Compare Aluminum vs. Vinyl Windows


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Aluminum vs. Vinyl Windows

In the battle between aluminum vs. vinyl windows, here are four key places to compare and contrast these very different window frame materials - cost, style, strength and energy efficiency.

Pricing & Costs

Aluminum windows will typically be more expensive than their vinyl counterparts - by how much, that's tough to say. The average vinyl window cost will run say $400 installed, while the average aluminum window will run $650 installed. Aluminum windows are typically going to be much stronger (see below for more) and you will pay for that privilege. In terms of value over the years, aluminum is probably the winner, if the frame material is the right fit for your climate and you like the looks of it. Find more aluminum window prices here.

Style & Aesthetics

There are huge differences in this category between these two frame options. Aluminum is sleeker and more industrial looking - they are commonly used in commercial buildings because they are so strong so they have become associated with this look and feel. Aluminum frames are almost always thinner, which most people like because it provides more glass area and is a primary reason for the sleek look. Compare with vinyl, which is nearly almost always more bulky and has a much more domestic or residential feel to it - mainly because they are used so much more on residential homes. Vinyl accounts for roughly half of the replacement market. Vinyl also comes in more options - exterior and interior finishes and colors, the primary reason for this is that there are so many more vinyl manufacturers than aluminum.

Strength & Durability

In this category there is no question who the winner is - aluminum is much stronger and will last longer than vinyl. It's one of the reasons that many people have to replace their 60 year old aluminum windows - they last a long time. Again, it's the reason that aluminum is used in commercial buildings that have to have a much higher strength rating. Vinyl spans a good size range when it comes to strength. High end window models from top manufactuers like Okna, Simonton and Sunrise will last 30 years with no problem. Less well made extrusions from bargain manufacturers like Silverline and American Craftsman may only get you 10 to 15 years before the windows begin to show signs or wear and tear.

Energy Efficiency

In this category there is no question who the winner is - vinyl is much better when it comes to energy efficiency. It's the primary reason why aluminum is used so infrequently in the residential market. To be fair, modern aluminum frames are much better insulators than their predecessors. Today's aluminum windows are thermally broken, which means that they don't transfer the heat or cold from the interior to the exterior like they once did. Take an old aluminum window on a cold day and the frame itself is freezing, which means you are losing a ton of heat.

Bottom Line

Aluminum is a good hot weather window because it can withstand heat and will not warp in the hot desert sun. It's a poor choice for cold climates because of it's poor insulating qualities. Aluminum is more expensive than vinyl, but will last longer. It also has a sleeker, more industrial look to it. For most homeowners, a nicely made, well installed vinyl window is the way to go - see our recommendations on top vinyl windows. If you love the look of aluminum, can afford it (or if you live in a super hot place), then perhaps aluminum windows are right for your next replacement project.

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