Friday, January 15, 2010

Vinyl Versus Metal Windows

The insulation and reflective values of windows make a huge impact on the overall performance of a home. Don had gotten a really good quote on metal frame windows (around 3300), and he has had good success with them because they have a 1" flange around the perimeter that makes it easy to seal them up properly. The more expensive vinyl windows don't.

We had gone to Direct Buy, hoping to get a quote on vinyl windows that would at least come close to the metal. However, the guy giving us the price didn't check on different Direct Buy vendors, only on one with a very prominent name. We can't reveal the quote because that's part of the deal when you join DB, you agree not to reveal the prices. Let's just say it was orders of magnitude higher.

So, we had given up on vinyl windows. However, Don contacted me yesterday because one of his other clients put him in touch with American Window Systems, a supplier for Energy Star windows.  They quoted 4600 for the windows. So, for 1300 more, we get vinyl windows with Argon instead of air as a filling. And, the performance ratings (lower is better) are UV Value of .53 and SHGC of .32 for the metal windows compare with a UV Value of .30 and SHGC of .25 for the vinyl. This link explains UV and SHGC. We decided to go with the vinyl, even though it adds to the budget. The energy savings should make up for the difference over the life of the home. The energy star site estimates somewhere between 90 and 300 dollars per year. The higher savings is for energy star compared to a single pain window the lower is compared to a clear double pane.


  1. There is no place for vinyl windows in green building! Do you realize how toxic that stuff is?

  2. We appreciate your comment and agree that vinyl is not the most environmentally friendly material. However, this was a case where we had to make a trade off due to budget constraints. And, there are benefits to vinyl windows that include durability and energy efficiency:

  3. Hi,

    Good decision on vinyl windows over aluminum. For the life of your home, you will save a tremendous amount of energy expense with this decision, and I have to think that is certainly a green decision.

    I am new to the blog, and still reading through yours. I don't envy your challenges with the slope and rocks, but the site is beautiful and I am sure the end result will be beautiful...

    Feel free to check out my blog as well.
    It is a fairly large single story ICF home. Geothermal, radiant heating, lighting control, etc.

    Good luck with your home!!!


  4. To ameliorate the off-gassing of vinyl, you can use Safecoat Hard Seal on the interior surfaces:

  5. Thanks Mark! We will check out your blog.

  6. Hi there,

    I came across you post here on vinyl windows. I am very interested in how it worked out with American Windows? I am very seriously considering going with their windows and would appreciate your opinions about them. I am would like a 366, argon gas model for maximum protection from the sun. Thanks. BTW...I am just started building my place and you should be able to find my blog.

  7. Hi Bill,

    We were happy with the windows. They open and close nicely and they look good. There was no noticable odor to suggest significant offgassing. As far as performance, we won't know until we move in :-).

    Hope your build goes well! We would need the name or URL to find it though.

  8. Glad to hear the windows are working out. AWS have been great to work with as our windows have changed a few times through out the design.

    My blogspot blog is


    We begin the slab work on Monday!