A new national survey notes an interesting return to aesthetics being more important than energy efficiency in the consumers decision making process with regards to vinyl replacement windows. I believe there are two reasons for the shift. First, there may be some level of expectation that most products provide enhanced levels of energy efficiency because of the governments stimulus tax credit. Many manufacturers, because of the stringency of the requirements, scampered to find products that qualified. The other reason for the change is that the higher end consumer, who previously considered vinyl a lesser quality product and would only look at high cost wood and clad windows, now, because of the economic realities, are ready to look at vinyl as a lower cost, more energy efficient, alternative. Aesthetics have always been a driving force in that customers decision-making process.
Vinyl windows have been around for over thirty years, realizing more and more acceptance from consumers for various reasons. Many focus group studies have been undertaken by various manufacturers and one of the most interesting things that has been learned is that the one main thing that consumers that have otherwise loved their vinyl windows didnt like was the fact that they had to give up glass viewing area. Unfortunately, most manufacturers dont talk about that issue with the customer because of structural decisions that have required their vinyl extrusions to be big and boxy, leaving the customer to notice it only AFTER their windows are installed and too late to make a change. One of the reasons that so many products have big, bulky extrusions has to do with the increased necessity of energy efficient mainframes to meet Energy Star guidelines. Some manufacturers have made the investment in products that, in essence, allow you to have your cake and eat it too.
One of the interesting things about vinyl is that it shares a couple of properties of steel. One of the properties is that every 90 bend in vinyl increases its structural integrity. Many of the bulky, boxy mainframes available use many 90 bends for structural strength, but this increases the overall bulk of the product. The aesthetics conscious consumer is looking for a product that combines looks structure and energy efficiency.
One rarely discussed difference in products is the variations in the white color. Most customers that have white trim have painters white. Many manufacturers, including some that have some of the lowest advertised prices, still use the original white vinyl color, which has a blue or black tint to it. Again, this typically is not discussed at the time of purchase and is only discovered after the products are installed, too late to make a change. Make sure the home improvement consultant matches their white to your white.