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5 factors that give UPVC windows the edge over aluminium

As technology evolves and the demand for innovative new products grows, there’s no doubt anyone in the market for replacement windows and doors has a wider choice to go at now than ever before.

In Eurocell’s comprehensive range of UPVC window and door systems alone, the options embrace everything from traditional style systems that reproduce the artistry and craftsmanship of days gone by to ultra sleek profiles in a range of innovative colours more suited to the contemporary Grand Design vision. Of course, we know Eurocell isn’t the only UPVC window and door provider on the market. And UPVC isn’t even the only material available for fabricating replacement doors, windows and rooflights.

Changing perceptions

  • Although 80% of new window and door orders are still for UPVC systems, the perception persists that aluminium is superior in terms or performance and aesthetics. Aluminium is making some inroads into the market and it’s clear that for more modern developments especially, architects sometimes turn to the minimalist lines it can provides.
  • Naturally, we’d be the first to extol the virtues of UPVC over the other materials, but in the interests of balance, here’s how aluminium compares to UPVC in the 5 of the areas homeowners tell us are most important when they’re choosing replacement windows and doors.

1. Insulation/Sound Proofing

We all know that houses lose heat through their windows and doors, making energy-efficient glazing an essential for cosier homes. What many people don’t realise is that the insulation qualities of the frames are equally as important as those of the glass to really keep the bills low.

Pound for pound, UPVC frames provide better heat insulation than aluminium, with our best-performing profiles offering an impressive thermal efficiency U-value of around 0.7. Its simple physics because plastic is an insulator while metal is a conductor. A U-value is a measure of how easily heat can pass through a material. Materials that let out more heat have higher U-values whereas materials that let less heat pass through them have lower U-values.

Improvements in UPVC profile extrusion techniques and materials technology have allowed the development of ever more efficient multi-chambered frames, so even the parts of your UPVC frames you can’t see are working hard to keep the cold out and the warmth in.

Aluminium, while providing adequate insulation in most cases, can be highly susceptible to condensation on the inner frame, especially in very cold weather. This is due in part to the fact that metal transmits heat much more readily than UPVC, allowing temperatures to fall in the fabric of the frame itself and creating a ‘thermal bridge’ to the outside.

2. Maintenance

Once high-quality UPVC is fitted, you can forget it. It won’t rust, rot, flake or fade and cleaning it is a simple matter of wiping down with a warm, damp cloth.

Untreated aluminium frames, on the other hand, can easily oxidise which causes them to appear faded or chalky over time. Although this is relatively easy to put right in areas that are accessible such as downstairs windows, it’s a far more time-consuming and inconvenient task when ladders or scaffolding are required.

It’s telling that modern aluminium systems are often treated with plastic coatings to protect them from the elements and extend the colour options beyond the uniform dull grey, but these are only fractions of a millimetre deep and can easily become scratched or damaged, allowing moisture to penetrate and damage the underlying material.

3. Durability

Tough, resilient and superbly durable, UPVC is designed to stand the test of time. By offering a 10-year guarantee on all Eurocell UPVC products, (12 years on Modus) we give you the reassurance that your frames will stay looking and performing like new for at least a decade – with many years of reliable service expected after that.

Aluminium frame manufacturers no doubt offer equivalent guarantees, but in the sort of challenging conditions that window and doors are exposed to in many areas of the UK – in coastal areas, for instance, where salt can quickly corrode exposed metal surfaces – the inherent tendency of aluminium to oxidise and weaken makes UPVC by far the most sensible choice.

4. Security

Your new windows or doors aren’t just tasked with keeping cold and noise out. Another important duty is keeping criminals out, too. Modern UPVC profiles are strong enough to withstand the harshest assaults. Which is why all our frames meet or exceed Secured by Design, BS6375, PAS23/24 and other current standards.

On this score, most UPVC and aluminium systems are pretty much evenly matched, so burglars are likely to be frustrated in equal measure in their efforts to break in through either.

5. Price

When it comes to perhaps the biggest deciding factor of all, there’s no contest. For like-for-like installations, UPVC can always be relied on to offer the best value for money frames for doors, windows and other fixtures such as lantern roofs and fascias and soffits. That’s because the raw materials used to make it are far more cost-effective than aluminium, while the economies of scale that come from mass producing so much of it drive prices down still further.

In contrast, world prices of aluminium have always been high and the costs involved in extracting, smelting and forming it into a finished product only add to the final price for homeowners choosing it over less expensive, yet more efficient UPVC. The differences discussed here are not small and can run into hundreds, if not thousands of pounds for the typical British home.

Finally the profit margins on aluminium are much higher, because the industry markets it as a ‘premium product’ to the general public.

Find more information on our range of UPVC windows and doors on our pages here, or contact us for more information.

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