Are Aluminum Windows Bad?

Are Aluminum Windows Bad?

If you're shopping for new or replacement windows you might ask, are aluminum windows bad? Perhaps you heard that fiberglass and vinyl windows are preferred or that aluminum windows lack insulation. While aluminum windows dominated the residential window market in the 70s, technology and energy standards have changed since then. They aren’t always a bad choice, and yet, it's best to weigh your options before making the investment. 

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How are Aluminum Windows Made?

Aluminum frames gained popularity during the Industrial Revolution because of their fire resistance. Aluminum also became prevalent in commercial buildings before residential usage. 

Demand for steel windows grew in the 20th century but homeowners started switching to inexpensive vinyl. However, vinyl eventually warped or discolored. As steel became more expensive, low-maintenance aluminum, a cheaper alternative, became the preferred choice from the 1930's↗ to the 1960s. In the 1970's↗ aluminum frames dominated as replacement windows until vinyl was introduced in the 1990's↗.

How are aluminum windows made? 

  • Extruding aluminum billet: Aluminum is heated in a press and passes through a die. This ensures it's durable and in the correct shape.
  • Insulating the window's profile: The window profile is insulated with a thermal break to help reduce cold and heat loss. The profiles are rolled twice on a polyamide thermal barrier. During the second thermal break, they're color-coated.
  • Powder-coating: This colors the frame. It then receives a pre-treatment and cleaning in special ovens to protect the paint. Some windows go through an anodized finishing process instead.
  • Packing: Packing machinery wraps and protects the aluminum profile. It then hangs on special holders until delivery.

Advantages of Aluminum Windows

When exploring window options, you might question how long aluminum windows will last. While easy to maintain and low cost, some homeowners have concerns about the durability of aluminum when compared to fiberglass, vinyl or wood. Aluminum windows are known for their strength and can last about 20 to 30 years. When updating your windows from single-pane to double-pane, you'll see an immediate change in energy savings and comfort. 

Benefits to having aluminum windows include that they provide ample light are easy to maintain and are sturdier than vinyl. Aluminum windows usually have anodized or factory-baked finishes which prevent corrosion. Hence, they don't need painting or treating like wood. One of the most attractive features of aluminum windows are the thin frame profiles, compared to other window frame materials there's no bulky frame reducing your view. Materials that make aluminum windows are also more flexible making it easy to customize them into odd shapes or for unusual spaces. 

Live in a colder climate? To increase energy efficiency, consider a double glaze or additional surface coatings for your aluminum windows. This protection can make some aluminum windows as effective as vinyl. Aluminum also provides added security. The frames are much stronger than vinyl and the glass can securely protect against the elements. Wherever it is you are purchasing your aluminum windows make sure to look for windows with a thermal break and note that extruded aluminum frames and cladding are better than rolled aluminum.

Generally you can expect aluminum windows to cost more than vinyl but the price really depends on how the windows are customized and brand recognition. Additionally, aluminum windows include sleek frames with larger glass surfaces.

Disadvantages of Aluminum Windows

Despite the many benefits of aluminum windows they aren't perfect. So, what are three disadvantages of aluminum window frames? While aluminum is low-cost, it doesn't conduct heat well. However, newer models have thermal treatments, weather stripping and coatings that can make them comparable to vinyl. Aluminum windows generally don't perform well in terms of energy efficiency for those of us in Texas, but if aluminum is what you ask your window dealer about customizing the windows for max efficiency.

For those that live near beaches, erosion is another concern as saltwater can corrode aluminum. Moisture, frost and condensation are other problems if you live in colder climates. To combat this make sure your windows have a thermal break, older windows likely do not have them so you should see an instant improvement if you upgrade.

So, Are Aluminum Windows Bad?

With vinyl windows dominating the window industry it's common to hear people ask, are aluminum frame windows bad? Is vinyl better? Aluminum is an affordable choice that can last much longer than vinyl. And yet, it's best for milder climates. 

In colder climates, if you need replacement windows on a cabin, for example, wood and vinyl are better options. Buying cheap aluminum windows in the wrong environment can increase your energy bill. If cost is a factor, double-coat your windows to reduce the cold air coming into the home. Aluminum windows are best in milder (not frigid) climates or where you can add a thermal break to the frame. This rubber or plastic strip can greatly limit heat conductivity. They also don't work well in areas where the climate gets extremely hot. So, no— aluminum windows aren't bad and they have many benefits but make sure they meet your local energy requirement before making your purchase. It'd be terrible to pay for windows and have them installed just to find out they can't be permitted. 

How Do Aluminum Windows Compare to Other Options?

Another question you may have is when you should replace aluminum windows. When looking for window frames and parts, vinyl is affordable while wood is long-lasting. Both vinyl and aluminum are low-maintenance and cheaper than wood. Wood is aesthetically pleasing and available in different species (red or white oak, Douglas Fir, maple, etc.). 

Other options include fiberglass and composite materials. They're durable, low-maintenance, energy-efficient, and cheaper than wood but more expensive than vinyl.

If your preference is a traditional frame, try vinyl which also includes more styles and colors. Both vinyl and aluminum are difficult to paint making wood a preferred choice for applying coatings. 

Are Aluminum Windows Worth Replacing?

Absolutely, especially if you have aluminum windows that are over 20 years old. Today you have access to tons of window options that will look great and reduce your energy waste. Alternatives to aluminum windows also come with better window balances and parts that don't rust or damage easily. 

Clear Choices for Windows

Take your time in selecting new or replacement windows as budget, durability and style are factors. Is aluminum long lasting? Yes, but it loses heat and is not ideal for beach climates or extreme cold. However, aluminum is affordable, sturdy and can flood your rooms with light. Ask your window representative about the different options for your particular housing needs.

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