Readers should also see VINYL WINDOWS for details about PVC windows and their proper selection and installation , and see WINDOWS & DOORS our home page for window and door information, and also see WINDOW TYPES - Photo Guide for a photographic guide to window and door types and architectural styles.
The question-and-answer article below paraphrases, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article, (see links at the end of this article) from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.
PVC Vinyl Window Warping Q&A
Question: What are the facts about the occurrence of shrinkage and warping in PVC or Solid Vinyl Windows?
I have heard some horror stories about shrinkage and warpage in extruded PVC (polyvinyl chloride) windows.
Can you get some factual information on solid vinyl window shrinking or warping problems? - Roy Berger, Architect Roy Berger and Sun, Des Moines IA
Problems in PVC or vinyl windows can be due to manufacturing or installation procedures, window color, or climate.
According to veteran plastic window maker Dan McCleary (Rehau Plastics, Leesburg VA in 1985), problems in solid vinyl or extruded PVC vinyl windows in the mid 1980's and how vinyl window shrinkage or warping problems were avoided were described:
PVC window units with welded corners can resist the stresses of thermal expansion better than vinyl windows whose components are screwed together with a metal bracket.
Holes punched out of the vinyl window frame for hardware or mounting screws were also a weak point - if the holes were badly punched or were too small, cracks could occur.
PVC (Vinyl) window warpage can be controlled by embedding a steel or aluminum bar inside the window frame, but this approach was considered limited by the size of the window frame. Many of the modern windows in the 1980's had a very narrow sight line - the amount of window frame that extends into the rough opening - which limits the size of metal bar that could be installed.
Window sash and frame color are another factor in PVC Window expansion problems. White or beige vinyl expands less than dark colored PVC because it absorbs less solar radiation.
According to McCleary, vinyl window color is not a problem north of the 50th Parallel in Canada and through most of Europe.
Some solid vinyl window manufacturers use white vinyl for the window core and add a thin overlay of pigmented vinyl that can move around (in response to thermal changes) without damaging the window.
Expansion and contraction problems in windows will be worse if the windows do not have room in their rough opening to expand or contract. Shims and setting screws used to install windows should be placed at least 8 inches back from the window corners to avoid these problems.
This article is reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
Q&A: Warped PVC Windows? - PDF version; use your browser's back button to return to this page. Original article, Solar Age Magazine, October 1985, adapted and updated for InspectAPedia.com December 2010.
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Steve Bliss's Building Advisor at buildingadvisor.com helps homeowners & contractors plan & complete successful building & remodeling projects: buying land, site work, building design, cost estimating, materials & components, & project management through complete construction. Email: email@example.com
Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
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Passive Solar Design Handbook Volume I, the Passive Solar Handbook Introduction to Passive Solar Concepts, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v1.pdf
Passive Solar Design Handbook Volume II, the Passive Solar Handbook Comprehensive Planning Guide, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v2.pdf [This is a large PDF file that can take a while to load]
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"Passive Solar Home Design", U.S. Department of Energy, describes using a home's windows, walls, and floors to collect and store solar energy for winter heating and also rejecting solar heat in warm weather.
"Solar Water Heaters", U.S. Department of Energy article on solar domestic water heaters to generate domestic hot water in buildings, explains how solar water heaters work. Solar heat for swimming pools is also discussed.
"Heat-Transfer Fluids for Solar Water Heating Systems", U.S. DOE, describes the types of fluids selected to transfer heat between the solar collector and the hot water in storage tanks in a building. These include air, water, water with glycol antifreeze mixtures (needed when using solar hot water systems in freezing climates), hydrocarbon oils, and refrigerants or silicones for heat transfer.
"Solar Water Heating System Freeze Protection", U.S. DOE,using antifreeze mixture in solar water heaters (or other freeze-resistant heat transfer fluids), as well as piping to permit draining the solar collector and piping system.
"Solar Air Heating" U.S. DOE also referred to as "Ventilation Preheating" in which solar systems use air for absorbing and transferring solar energy or heat to a building
"Solar Liquid Heating" U.S. DOE, systems using liquid (typically water) in flat plate solar collectors to collect solar energy in the form of heat for transfer into a building for space heating or hot water heating. The term "solar liquid" is used for accuracy, rather than "solar water" because the water may contain an antifreeze or other chemicals.
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