Tom Shafer

Is vinyl an environmentally-friendly window material?

February 03, 2016

You may not think "vinyl" when you think about green window materials, but you should.

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The more aware we become of climate change, the more aware we should all strive to be about how we can do our part to help save the environment. Making our homes energy efficient should be at the top of our minds, as well as finding sustainable building materials that are friendly to the environment. Today, let's talk specifically about eco-friendly windows.

Since wood is a natural product that can be re-grown, wood windows are often thought of as being the greenest material. And since plastics (like vinyl) lasts for centuries and never dissolves, evaporates, becomes rotted, or deteriorates, you may be thinking it can't possibly be good for our fragile environment.

But there are several ways to judge a material's greenness.

What makes vinyl green?

Vinyl windows constitute almost 70% of the window market. That includes both new construction and replacement windows, which means builders, developers, and remodelers will continue to make these windows as attractive to buyers as possible, and these days, that means being energy efficient.

Contractors aren't the only ones in-the-know about its energy efficiency. US energy officials like vinyl, too. The National Association of Home Builders actually promotes a US Green Building Council LEED home that has vinyl windows, and the US Department of Energy includes vinyl windows in its Energy Star guidelines.

What makes a material energy-efficient?

There are a lot of factors that go into eco-friendliness and energy-efficiency that you might not be aware of:

  1. Location of the window factory to its end use location. Windows made within 300 miles proximity of use location qualify for LEED points.
  2. Use of recycled materials. Recycled materials are very important to the production of vinyl windows. This includes materials that were rejected because of die deformities and old extrusions as well as windows returned to the factory or old windows that have now been replaced. All of these are ground back to a powder and reused.
  3. Thermal improvement. Glass insulating values are of course important for the entire window, but the contribution made by vinyl is immense. Vinyl is a much better insulator something like aluminum, and it helps reduce your energy bills by keeping your home at a more comfortable temperature naturally.
  4. Does not need to be painted. Wood that has been painted or stained can potentially emit harmful chemicals in the curing process. Repainting begins the cycle over again.

Vinyl windows may be the best option if you are remodeling with an eye toward a green, eco-friendly home. Your utility bills and the environment will thank you for the help.

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