challenge and may be labeled anything from vinal to vinil.
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So what are vinyl windows, how are they made, and why are they so well liked? Polyvinyl chloride, the very versatile material of which vinyl windows are constructed, is generally referred to as PVC or simply vinyl. Essentially, PVC is a compound of salt and petroleum, very similar to plastic. First, petroleum is heated and filtered in a process called cracking, which breaks it into its core component, ethylene. The ethylene and chlorine, formed by mixing salt and water together using a process called electrolysis, are combined to form ethylene dichloride, which is further treated to produce vinyl chloride monomer, a gas. One final step, polymerization, turns the gas into a powder, which serves as the basis for a resin.
How Does Vinyl Actually Become a Replacement Window?
The resin is combined with other materials for strength, heat resistance, and color, heated at very high temperatures to form a gooey semi-liquid, and then squeezed into molds to shape the window frames and sashes of the windows. The resulting shapes are placed in vacuum chambers that cool the vinyl. The finished pieces are cut into window pieces and welded together, forming one solid, water- and air-tight unit. Finally, the window is glazed and handles and other hardware are attached.
Of course, with all these steps, when you choose your home windows, you will want to be sure to verify that they are of the highest quality. Certified windows will have a label on the window glass proving that they have been tested to withstand sun, wind, and other weather conditions. You should also check for the gold label on your windows that signifies they were tested for stability and color-fastness in an independent laboratory.
Why Are Vinyl Windows So Popular?
Vinyl windows have a number of advantages. First, they save on heating and cooling costs because the polyvinyl chloride compound conducts both heat and cold poorly. Depending upon their specific composition, vinal windows have moderate to high R-values. The higher the R-value, the greater the resistance to heat transfer and the greater the energy efficiency. With vinil windows in place, the heat stays inside in the winter and outside in the summer, reducing your energy costs.
Next, besides being able to choose the color you want from a wide variety of shades, you will never have to paint them, not even to begin with. The imbued color also means they are very resistant to scratching. Vinal windows never need to be scraped or stained. No matter what their age, your windows will always look great. Extremely resilient, vinyl windows are built to last: they will not corrode, swell, chip, peel, rot, or rust. To keep them looking their best, just clean with soap and water.
On top of all that, vinil windows are priced to accommodate every budget, are easy to customize, and come in an assortment of designs, ranging from curved, bay, or picture windows to small casement windows, that complement any architectural style.
No matter what their actual color, vinyl windows are extremely ’green.’ Although wood windows might seem more environmentally friendly, vinyl actually uses less energy and produces less gas emission to make, saves more energy in use, and can be recycled and re-used for many different things.
Disadvantages of Vinyl Replacement Windows
While vinyl windows are versatile and attractive, they do have a few disadvantages: they can discolor in extreme weather conditions, will not withstand intense heat, and are also a bit more difficult to shape than aluminum windows. Finally, if you ever do change your mind about the color, you can't change it because PVC can't be painted.
Regardless of whether your goal is esthetic improvement, energy efficiency, reasonable cost, or easy maintenance, vinyl replacement windows may very well be your best choice.