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Jul 29, 2015 BY arielle

Vinyl Windows: A Green Solution?


There has been much debate in the green building community about the merits and faults of using vinyl in eco-friendly construction. With widely varying findings in the community, it can be difficult to assess the implications of vinyl. That's why we are stepping in to help you make the right decision for your build.

Thermal Performance

The materials you choose to frame your windows will affect the effectiveness of your window. The U-value (the measure of the rate of non-solar heat loss or gain through a material) of wood an vinyl are comparable. 

Unlike vinyl or wood, fiberglass is a dimensionally stable material. This means that only a small amount of shrinking and expansion will occur as temperature or humidity changes. When the cavities of the window frame are insulated, the thermal performance of fiberglass greatly exceeds that of wood or vinyl. 

So that means that vinyl isn't the top choice if thermal performance is on your radar.


There is more to green living than energy efficiency. The next step in the process is figuring out how the entire life cycle of a material effects the environment. There is still a great amount of debate in the community about the health hazards caused by the production and disposal of vinyl.

Although many would point out that vinyl is recyclable, findings show that as little as one percent of the vinyl material produced is recycled every year. Add to that the years and years that vinyl products take to degrade in a landfill, and there is a bit of a problem with vinyl. Lastly, when vinyl is incinerated, a toxin called dioxin is created.

Health Concerns

Research has started to show that the chemicals that make up vinyl, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), can have effects on health. According to the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), vinyl is the most toxic plastic from an environmental and health standpoint. Vinyl chloride, the chemical that makes up vinyl, is a known human carcinogen. 

Although that all may be true, vinyl products like shower curtains or flooring are a much larger threat to indoor health and air quality than vinyl windows -- so be sure to factor that into your interior choices.


Vinyl is often looked to as a great material, as it does not need to be painted like wood and is impervious to rust, rot, corrosion, flaking, and infestation by termites and other insects. However, vinyl cannot be painted to blend with your interior or exterior colors, it shows a lot of frame (and less glass), and doesn’t typically blend with the rest of your home. Fiberglass has similar benefits (does not expand, rust, rot, etc.) and is more likely to blend in with your entire home’s aesthetics. 

More Information

For more information for choosing the ideal material for your eco-friendly windows, head over to the Efficient Windows Collaborative. They have a wealth of information on the effect of window frame materials on your energy efficiency.

And, after you've taken a look there, check out our blog on fiberglass windows -- our top pick for green homes.

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