Published: April 4, 2022
So how do you compare vinyl windows? If you aren’t in the window business, it can be hard to tell the difference between a good-quality vinyl window, and one that will warp and break down in a short amount of time.
Vinyl is now the leading material for window replacement options—and for good reason! They’re often very durable, long-lasting and incredibly budget-friendly.
However, the quality and lifespan can vary drastically from one manufacturer to another.
Window and door companies have the advantage of seeing how they last over time, which product lines or features tend to result in warranty claims, which ones have quality issues related to how they are manufactured or that show up during the installation process, and other areas of insider knowledge.
Homeowners may not have this expertise, but there are indicators that even the most DIY-phobic person can easily spot. Here are four of our favorite ways to compare vinyl windows, so you end up buying a high quality product.
Evaluate Strength of the Window Frame
When comparing vinyl windows, the best way to judge quality of the vinyl is to see a cut-away section of the window frame, and hold it in your own hands. If the salesperson doesn’t bring product with them to the appointment, ask to see a cut-away photo or visit the manufacturer’s website before making a purchase decision. Most sales team members will happily show you.
The most obvious indicator for how long a vinyl window may last in Arizona heat is the rigidity of the vinyl. It may be difficult to evaluate from a photo, but you can keep this rule of thumb in mind: if you can bend the vinyl, it’s probably too soft for Arizona. Does it flex? Are there plenty of chambers to add rigidity?
Perhaps you’re leaning toward a particular window manufacturer because you’ve heard good things. DunRite Windows & Doors Owner Sal Sucato cautions choosing a vinyl window solely based on a company name.
“Don’t assume quality because it’s made by a certain manufacturer. Each product line is different, and priced accordingly. Even the warranties are individualized. Each window manufacturer has their own proprietary vinyl compound, which determines quality and longevity,” adds Sucato, who started his company more than 20 years ago to give customers a variety of the best window options to choose from. His salespeople compare multiple products and price points, and can easily talk about the pros and cons of each… something most can’t do, especially if they only sell one brand.
“Products vary widely and some are more suited to Arizona climates than others, so ask about which products have had the least amount of issues over the years, and if they’ve been tested in desert climates,” Sucato says. “The formula and installation will determine how well the product performs, and how many years the window will last before needing replacement.”
Recognize Features & Design Can Vary Widely For Similar Price Points
A high price doesn’t always mean the best quality with vinyl, so you shouldn’t compare vinyl windows on price alone. Just like many other products, you may pay a premium simply because of a top-of-the-line brand name. It’s important to look past that to explore the window’s ability to manage heat. For some brands, they might be the same as a lower priced option.
Ultimately, it’s important to look closely at the energy ratings for the product you prefer, but also check out the design features of each vinyl option to understand what you get for that price. Does it meet the aesthetics and standards you are looking for? Is one more energy efficient than the other, but you don’t like the color or the thickness of the frame? Is another brand similar in quality to the high-end brand? What are you compromising if you go with a lower priced option, or what do you gain?
You can compare Energy Star® ratings, hue of the vinyl and glass, warranty length and also what is standard for the window versus an upgrade. All of these factor into the price. Comparing them might help you get more window for your budget, or spend less to get the same features that another salesperson quoted at a higher price.
For instance, a few mid-level options for high quality vinyl replacement windows are Milgard and Anlin vinyl windows. Their vinyl window options are durable, reliable and structurally sound. Plus, they’re exceptionally energy-efficient, and include a proprietary coating technology that reflects UV rays. This preserves the exterior finish, disperses heat efficiently and is heat-stable.
At DunRite Windows & Doors, we’ve seen great success in the past with these options. A few things to note: Anlin and Milgard have a different profile compared to many other windows, so be sure to look at the aesthetics first. Additionally, the two manufacturers feature colors that are a few shades apart. Both are good options, so it’s up to your personal preference if you want a great product without the high-end price tag.
On the higher end, Pella® Windows and Andersen Windows® offer additional options and materials, colors and features–along with impressive upgrades and warranties. They’re known for their specialized formulations and can be a lovely fit for higher-end shoppers.
Explore What Makes Each Manufacturer Different
Still leaning toward a particular brand of window? Try to keep in mind that every brand specializes in a particular kind of window, even if they manufacture many different types. And that core competency isn’t necessarily something you’d learn about in their ads or website. It’s often something only those who have been installing that product for decades might know. However, it’s an essential part of comparing vinyl windows.
Just because they produce exceptional wood windows, for example, doesn’t mean vinyl is their area of strength. And just because two different manufacturers offer vinyl windows doesn’t mean they are similar in appearance, or that they offer the color choice you prefer.
When you explore the different companies, be sure to ask questions that encourage salespeople to share their expertise and experience with you.
DunRite Windows and Doors District Sales Manager Tony Thomas has been in the windows industry for more than 30 years and he has some very specific opinions based on his experience.
“If you put some (premium) vinyl windows next to each other and used a thermal scanner, you might see there isn’t much of a difference in how much heat they’re letting into a home,” Thomas shares. However, he says those same premium vinyl options may have features or design differences that set them apart.
For instance, Andersen is known for its patented Fibrex® material, a blend that includes wood fiber reclaimed from Andersen’s manufacturing processes for their wood window product line. Because each fiber is coated with a thermoplastic PVC polymer, the overall frame is much stronger than a 100% vinyl frame, which is especially important for oversized windows. It may have a longer lifespan, too. Fibrex is guaranteed not to warp in Arizona sun, tolerating temperatures up to 150 degrees, and generally has fewer issues with weather-related expansion or contraction when compared to vinyl, too. It can be a nice upgrade for someone considering vinyl windows.
With Pella, you can enjoy a few unique options for the extra investment, including an energy-efficient, double-hung window featuring two operating sashes for additional air flow. The top sash can be dropped to allow warm air from the ceiling of your home to exit, while the bottom can be raised to pull in fresh, cool air from outside.
Plus, Pella can create custom colors if needed, and they also make the industry’s largest picture window made of one piece of glass, which is better than all other competitors.
Get to Know Your Own Preferences
It will help a salesperson recommend the right products if before the appointment, you take some time to drive around the neighborhood, noting what you like and dislike about other people’s windows. Consider snapping pictures for reference and save them in a folder in your phone, so you can compare vinyl windows in your free time, and the photos are readily available when you sit down for your consultation.
Your best starting point is determining your preferences and creating a list of features that are “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” If energy efficiency and controlling the temperature inside of your home are at the top of your list, it’s important to know your budget and ask questions about energy efficiency across the different manufacturers.
By having your priority list already in order ahead of your consultation, you can quickly narrow down the list of choices during your consultation, and find the ideal windows for your home and budget.
And remember, be flexible. It’s important to find out what’s ideal for your area and your individual needs and preferences, while also getting at least one quote from a window company that installs multiple brands. Don’t limit yourself to showrooms and franchises that only sell one brand.
By connecting with experts and comparing the features and benefits of different vinyl windows, you’ll find the best options and invest your window renovation budget wisely.
You’re much more likely to end up with a quality product.
If you’d like to discuss windows and the pros and cons of various brands so you can more easily compare vinyl windows, we service the Phoenix metro area and provide free in-home appointments. No pressure, and no obligation. Schedule yours today!