Sunday, March 13, 2011

Would You Fly in a Vinyl Airplane?

I don’t wish to continue a rant against plastic/vinyl/PVC windows, but I can’t help provide a link to a website entitled 137 Things Window Companies Won't Tell You about Vinyl.  Based on the postings in the website, its apparent webmaster quit posting new quotes around five years ago (2006).

This website is a computation of quotes about the problems with “vinyl windows” from numerous sources such as the government, building industry and even from window manufacturers.

Here are my top 20 (of the 137) notable quotes:

20. This Old House Website 2005 - Worrisome Windows - “Consumers are inundated with ads from regional window companies that promise miracles. Maintenance-free windows made of sturdy vinyl that will not rot, pit, rust, or wear out. Such claims have helped make replacement windows a $3 billion industry. Many of those windows will not last as long as the ones they replaced.”

19. U.S. Dept. of Energy - "Four times since 1994, the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy consumer fact sheet on windows, stated that vinyl windows can warp, twist, bow, fade and crack."

18. U.S. Dept. of Energy 2002 - “Vinyl frames are not very rigid. Vinyl windows with large openings usually require an internal metal extrusion to make the frame stiffer. This can lower the frames R-Value significantly. Vinyl window frames can also soften, warp and twist if heat builds up within the frame. In hot sunny climates, direct exposure to sunlight is not recommended.”

17. Canadian Dept. of Natural Resources Consumer Guide 2005 - “The disadvantages of vinyl framing material is that vinyl expands and contracts with temperature. Opening up cracks for air leakage.”

16. University of Massachusetts Building Technologies Website 2006 - “Vinyl window frames fade, are unpaintable, gets brittle and is thermally unstable, especially in dark colors. It expands and contracts more than aluminum or wood, or even the glass it holds. Vinyl frames have the potential for causing increased air leakage over due to this

15. Brown University Website 2006 - “PVC’s resistance to heat is so low even just on an average sunny day, window frames made from the material emit a slight odor known to irritate hypersensitive individuals.”

14. University of Alaska 2006 - Building in Alaska - “PVC is not an ideal choice. This is particularly so for the colder climates of the far north, where greater temperature differences are a concern. PVC expands (or contracts) four times faster with temperature changes than does either wood or fiberglass. This stresses the external caulk weather seal. During times of extreme cold, the window literally shrinks away from the wood rough opening.”

13. Journal of Light Construction 2005 - “Vinyl windows have experienced problems with losing their shape as the horizontal dimension has increased. Vinyl is still years away from a final answer on durability.”
12. Washington Post 4/9/2005 - “Vinyl frames are not strong. Vinyl frames get soft and warp. They are dimensionally unstable causing warping, cracks, and air leaks.”

11. Minnesota Green Housing Website 2006 - “Vinyl, especially when colored tends to turn brittle and discolor over time.”

10. Healthy Building Website 2004 - “Vinyl windows have a higher thermal expansion coefficient. They can become brittle, yellow and develop cracks over time with exposure to sunlight.”

9. Healthy Building Website 2006 - “Vinyl windows have a higher thermal expansion coefficient that can lead to water leaks and other maintenance problems. They can become brittle, yellow and develop cracks over time with exposure to sunlight.”

8. Website 2006 - “Vinyl windows often look chunkier than wood because the vinyl isn’t strong enough to be made into ultra thin parts. The other problem is that vinyl looks unmistakingly plastic.”

7. Website 2006 - “Vinyl-clad and PVC frames on the interior will off gas over time releasing small amounts of vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen in humans. Vinyl, especially when colored, tends to turn brittle and discolor over time. (5 to 10 years in some cases)."

6. Building Website 2005 - "The Study of Long Term Performance of Operating Windows Subject to Motion Cycling found that air leakage through the vinyl casement windows increased 136%. (Significantly more than fiberglass or wood). Unreinforced PVC profiles are subject to distortion. This is caused by the lack of rigidity
and the high coefficient of linear expansion of sash members.”

5. Builder Website 2006 - “The #1 construction defect is window failure.  Leaks around sill-jamb corners of aluminum windows. Fogged dual-pane glass.Vinyl windows with poorly designed weeps.”

4. Sustainable Website 2006 - “The lifespan of uPVC is unclear. It is known that low quality formulas degrade over time, breaking up and becoming brittle. Most uPVC will end up as waste.”

3. Vinyl by Design Website 2006 - “Vinyl is not currently specified for commercial high rise due to extreme wind loads resistance requirements. Failure to install vinyl windows with appropriate clearance between the frame and rough opening can lead to frame distortion, which in turn, can lead to expensive water damage, broken glass, damage to seal and inoperable windows. In addition, increased heating and cooling costs for air infiltration.”

2.  On the Website 2006 - “Vinyl is nothing more than PVC or plastic. From the minute it is produced, it starts giving off free chlorides, (sort of plastic oxidation or deterioration). Eventually it becomes brittle and susceptible to cracking.”

….and the number one:

1.     Window Review Website 2003 - "Some homeowners are under the impression that one brand of vinyl window is better and less prone to performance problems than another.  But PVC is PVC.  Would you feel safe flying in a vinyl airplane?"

