Double-pane windows: trouble for vinyl siding?

Double-pane windows: trouble for vinyl siding?

If you are considering installing vinyl siding to spruce up your home's exterior, your research may be indicating that this cladding is a smart investment -- according to Remodeling Magazine, you can recoup as much as 70 percent or more of your costs. Vinyl cladding has an impressive list of benefits -- affordability, low-maintenance, durability and longevity -- just to name a few. But there's something else you might never have thought to consider when purchasing your cladding -- the type of windows on your neighbor's house.

Vinyl siding and windows: the heat factor

Nearby homes that have energy-efficient, south-facing windows, could spell trouble for your vinyl siding. Double-paned, low-e windows have a metallic film installed between the panes that reflects back about 70 percent of sunlight.

The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) issued a report in 2010 alerting builders and homeowners to a potential problem from these energy-efficient windows, now required by some new-home building codes: As the panes of glass in these windows adjust to different barometric pressures, they can become concave and focus sunlight like a magnifying glass. The NAHB reports that temperatures from the subsequent heat generated can reach in excess of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Most grades of vinyl siding can start to soften at 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melted vinyl siding has been recorded more often in eight states: Minnesota, Illinois, Virginia, the Carolinas, Maryland, New Jersey and Georgia. And it's not only vinyl siding; other materials have been damaged, too -- decking, paint, trim and anything made of plastic. The problem is relatively uncommon, however, in western states, the NAHB report says, possibly because of the way double-pane windows are manufactured for conditions in that region.

You want new vinyl siding: what to do?

Vinyl siding is still an excellent choice for nearly all climates and geographical regions -- and so are energy-efficient windows. So can anything be done to prevent your neighbors' (or even your own) windows from melting vinyl siding?

  • Consider choosing a lighter-colored vinyl siding (which absorbs less heat).
  • Plant trees and other foliage strategically to block the sun's reflection off of neighbors' nearby windows.
  • To lower heat generated by reflected sunlight, diffuse the reflection with screens or awnings over the offending windows.

Consult with a certified, pre-screened vinyl siding contractor during the planning stages of your cladding project. Experienced, reputable professionals are typically aware of industry issues and can answer your questions. Have them assess the potential for damage in your particular circumstances. In all likelihood, you won't have to change your plans for installing vinyl siding.

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