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Difference between vinyl, fiberglass and aluminum windows

posted Jul 21, 2011, 10:37 AM by Kelvin Chin   [ updated Mar 5, 2013, 2:36 PM ]
One of the most common questions from our customers is "What is the difference between vinyl windows, aluminum windows and fiberglass windows?"  Although the issue is complex, I'll attempt to give a concise answer that addresses a homeowner's important concerns here.

 Aluminum Windows Vinyl Windows Fiberglass Windows
Bad:
  • Not nearly as energy-efficient as the other two. (Often does not meet Title 24 energy requirements for new construction)
  • Aluminum is prone to corrosion over time.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Limited warranties.
Good:
  • Aluminum windows are available in colors like bronze anodized and clear anodized (silver) to meet HOA requirements.
 Bad:
  • Cannot be painted; windows will be white (or almond) forever.
  • Some customers do not like "plastic" look of the material.
  • When made into french doors, vinyl feels soft (doesn't have the rigid feel of wood).
Good:
  • Vinyl windows are very energy efficient.
  • Inexpensive, in some cases less than aluminum, though normally more than aluminum.
  • By far the most common type of window and the best value for your money.
  • Best warranties of the bunch, commonly a Full Lifetime warranty for the homeowner, including in-home service, materials and glass breakage.
 Bad:
  • Expensive.
  • Quality can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • Limited warranties.
Good:
  • Comes in a variety of colors to suit your taste.
  • Fiberglass windows can be painted to change the look of your home.
  • Has the look and feel of a rigid wood window or french door.
  • Energy efficiency as good as vinyl windows.

Some Final Thoughts

Vinyl windows are by far the most popular type of window made today.  In our store, they make up about 80% of our window sales.  In terms of a great looking, low-maintenance (just regular cleaning) and well-warrantied products, vinyl windows beat the rest handily.  Contact us for more details.

I didn't cover another class of windows, namely, wood windows and aluminum-clad wood windows.  These windows are often used either for historical accuracy (wood) or high-end new construction or remodeling (aluminum-clad wood windows).  Look for a future article.
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