Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another Vinyl Hater

Barbara Campagna goes on an anti-vinyl tirade:

“No vinyl” I said. “But vinyl lasts longer and doesn’t need any maintenance,” he responded. Why does this misperception continue in the general public and bleed over into those of us who should know better? As Mike Jackson (Chief Architect of the Illinois SHPO’s office) says, “No Maintenance required” really means “can’t be repaired” - so they end up in the landfill much sooner than say a wood window which can be repaired and repaired and repaired, or recycled. Vinyl can’t be repaired, and it can’t be recycled. So, maybe you don’t need to repaint it every 1o years, but within 20 years you will need to buy new windows yet again, and the heavy imprint on the environment starts all over.

To quote my colleague Patrice’s recent “White Paper on Sustainability”: There is a common perception that windows are a major source of heat loss and gain. Yet retaining historic windows is often more environmentally friendly than replacement with new thermally resistant windows. Government data suggests that windows are responsible for only 10% of air infiltration in the average home. Furthermore, a 1996 study finds that the performance of updated historic windows is in fact comparable to new windows. Window retention also preserves embodied energy, and reduces demand for environmentally costly new windows, typically constructed of vinyl or aluminum… There is the widespread perception that air leakage through windows is responsible for the majority of heat gain or loss in historic buildings. Yet information from the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that windows are responsible for only 10% of air escape in the average American home. Floors, ceiling and walls are responsible for 31% of heat loss and gain, while ducts and fireplaces are each responsible for about 15% of heat loss and gain.

Besides, vinyl windows are just ugly as hell.



Unknown said...

Dave, this is most interesting! Any idea what the heat loss breakdown is for properly restored historic buildings?

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a very enlightening documentary, Blue Vinyl, that takes you all the way to Venice on a discovery mission into the prodution of vinyl siding. It is really amazing.

David Wharton said...

Bro, I'm not sure about the breakdown. What I've heard is that properly maintained double-hung wood windows with good-fitting storm windows are comparable in performance to modern ones.

Natalie, thanks for the link.

Rob Ainbinder said...


Can I get some wood windows for my circa 2005 house? ;-)