Aluminium, uPVC or Wooden Double Glazing?
Since it’s difficult to attach glass directly to the walls of your home, replacement windows or doors obviously need frames. The three most common choices for window or doorframes in the UK are aluminium, uPVC or wood.
If you are considering having replacement windows installed in your home, you might be wondering which option is best for you. Since each of these materials has its own advantages and disadvantages, there is no clear best choice.
The window or door frame material you choose depends on your budget, personal preferences, any building restrictions you might be subject to, and the overall style or look you want for your home.
Wooden frames are, of course, the most traditional of the three main options available to homeowners in the UK. For this reason, owners of older homes often choose wooden frames in order to maintain a certain heritage look to their property.
Besides their style points, wooden frames are also efficient insulators. Wood does not do a very good job of conducting heat from the inside of your home to the outside, so wood-framed windows are quite effective in keeping your home warm in winter.
On the negative side, wooden frames can be costly and they are not as durable as ones made from aluminium or uPVC. Wood can expand or shrink when exposed to moisture and heat, and because it is a natural material it will eventually decay. However, wooden frames can indeed last quite a long time, as long as the wood has been sealed and weather-treated.
If you are considering wooden double glazing frames for your home, be sure to check that they have been treated and properly sealed against the elements, and take care to maintain this weather treatment according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
Aluminium first came into widespread use in the UK as a frame material in the 1970s. The key advantages of aluminium are that it is lightweight, strong, durable and fairly low-maintenance. Also, because aluminium is widely available (in fact, it’s the third most abundant element on the planet, after oxygen and silicon) it can be mined and distributed at quite a low cost.
Aluminium, however, is a poor insulator. That is to say, aluminium window or doorframes very quickly conduct heat from the inside of your home to the outside. Since the main advantage of double glazing is to increase your home’s ability to keep warm air inside, using a heat-conducting material for a frame doesn’t make the most sense.
However, manufacturers have solved that problem by inserting a layer of insulating material between the inside and outside of aluminium frames. This measure greatly improves the aluminium frame’s ability to insulate.
To understand the advantages and disadvantages of uPVC, you will need to know some basic chemistry. PVC stands for ‘polyvinyl chloride.’ It is a type of manmade material that was invented almost a century ago and is now the third most commonly used type of plastic in the world. By adding plasticizers to PVC, you end up with the rubbery material that is used in everything from raincoats to electrical wire coating to artificial leather.
Obviously, the same material used to coat wires is too flexible to be used in window or door frames. There is another type of stiffer PVC used in building materials that is made without plasticizers. This type of PVC is called ‘unplasticized polyvinyl chloride’ or uPVC. It is a hard plastic material that is now very commonly used in building construction, especially in double glazing frames.
Aluminium and uPVC both have the advantages of being low cost, durable, and lightweight. Where uPVC has the edge over aluminium is in its insulating ability. uPVC on its own is a very good insulator, which means that manufacturers don’t have to add any extra insulating materials to the frame as they do with aluminium to ensure the unit does a good job of keeping heat in your home.
There are two disadvantages of uPVC, however. The first is environmental. The uPVC manufacturing process requires the use of toxic chemicals and produces hazardous byproducts. In addition, the frames themselves can release potentially hazardous compounds into the air should they catch fire, and the recycling process required for used uPVC window frames is complicated. There is a distinct chance that the UK will, in future, tighten regulations on the use of uPVC in buildings, making many homeowners wary of installing uPVC double glazing frames at the moment.
The second disadvantage of uPVC windows is that they often look quite out of place in older homes. Owners of older homes may find that uPVC windows don’t match the overall style of their house. Furthermore, owners of listed properties may even discover that regulations prohibit them from installing double glazing in uPVC frames.
Which option is right for your home?
Many homeowners find it difficult to identify the clear right choice for their homes after considering the advantages and disadvantages of aluminium, wood, or uPVC double glazing windows or doors. If you, too, find it difficult to decide which material to choose, just remember that the basic science of double glazing functions in the same way no matter what frame option you select.
Double glazing, whether it’s framed by aluminium, uPVC or wood, is an effective way to insulate your home against the cold. You need not worry too much about which material is most insulating. Rather, consider your budget, personal preferences and any building restrictions you may face. No matter what material you decide on, double glazing will keep your home warmer in winter than single pane windows.