Thoughts on Aluminum Windows

aktillery9October 16, 2013

We are in the planning stages of building our new home. We went to look at windows yesterday and initially looked at vinyl. After looking at the vinyl I started to think I preferred a metal look. So, we looked at some bronzed finish aluminum.

We are building a semi modern/transitional home. I am thinking that the aluminum might look better for the style of our house.

I do not see much on this forum regarding aluminum windows, so I was curious as to your thoughts.

Thanks in advance!

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Aluminum clad windows are quite popular. These are wooden frame windows wrapped in aluminum on the exterior, which protects the windows from the elements but allows you to have painted or stained real wood on the interior.

Is this what you're considering?

Marvin and Anderson windows are well liked on this forum, while some speak poorly of Pella. I happened to love my Pella windows, though, and never had a single problem with them.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 8:46AM
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Thanks JuJu! We are considering both all aluminum and aluminum with the wood interior. What are your thoughts on aluminum exterior and interior?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 9:06AM
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I've never had 100% aluminum windows aside from when I was growing up, so I can't speak to them, although I do know they're now much more efficient that they used to be.

I suggest browsing photos of modern houses with both aluminum and aluminum clad windows to see which look you prefer.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 9:20AM
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So helpful Juju! Thanks for taking the time to share!

Now just need to find a reputable vendor. The brand we saw yesterday was Krestview. Never had heard of them.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 9:59AM
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Are you speaking of Aluminum windows or Aluminum Clad Wood windows? Andersen windows are NOT aluminum either clad or all aluminum.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 10:39AM
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Sorry, my mistake about Andersen. I forgot that their products are clad in other materials, probably because I've never used their line.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 11:00AM
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I know my parents built their home in 1986 and used all aluminum windows. I think the brand was Croft. I know three of the windows got moisture between the two panes of glass and you could hardly see through them. All of the other windows were fine and have yet to be replaced. If I remember correctly, the warranty was only good for like three years so they could get no help with the bad windows. I would check warranties and read reviews in the window forum on whatever brand you're interested in.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 11:56AM
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You also do not tell us where you're building, what style house, what style or type of window your using, what you want the windows to look like from the interior as well as the exterior, what sort of budget you have planned for windows? These all need to be answered before anyone can truly offer advice. You also may want to take this discussion to the window forum as their are pros their who will be happy to help (myself included).

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 12:10PM
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If they are all Aluminum frame make sure they have a thermal break for better energy efficiency.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 12:42PM
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metal frames are very conductive.
in the winter they will condensate to the inside,
in the summer to the outside.
always to the warm side.

thermal breaks do little to improve the efficiency
of a metal window.
seals fail, windows condensate between panes etc.

putting a metal frame on an insulated glass unit
(double paned window glass) de-rates the performance
of the window. for instance a low e, argon gas filled
IGU performs well in a metal clad/wood window,
vinyl, pvc, wood are non/conductive
a low e argon IGU in a non conductive frame will
be .35 or better shgc & ufactor.
put that same well performing IGU in a metal frame
& shgc & ufactors jump into .50 & higher ranges.
low shgc & ufactors are better, as U-factors
are the inverse of R-values.

solar heat gain coefficients & ufactors should
be consitered when shopping for windows. is an independent window rating
organization that tests, verifies & rates windows
by all mfgs.
use the label to shop specific brands to compare
efficiency & performance of windows.

do yourself a big favor & take a few minutes to learn
how to shop for the best window for your climate.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 12:11AM
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Thanks for all the info! Guess I better hop over to the windows forum!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 5:54AM
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I think that the issue of getting a seal leak between panes is not anything special about aluminum but has to do with the overall quality of the manufacture (aluminum tends to be a low end choice) the problem was also more common in the early days of double pane systems than it is now.

I would guess that some building/energy codes would not even allow aluminum these days. In most of the lower South performance is not going to make a huge difference.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 10:24AM
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you are incorrect.

here in the south where it is mostly a cooling climate
windows make a difference.

our windows reflect heat out of the house,
where as in heating climates the heat is reflected
back into the house.
thus the reason for different locations on window panes
for low e coatings.

solar heat gain coefficients & ufactors of .35 or
less are recommended nationwide.
it is the location of the low e that determines
what window goes to what climate.

seals fail on all windows, it isn't product dependent,
just a lapse in quality control.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 12:30PM
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Low e coatings are not dependent of the frame material -any window frame material can have high efficiency glass.

Here in my area low e coatings are required.

What I said was -the difference between vinyl and aluminum (preferably thermally broken) frames will not be a big difference on overall energy performance of the house.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 8:17AM
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aktillery, I noticed in my hotel room last night that the windows were aluminum and realized this is usually the case. They look great, and I have to believe hotel chains would pick efficient products; I could be wrong of course. You might look into which commercial lines can be used economically in a residential setting.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 9:04AM
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the difference is about 14% energy savings with non conductive window frames & high performance IGU's.

while not always worthwhile in a retrofit basis, when
building the extra cost is worthwhile.

commercial buildings can achieve all kinds of 'green' incentive credits by simply allocating a percentage of
the area to green space, and 1/4 of lighting to
LED or even ICF.
to compare residnetial to commercial is apple to
hotel chains here in the south have had to change building practices for hot humid climates.
the biggest change that comes to mind is eliminating
vinly wall papers that form an interior vapor barrier.
while this works without issue in cold climates, it is
a recipe for mold in high humidity, high temp climates.

my point was putting conductive window frames in a building/house or commercial will be allowing condendation to form on warm side of window frame.
this winter time moisture can rot window sills & even
cripples in wall under window.
given the option...why go there?
buy a window that will not condensate, both frame
& IGU.

low e location on window glass determines which
window performs for what climate.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 1:51PM
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Here on the west coast, Sierra Pacific makes a nice line of aluminum-clad wood windows that high-end architects often use. We have experience with them in both California mountain environments (cold, snowy winters and hot summers) as well as in Pacific Northwest coastal areas. We have them ourselves, as we really wanted a wood window with the low maintenance/durability of the aluminum exterior.
Although most of ours are double hung, I think Sierra Pacific's casement windows are particularly nice (double hung just fit the style of our house better).

