When it comes to choosing new windows and doors for your home, two of the most popular options are aluminium and uPVC. But which material is better for windows and doors – aluminium or uPVC? This comprehensive guide looks at the pros and cons of Aluminium windows vs uPVC windows to help you decide which is the best option for your home.
Aluminium vs uPVC Windows: Key Differences at a Glance
Before diving into the details, here is a quick overview of how aluminium and uPVC windows compare:
- Greater durability and strength
- Higher resistance to weathering
- Lower insulation, poorer thermal efficiency
- Higher cost
- Long lifespan of 40+ years
- Lower strength than aluminium
- Susceptible to heat expansion
- Better thermal insulation
- Lower cost than aluminium
- Shorter lifespan of 20-30 years
Now let’s explore each factor in more depth.
Appearance, Styles and Aesthetics
One of the first differences homeowners notice between aluminium and uPVC is appearance.
Aluminium windows have a sleek, contemporary look. Aluminium can be powder coated in any color, so aluminium windows are available in bold shades like black and grey for a modern style. Aluminium also allows for dual coloring, with one color on the interior and another on the exterior. With flexible aluminum frames, narrow sightlines and customized shapes, aluminium windows are ideal for contemporary homes or to create a modern look through window replacement.
uPVC windows have a more traditional, softer aesthetic, typically with thicker frames. uPVC can also be powder coated in any colour.
When it comes to window styles, both aluminium and uPVC offer similar options like casement, sliding, double hung, awning and fixed frames. Minor style differences include:
- Aluminium is better for specialty windows like bifold, pivot, and window walls due to strength.
- uPVC can’t be formed into specialty shapes as easily as aluminium due to material limitations.
So for contemporary window styles, sleek modern aesthetics, and flexible frame shapes, aluminium has the advantage over uPVC. But uPVC fits traditional home styles well.
Frame Strength and Durability
The inherent properties of aluminium and uPVC result in significant differences when it comes to frame strength and durability.
Aluminium window frames are incredibly strong, sturdy and rigid. Aluminium has very high tensile strength, so aluminium windows resist warping, sagging, expanding and contracting. This makes aluminium windows highly resistant to weathering from wind, rain, storms and temperature fluctuations. Aluminium won’t rot or decay either. Thanks to its ruggedness, aluminium is a common choice for coastal regions and extreme climates. With proper maintenance, aluminium windows will easily last 40+ years.
uPVC frames cannot match the strength and structural integrity of aluminium. uPVC is prone to heat expansion and contraction, which can warp frames over time. uPVC is also not as rigid, making large uPVC windows and doors more susceptible to sagging. uPVC holds up well against rain and rot, but does not have the same resilience to wind and storms as aluminium. Well-made uPVC windows have a lifespan around 20-30 years.
For maximum window frame strength and longevity through all weather conditions, aluminium is the clear winner over uPVC.
Energy Efficiency and Insulation
Energy efficiency is a priority for many homeowners, and window frames play a major role in preventing heat loss. Let’s see how aluminium and uPVC windows compare for thermal insulation.
Aluminium is naturally very conductive, meaning it rapidly transfers heat. Without thermal breaks, aluminium windows have poor insulating properties and energy efficiency.
However, when thermal breaks are incorporated, aluminium windows can achieve energy efficiency on par with uPVC. Thermal breaks are barriers of plastic or resin inserted between the exterior and interior aluminium to obstruct heat flow. Quality modern aluminium windows feature advanced thermal breaks that significantly improve insulation.
uPVC has low thermal conductivity, which means it is a natural insulator. uPVC window frames are 150 times more insulating than aluminium without thermal breaks. So standard uPVC windows offer very good energy efficiency and heat retention.
When properly engineered with thermal breaks, aluminium windows can match uPVC for thermal performance. But standard aluminium frames are less insulating than uPVC, which maintains an advantage for basic energy efficiency.
Cost and Value Comparison
Another key difference homeowners weigh is cost when deciding between materials. Here’s how aluminium and uPVC windows compare in terms of upfront cost and long-term value:
- Aluminium windows carry a higher initial purchase price than uPVC. The raw manufacturing costs are higher for aluminium. Since aluminium is more difficult to work with, construction labor costs are also higher.
- uPVC windows are more economical as the material and fabrication is simpler. This makes uPVC windows roughly 30% to 50% cheaper than aluminium windows upfront.
- Aluminium makes up for the higher initial cost over time through lower ownership costs. The extreme durability and resilience of aluminium results in fewer repairs or replacements needed over decades of use.
- uPVC windows have a shorter lifespan, so multiple replacements may be needed over the years – adding to long-term expense. Frequent painting for maintenance also drives up costs.
- Aluminium adds more value to a home. The visual appeal and modern style of aluminium windows makes properties more attractive to buyers.
So weigh initial costs versus lifetime value and return on investment when budgeting for new windows.
Maintenance is another point of comparison between the two materials. Here’s how maintenance needs differ:
- Aluminium never needs paint or staining for protection. Simply cleaning grime with soap and water is all that’s required to keep aluminium looking fresh.
- uPVC needs frequent painting for protection and to avoid fading or yellowing over time. This must be repeated every few years.
- Aluminium may have its color coatings reapplied after many years to restore a fresh appearance. But this is much less frequent maintenance compared to the constant painting of uPVC.
- Hardware like hinges and locks will need periodic lubrication for either material.
Clearly, aluminium wins when it comes to lower maintenance windows. Avoiding repainting gives aluminium the advantage over high-maintenance uPVC.
