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Aluminum Replacement Windows: Are They Your Best Option?

Aluminum Window InstallationIf it’s time for new windows for your home,  a little shopping will demonstrate that aluminum replacement windows are still an economical, attractive and easy to install option. Aluminum is used in most commercial applications and was once considered suitable for private homes only when used for basement windows. Today, however, you can purchase custom built aluminum windows that have life time guarantees, are energy efficient, and can be designed for any window opening in your home. Architects love them because the strength created by the aluminum allows for a narrower frame relative to a wide expanse of glass. In addition, you may also want to be sure your storm windows really provide the protection you need.
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Aluminum windows are used in commercial applications because of the strength needed in the larger openings common to office or manufacturing buildings. In these situations, the windows are actually made from aluminum. In residential applications, on the other hand, the actual window frame could be made from wood, which remains a most popular choice for interior decoration. However, wood exposed to the elements must be regularly treated, and even then will have a shorter life than aluminum or vinyl. An inexpensive alternative is to apply a layer of aluminum to the outside of the frame, thus creating a window that will resist the elements, require minimal care, compliment the outside of the house, and yet allow the warmer effect of wood on the inside.

Aluminum framed replacement windows are much less expensive than wood but are usually considered less efficient because of the low R value. Aluminum conducts cold or heat more readily than wood or vinyl and the frames sometimes have a problem with condensation. An inexpensive fix for this is to simply install thermal breaks made of insulating plastic strips between the inside and outside of the frame and sash. 

Also, unlike vinyl, aluminum can be painted. In fact, the bare metal windows have long been a thing of the past as the aluminum frames can be ordered from the factory with a baked on enamel finish in almost any color you want. And, if you want the look of vinyl, you can even order aluminum windows with vinyl coatings, thereby almost eliminating maintenance.

Some builders and critics say that if you do opt for aluminum windows, you need to make sure that you get double glazed, low E, argon filled panes in addition to the thermal insulating strips in order to compensate for the conductivity of the aluminum.

Manufacturers
With the growth in popularity of vinyl, aluminum may be difficult to find in some areas. Pella is one company that makes a “duraclad” aluminum window that has the appearance and thermal efficiency of wood. Some of the other leading manufacturers that you can check out are Gorell, Hurd, Weather Shield, Mildgard Windows, Andersen, Loewen, and Thermal Industries, Inc.

Storm Windows
Storm windows are removable windows that you install only during winter months. If you only have single pane windows, the storm window will not keep your home noticeably warmer, but will improve energy efficiency by limiting the movement of air through the existing windows.

Storm windows are available for most types of windows and range from inexpensive, single season use, plastic sheets to triple track glass units designed to be used for years. While the windows can be exterior or interior, the interior ones are easier to install and last longer because they are not exposed to the elements. The glazing itself can be plexi or glass. The glass panes are more durable, although they are also easier to break and heavier to handle. Plexi-glass scratches easily and will sometimes turn yellow with age. However, it is also cheaper than glass.

The best framing material for storm windows is vinyl. Wood frames are bulky and difficult to store as well as being less durable. Aluminum frames are inexpensive but will partially defeat the purpose of the storm window due to the conductive characteristics of the metal. Vinyl with plexi-glass or plastic glazing will usually give the most satisfactory, long term winter protection.
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