There are literally 100s of vinyl window manufacturers in the U.S. These windows can be found at home improvement retailers, specialty dealers and large and small window replacement companies. The number of suppliers and the variety of outlets confound the selection process.
Pros: Vinyl windows are the most widely produced windows and they are most commonly used in replacement applications. This is because vinyl windows are easy and relatively inexpensive to manufacture, and this cost structure has resulted in numerous national and regional suppliers.
Cons: In what may be a surprise for some, we are seeing a strong uptick in demand to replace 10 to 15 year old vinyl windows that no longer operate properly or that are leaking. Colorado’s climate and elevation conspire to dramatically shorten the life cycle of vinyl windows!
Vinyl Windows in Colorado Homes
Colorado has a population of just over 5 million with slightly more than half of that living in the I-25 corridor stretching from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs (the “Front Range”). The climate is semi-arid with low humidity, resulting in high surface temperature variations night to day, winter and summer. For example, in January, the surface (not air) temperature on a south facing window can range from an overnight low of 19 to a daytime high of 70. As vinyl is a thermoplastic and not a thermoset material, it expands and contracts with the temperature and becomes softer when warm and more brittle when cold. This cycling, day after day, year after year, works against the corner welds of the sash and frame, as well as the seal of the glass which, unlike vinyl, moves very little with temperature variations.
The rate of expansion/contraction is exacerbated by the heat absorbed by darker colors and is the reason that the vast majority of vinyl windows are available in white and tan colors only. A number of companies are beginning to offer darker colors using heat reflective technologies. I am skeptical that darker colors will stand up to our climate but we will know soon enough.
In addition to the expansion/contraction problems, high altitude markets have much higher UV exposure than the majority of the country and while vinyl manufacturers include UV inhibitors in their products, we see yellowing and color degradation in windows that are just three to five years old.
So, although vinyl windows are often a less-expensive option than their fiberglass and wood-clad counterparts, Colorado’s climate does not necessarily make them the best choice for homes in this region.