Vinyl window frames dominate the market, outselling wood, aluminum and even fiberglass. Originally developed after World War II to deal with a shortage of natural materials like wood, vinyl is popular with today’s homeowners because it is energy efficient, affordable and low maintenance.
There are two basic options with vinyl windows: all vinyl or vinyl clad. Vinyl clad windows are made of vinyl on the side that faces that outdoors and is subject to the elements but wood on the inside for aesthetics.
Vinyl windows are energy efficient, saving money on home heating and cooling bills. However, not all vinyl windows are equally energy efficient. Look for government-backed Energy Star logo to make sure you’re getting the best performance. Vinyl windows are also nearly maintenance free - they never require repainting.
On the downside, the color choices can be limited and the window frames cannot be painted if you get sick of the color.
If you’ve decided on vinyl windows, you just need to decide on the style of each window. There are casement windows, which hinge on one side and are opened using a crank handle; awning windows, which are similar but hinge at the top; and double-hung windows, which have two moveable panels that slide vertically. There are picture windows and bay windows, too, among many others.
Vinyl windows are fairly inexpensive, usually selling for about $150 to $650 each, depending on factors such as size, quality and window brand. That includes installation. Double-pane windows or tilting windows are priced on the higher end of that price range, as are any custom windows. Not surprisingly, the higher the R-value (a measure of thermal resistance and, thus, energy efficiency), the more expensive the windows will be.
For comparison purposes, fiberglass windows are significantly more expensive at $300-$900 each, as are wood windows, at $400-$1,200 each.
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