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 9:22AM
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Here in the South condensation on a modern thermally broken aluminum window is not a problem.

I would assume that 14% is an increase of window efficiency and not house efficiency because (just guessing) I would not think that a house with vinyl frames would be 14% more efficient than a house with aluminum frames. (at least here in the South) If I had to guess a dollar figure I would say maybe 20 dollars per year more for doing nothing other than using thermally broken aluminum vs. vinyl frames on an average house.

That being said, wood frames perform much better and casement windows tend to seal better than single/double hung or sliding windows. Also the more windows you have the more difference it makes.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 8:57AM
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some real world numbers
all double pane windows
info from nfrc labels

aluminum frame
low e glass

ufactor .60
shgc .34
vinyl low e

ufactor .34
shgc .33
vinyl low e argon

ufactor .33
shgc .28

vinyl clad wood frame

low e argon filled

ufactor .35
shgc .31

note that ufactor is less than .35
on all windows except metal window
that has thermal 'break'.

codes have changed in a lot of areas to include
.35 and LOWER shgc & ufactors.
thermally 'broken' aluminum frames will
not meet this code standard in a double paned

vinyl windows transfer less heat in my south La.
cooling climate. adding low e reduces heat
transfer through glass. adding inert gas fill
like argon further reduces the heat transfer.

as a window expert once explained on line here
years ago...put a metal spoon in a hot pan on
the stove. the heat from the pan transfers through
the metal of the spoon & will burn your hand.
put a wooden spoon, or plastic type spoon in
the same pan...and you get no heat transfer
through the poor conductors of heat.
metal is an excellent conductor.
wood, vinly, pvc, and fiberglass are not.

it makes economic sense to invest an extra
$10-20 per window for low e and inert gas fill
when building new.

better windows means less themal transfer
into the home. less heat/cold gain means
home is easier to heat/cool and comfort
is better.

better windows, along with better insulation
package, air sealing, duct sealing & properly
sized hvac system equals an energy
efficient home that is low cost to heat/cool
and comfort is the by product of these upgrades.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 8:00PM
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I faced the same dilemma recently and went with aluminum because I didn't want the maintenance of wood, and had heard that vinyl that gets a lot of sun (like south and west facing windows) tend to discolor and crack. The vinyl windows that I looked at only had a 10 yr warranty, and the alum was lifetime for me as the original owner and if I sell the new owner gets 10 yrs from date of home purchase. Plus the vinyl would charge for the trip if I made a warranty call, but the alum does not. It's important to compare the warranties whatever you decide.
Has anyone here had problems with vinyl cracking?
Depending on where you live, smart placement of the windows can make a bigger impact from an efficiency standpoint.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 10:38PM
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Thanks for the wealth of info!

will you share the brand and specs of the windows you decided to use?


    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 4:58AM
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I'm in the Dallas area and went with a local company, Don Young Windows. Their website does a nice job explaining thermal breaks and how it works so even if these aren't available to you you may find their website helpful.

When comparing windows I had to really dig to find how much gap was between the panes. You may want to look at that as there were some significant variances.

I'll look for the info for the vinyl company I looked at and if I find it I'll post the name because they were a better quality vinyl brand.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 10:06AM
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I did aluminum clad vinyl on my craftsman style home and love them. I had to do vinyl for the a-frame portion and they are nothing visually compared to the aluminum clad.

Only complaint is that I did black aluminum and it shows dirt like crazy. They also would not warranty dark color aluminum on southern exposures.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 11:50AM
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I can only now wish I would have headed this same advice when choosing our window package. We are near Seattle and built a high-end home utilizing Milgard anodized thermalbreak's because of our architecture. The product along with the company in general have been a nightmare. Run from this style window. Should you happen to be near me you would be welcome to a first hand visit. Certainly rethink this major decision and go with a reputable product.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 10:54AM
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What went wrong with the Milgard? Does this mean you wouldn't use aluminum again?

Thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 4:23PM
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aktiller...I chose to answer your pm so this thread may stay on course.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 10:58AM
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Uh oh. We JUST placed our order for Milgard aluminum windows yesterday. Our house will be a mix of Milgard and Fleetwood because it's a modern still house.

So mlo, now I'm worried. If I knew how to PM, I would. But I would really like to hear what problems you encountered with Milgard aluminum windows.

We did do some research, and the window decision has been pending for over a month.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 2:11PM
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Another option is fiberglass windows -- we chose those. They have thinner frames than all the high end vinyl windows we went to see. I would never consider full aluminum clad windows in our climate (we are in southern Canada). Aluminum clad would be nice.

The window forum is a great resource.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 4:03PM
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We are building a modern style house in S. California and are using a combination of Milgard anodized aluminum windows and Fleetwood sliding doors. The windows are installed and so far seem to be good though we are not living in the house yet. Milgard's warranty and customer service seem to be good. At my request they came out and made some minor adjustments and the service was very prompt and the customer service rep was polite. Based on my experience so far I would recommend them.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Chris401...Windows are a big factor in the rest of the home living up to it's expectations. No way would I wish Milgard to be a part of that on anyone. It is literally an entirely different company than that which the name was built on. Sorry if I have added to the tension of your decision.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 8:38PM
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