Lifespan and Durability Comparison
The expected lifespans for properly installed windows breaks down as follows:
- Aluminium windows last 40 years or longer with proper maintenance. The structural strength of aluminium makes frames highly durable and resilient against weathering.
- uPVC windows have a shorter lifespan of around 20-30 years. uPVC is not as inherently rigid or robust as aluminium, shortening usable life.
- For either material, using multi-point locks, metal reinforcements, and quality hardware improves longevity.
- Factors like climate, installation, and maintenance impact lifespan as well. Harsh conditions shorten uPVC life, while aluminium endures.
So aluminium is the clear winner when it comes to durability and lasting performance. Quality aluminium windows will easily outlast lower-grade uPVC over decades.
Along with insulating against heat loss, windows also need effective soundproofing to mute outside noise pollution. Let’s compare the noise reduction qualities:
- With multi-chambered frames, acoustic glass, and tight weatherstripping, both aluminium and uPVC can block unwanted noise.
- uPVC often has a slight edge in noise reduction thanks to the dense, insulating PVC material.
- But aluminium can match uPVC for soundproofing with the right glazing and construction techniques.
- Overall window design, tight seals, and laminated glass make more of an impact on noise reduction than the frame material alone.
Both aluminium and uPVC windows can provide excellent noise control through proven soundproofing methods. uPVC may have a marginal advantage, but aluminium can also achieve very good acoustic insulation.
Security Against Break-Ins
Safety is always a primary concern for homeowners. Let’s explore how aluminium and uPVC windows compare for security:
- Aluminium’s high strength makes it more resistant to forced entry. The rigid frames resist bending and warping.
- uPVC has lower strength, but multi-chambered frames with steel reinforcements compensate for the softer uPVC material.
- For both materials, features like laminated/tempered glass, multi-point locks, and window restrictors boost security.
- With proper security features installed, uPVC and aluminium windows offer comparable protection against intruders.
- Window design has more impact on security than just frame material alone. But aluminium’s inherent strength makes it the tougher choice to force open.
Proper window installation is critical for security regardless of frame material. But strong aluminium frames give this material a slight edge for security against break-ins.
Which is Better for Coastal Homes?
Homes situated along the coast have increased needs for windows that can withstand salt, sand, and ocean storms over the long term.
- Aluminium is the superior choice for coastal environments. Aluminium resists corrosion and stands up to powerful winds and saltwater exposure.
- uPVC can become more brittle when exposed to years of sun, wind, salt spray and sand erosion – shortening its usable life.
- For coastal homes, aluminium frames reinforced with stainless steel hardware offer resilient performance that uPVC cannot quite match.
So for homes along shorelines, aluminium is strongly recommended over uPVC for greater longevity in harsh coastal conditions.
For environmentally-conscious homeowners, the sustainability of window materials matters. Here’s how aluminium and uPVC windows compare:
- Aluminium is highly recyclable and recycled. Around 75% of all aluminium produced is recycled material.
- uPVC is not biodegradable, but uPVC windows can be recycled. Recycling rates for uPVC are lower than aluminium however.
- Aluminium windows have a long service life, reducing waste. uPVC windows require more frequent replacements.
- New technologies allow aluminium to be produced more sustainably through renewable energy and improved manufacturing processes.
Overall, aluminium is widely considered the more eco-friendly choice over uPVC due to higher recycling rates and longer window life spans.
Which is Easier to Clean and Maintain?
Keep the following maintenance needs in mind:
- Aluminium requires very little maintenance – just occasional cleaning with soap and water. No painting needed.
- uPVC needs washed and repainted frequently, around every 3-5 years, to keep looking fresh.
- Hardware like locks and hinges need oiling every few years for either material.
- Glass needs periodic cleaning.
- Drainage holes may need cleared of debris.
Clearly aluminium wins for ease of maintenance thanks to never needing paint. uPVC requires much more frequent maintenance efforts to keep frames looking their best.
Choosing the Right Windows for Your Home
After weighing the pros and cons, keep these factors in mind when choosing windows:
- Home style – contemporary homes suit aluminium, traditional homes suit uPVC. Match the visual style.
- Budget – uPVC costs less upfront, aluminium costs less long-term.
- Durability – aluminium is longer-lasting, especially in coastal climates.
- Energy efficiency – uPVC is more insulating by default, but thermal break aluminium can match efficiency.
- Maintenance – aluminium requires minimum maintenance compared to painting uPVC.
- Security – both offer good security with proper design features.
- Soundproofing – both can achieve excellent noise reduction.
Weigh what’s most important for your home and climate to pick the right material. And be sure to buy quality windows installed properly for best performance.
Key Takeaways: Aluminium vs uPVC Windows
To summarize the main points:
- Aluminium has a sleek, modern aesthetic while uPVC offers a more traditional look.
- Aluminium windows are much stronger while uPVC is more prone to warping.
- uPVC provides better thermal insulation, but thermal break aluminium can match efficiency.
- Aluminium costs more upfront but lasts decades longer than lower-cost uPVC.
- Aluminium requires almost no maintenance, while uPVC needs frequent repainting.
- Aluminium works best for coastal climates; uPVC can become brittle and degraded from sea spray.
- Well-designed windows from either material can provide security, noise reduction, and style for homes.
Carefully weigh the pros and cons of each type to make the smartest choice for replacing or installing new windows and doors in your home. Consider cost, durability, lifespan, style, insulation, and maintenance needs. And be sure to buy quality window products from reputable brands, installed properly by professionals. This helps ensure you get great performance for decades to come.