Monday, January 3, 2011

Can a Vinyl/Plastic Window Be GREEN?

It is undisputed that vinyl/plastic framed windows are the most popular of all windows manufactured. Why do Vinyl/Plastic framed windows outsell all other window types combined? Vinyl/Plastic windows are really cheap and reasonably energy efficient.

But are vinyl/plastic windows GREEN?

What is a GREEN building made of? Most opinions on building GREEN agree that building GREEN means employing the use of products that have the least negative impact on the environment and have the most sustainability.

Vinyl/plastic framed windows are made from PVC. The health and environmental problems from the production of these polymers have caused numerous European nations to ban or discourage their use in building products, such as vinyl/plastic siding and windows. As well, PVC contains dioxins. What more can be said about being environmentally friendly?

All vinyl/plastic windows offer a "life-time" warranty, but I have yet to see a vinyl/plastic window that was installed twenty years ago still holding its shape. So much for sustainability.

How many vinyl/plastic windows would be sold if they were called what they really are - a PVC window?  Ever notice that there are "seafood" restaurants and not "fish" restaurants?

Vinyl windows... now that’s marketing!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Today, no window can be considered “high performance” unless it can obtain a U-value less than .35. 

Aluminum windows offer the highest design strength that can be used in any high-rise application.    Most manufacturers offer finishes that are environmentally safe with low or no VOCs and are designed with unlimited finishes that can last for decades.  No other window frames can be glazed with the variety of glass options, including security glazing with laminated glass.

The problem is that almost all aluminum framed windows fail to ever obtain a U-value of .40 (R 2.5).  The very rare U-value of .40 in an aluminum window can only be achieved with the use of high-performance triple pane and a thermally broken frame.   

The poor thermal performance of aluminum windows usually comes with extreme condensation problems.  Condensation brings potential water damage and the potential of mold problems on the frames.  In colder upper Midwest climates aluminum frames have even been known to develop ice on the frames.

On cold days aluminum windows frames are considerably colder than the walls or even the glass contained in the window.  This difference in the temperatures will cause drafts.  Drafts make you feel uncomfortable and add more energy costs.

The H Window has the structural integrity to rival and out-perform any aluminum window.  At the same time it can obtain U-values as low as .20 (5).  The  H Window real wood interior performs as a second window.  An extruded aluminum exterior and real wood interior with the latest glazing options set the H window apart from all other so-called “high performance” aluminum windows.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How Important Is a Window's Air Infiltration?

Did you know that regardless of how well the components of a window functions in providing insulation, its air leakage or air infiltration will negate these insulating features?

I recently had a discussion with an architect about how most window companies fail to disclose the air infiltration ratings of their windows.  The reason for their failure to disclose is obviously meant to hide an issue that would render their insulation rating worthless. 

The best example of this would be the following calculation:

Air Infiltration Calculations:  This is the theoretical amount of air being exchanged based on the test data for the respective windows.  The calculation is based on 5 clad wood casement windows at 20 square feet each and an average wind velocity of 25 miles per hour.  The amount of air leakage is air that will actually have to be heated or cooled to maintain the inside temperature in the building.  (Note that the numbers below are for 100 square feet of windows only.)

Clad Casement Window vs. the H Window Awning - (Air infiltration --lower number = better performance):   
High performance clad casement window:   .20 cfm per sq.ft. = 1,200 cubic feet/hr or 28,800 cubic feet/day.
H Window Awning :   .01 cubic feet per minute per sq.ft. =  60 cubic feet/hr or 1,440 cubic feet/day

Based on this testing, here is an easy example of how this works.    If you have a small home or large room sized at 20’x40’x9’with 7200 cubic feet of space, with 5 average-sized (4’x5’), high-quality clad wood casement windows, facing a sustained wind of 25 MPH, you would have to heat or cool the air in the home or room 4 times each 24 hours.
Under these same circumstances, the H Window awning would exchange the heated or cooled air every other day.

The example above is based on a very high-quality clad wood casement window.  Other operating windows, such as sliding or double hung, would most likely leak even more than a casement window.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What Sets the H Window Apart from Other Windows

WHAT SETS THE H WINDOW APART from vinyl, composite, fiberglass, wood, aluminum wood-clad framed windows is its unmatched thermal performance coupled with the industry’s highest possible ratings against air and water infiltration.
The H Window offers one of the highest possible structural ratings (design pressure) of AW70 with U-Factors as low as .20. 
With the highest structural and design pressure rating, the H Window can provide some of the largest operating and fixed windows in the industry.

The H Window stands alone with the greatest structural integrity for any high-rise building and the thermal performance for any residential application.

Building "Green" involves a commitment to sustainable design. H Window was the first window company to offer FSC woods. As well, the H Window is committed to the LEED building movement.

Our window designs have a proven track record for over two decades in schools, hospitals, governmental buildings and homes. We invite you to examine and compare the performance and appearance of the windows that we manufactured almost 25 years ago to any of our competitors. Almost all of the windows we manufactured over 20 years ago continue to provide high performance and aesthetical quality with little or no maintenance.

Also, as far as replacement windows go, over the years the H Window has replaced many of its competitors' windows -  yet no one replaces the H Window.