There are plenty of reasons to purchase aluminum windows for your home – they provide a pleasing aesthetic look, are flexible when it comes to being made into more unique window shapes, and they are long-lasting and require less maintenance compared to other window materials. Aluminum windows have been around for a very long time (decades, in fact), and for good reason.
However, much like other window materials, aluminum windows have their shortcomings, and it’s important to do your research before deciding if aluminum windows are a good fit for your home and climate. In this article, we’ll look at some important factors you should consider before you decide on aluminum windows: climate and energy efficiency, cost, and options. Before we jump into those details, let’s start by describing aluminum windows and how they are made.
What are aluminum windows?
Aluminum is a light and durable metal that makes for a good building material. It’s widely used in household items, vehicles, planes, and buildings. In addition to being lightweight and durable, there are other strengths to aluminum windows (as well as some disadvantages).
Advantages of Aluminum Windows:
- More affordable because it’s a less expensive material
- Low-maintenance; baked on finishes reduce the need for repainting
- Won’t swell, crack, split, or warp
- Slim profiles and narrow frames allow for more glass and unobstructed sight lines
- Highly flexible material that can be molded into unique shapes
Disadvantages of Aluminum Windows:
- Aluminum is a conductor which means they don’t hold in heat or keep the cold out easily during the winter and its harder to keep the heat out in the summer
- Have a high U-value, which indicates more high thermal transfer and less efficiency
- Prone to condensation
Aluminum windows are windows that thrive best in a specific climate and environment. Windows are now designed with energy efficiency in mind, in order to make aluminum windows more efficient (even in less than ideal climates), manufacturers pass aluminum through an extrusion process and create a thermal break. Without a thermal break, aluminum windows are 100% a conductor, the break creates a separation in the aluminum material that is filled with an insulating material (like plastic or polymer) to combat the thermal transfer (losing your heat). The break is between the external and internal frame so that outside temperatures aren't transferred to the interior. Not all aluminum windows are made from extruded aluminum, others are made from rolled aluminum which is an even less efficient material.
Illustration edited from Kinney, 2004.
Milgard and Andersen make popular aluminum products, you can see more from them on our website:
Andersen E-Series Windows
Milgard Aluminum Windows
Keep reading to learn more about what you should consider before buying aluminum windows.
Does climate affect the energy efficiency of aluminum windows?
Though you may not guess it at first, your environment plays a big role in deciding what windows are best for you. In this case, aluminum windows work best in a warmer climate. This is because they perform poorly in cold weather and the cold and wet elements can cause corrosion from precipitation over the years. This is why, if you’re living in the Northeast, aluminum windows might not be the right choice for you. While thermal breaks provide some insulation to the window frame it still pales in comparison to how well other window materials are able to withstand severe elements. However, if you’re living in a more temperate climate, aluminum windows could be an option for you.
Aluminum windows are not the most energy efficient option available. Unlike insulating materials like fiberglass, vinyl, or wood, aluminum is a conductor. This means that heat and cold transfer through the material. During the winter season, cold air from outside touches the exterior of the window making it feel cold and that cold temperature is transferred inside creating a challenge for your heater in terms of regulating inside temperature. With other materials, this isn’t the case because they have a lower thermal transfer as insulators than conductors have. Conductors are better suited to blocking the outside temperatures from affecting the inside of your home.
It's important to reiterate that you need to know what windows work best and which don't work at all in your area. If the window you choose doesn't meet your local energy standards it may not pass inspection (the company you order your windows from or your contractor should be able to help inform you about this). Energy ratings alone may make the decision for you when considering different window materials. Where you live will directly impact what type of windows you will end up purchasing.
Playing the long game
The cost of aluminum windows is more than meets the eye. Aluminum is a relatively inexpensive material and aluminum windows are typically more affordable than windows made from other materials like fiberglass or wood. Customization or opting for aluminum clad wood windows can drive up the cost of the window and you'll also want to remember to factor in the cost of installation when you try to create a budget for your project. It can sometimes be difficult to find pricing for windows online and that's primarily because pricing changes depending on the size of the windows and customizations.
If you're interested in getting pricing the best thing to do is have an idea of what type of windows you are considering for replacement and reaching out to a window replacement company to get a bid. You'll want to get a few bids and consider who will do the installation as well as what kind of warranties are included in your purchase.
A major benefit of going with aluminum windows is that once they’re installed, maintaining them is much easier than it is with other window materials. While other types such as wood clad and vinyl require more upkeep to maintain their look like cleaning or refinishing the windows, once aluminum windows are installed, they are about as close as you can get to a ‘maintenance-free’ window.
Plenty of Options
If you decide on aluminum windows, know that there are plenty of options to choose from. We’ve listed a few options for aluminum clad and thermal break aluminum below.
Andersen's E-Series offers several styles of aluminum windows. These windows are made with wood interiors and extruded aluminum exteriors which give you the durability and color variability of aluminum windows with the warmth of a traditional wood window. The extruded aluminum cladding withstands the elements better than thinner rolled aluminum.
NT Windows are also worth a look if aluminum cladding or wood isn’t what you’re looking for. The Twinsulator series uses a ThermaProtect insulation barrier throughout the frame and sash to protect against the elements.
Milgard is another popular option for aluminum windows in North Texas. Milgard offers thermally improved aluminum windows equipped with thermal breaks. This separates the interior and exterior surfaces to reduce the transfer of heat.
Check out one of our favorite aluminum window replacement projects: Milgard Aluminum Replacement Windows in Southlake, Texas
Research and careful planning are necessary when considering what window material you choose. Some factors are more important than others depending on where you live. Many homeowners replace their windows for aesthetic reasons and others replace them for functional reasons, regardless of which group you fall into (maybe both) knowing the pros and cons of each window type are helpful when making your decision. We hope you found this information helpful if you’re interested in learning about other materials check the related articles at the end of this page or look through some of our window series to see if we have something you might like for your home.