UPVC Windows – Are They Environmentally Friendly?

The debate surrounding UPVC windows has raged for years. And with more information than ever before available on the internet, it shows no signs of stopping.

The main issue surrounding UPVC windows is whether they are environmentally friendly or not. Some say yes, and some say no. Both sides to the debate have their reasons, and these can be confusing for most home owners.

We all want to make our houses as energy efficient as possible, so how can you decide what is best for your home?

Why would people choose plastic windows?

Although the design of UPVC window frames has improved greatly since they first hit the market, there is still no denying that traditional wooden frames help to retain the traditional feel of a building.

Sash windows are often high on the list of desired features for home owners, so why would you want to replace them with modern plastic frames? Well, the simple answer is insulation.

UPVC doesn’t conduct much heat and can be snugly fitted around double glazing to produce airtight windows. With up 25% of a home’s heat being lost through its windows, this can have a drastic effect on your energy bills.

UPVC windows are also easy to maintain. They don’t rot or warp, and so only require regular cleaning to keep them looking like new.

UPVC windows help to insulate the home
UPVC windows help to insulate the home

Production

During the production of UPVC windows, some harmful chemicals are released into the atmosphere. The plastic itself is produced from unsustainable resources, and these factors both damage the environment.

In contrast, wooden frames literally grow on trees, are fairly environmentally friendly to produce and very sustainable. However you could argue that the use of wood can damage forests, and the processes needed to finish the wood does also contains some harmful chemicals. 

Installation

Once installed there is no denying that UPVC windows are much better at insulating the home than single glazing and other types of window frames.

You will notice a difference immediately when you switch from traditional windows to UPVC and so will your wallet, with up to £200 a year saved on energy bills.

Lifespan

Information on the lifespan of UPVC windows varies widely, with some manufacturers claiming that they will last for decades, while critics claim the windows last for just 15-20 years before they need to be replaced.

The lifespan of the windows will depend on environmental factors, and also on the quality of care that the windows receive.  A UPVC window in an exposed position by the sea will obviously need to be replaced sooner than one in a sheltered village. But then so would a wooden window.

Wooden windows retain the traditional character of a home
Wooden windows retain the traditional character of a home

Reuse

Another main argument in the UPVC debate is the recyclability of the material.

UPVC won’t decay naturally over time and it can’t be burned as it would release harmful chemicals.

UPVC windows can be recycled, but due to the high costs involved in separating the different elements of the window, they often aren’t. And with up to 10 million windows replaced every year, this could cause a serious problem in the future.

If you’re trying to decide whether to have your windows converted the UPVC, the choice can often be a difficult one.

If your main motivation is cost, then UPVC is cheaper to install and cheaper to run, but it may damage the value of your home if the installation is not done to a high standard.

If your main motivation is to make your home environmentally friendly, then the decision can be even harder, with an abundance of contradictory information available.

What you can say for definite is that, thanks to their insulating properties and cost effective installation, UPVC windows are here to stay. So love them or hate them, you may just have to get used to them.

 

Picture credits: Wikipedia 1 & 2

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