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Window Article and Thoughts on Fiberglass Windows

by Chad Ludeman on February 27, 2008 · 22 comments

in Building Science,Design,envelope,inspiration

I have been in contact with Tara Taffera, the editor of Door & Window Manufacturer Magazine, over the past few months regarding what windows we plan to use on the 100K House. Yesterday I received the February issue in the mail that Tara sent me with an article on windows in LEED for Homes projects. The article was called “LEEDing the Way – Industry Programs Lead the Way Toward Greener Homes” and included a blurb on our project which I scanned in below.

DoorWindowMagArticle

The article speaks a bit about wood, fiberglass and vinyl windows in terms of which is best for LEED projects. It does not pick a clear winner but has a lot of nice things to say about fiberglass from a cost and sustainability point of view. Currently we have spec’ed out wooden Pella Proline windows which are Energy Star rated and a nice overall window that is still affordable. Since I have been seeing fiberglass come up a lot recently for sustainable and affordable projects, I’d like to take a closer look at some of the options out there before deciding on Pella.

A couple of the manufacturers I like are Marvin Integrity Windows and Accurate Dorwin Windows. Both offer fiberglass windows in an awning or casement style. Pella has a fiberglass line but does not offer either awning or casement window styles. Both windows also spec out lower U-Values than the Pella Proline models with Marvin offering as low as .28 and Accurate Dorwin as low as a whopping .18!

I have already quoted Marvin windows and the price is similar to Pella and I think it has the chance of being 10% cheaper if negotiated a bit further. I imagine that the Accurate Dorwin models will be a bit pricier, especially if we want the most efficient models but it is worth a look. These are also from Canada which means the weak dollar is in play also…

I also found this good post on fiberglass windows from a blog I plan to check out more thoroughly, EcoDEEP Haus, about the design and build/rehab of a home in St. Paul, MN for 2 architects and their families. One of the original articles I read on fiberglass windows is from the Window of Opportunity post on the From the Ground Up blog I have been following. This is where I heard about the Accurate Dorwin windows first.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

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Windows | buildingbluegrass
April 5, 2012 at 8:53 pm

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason Hammond February 27, 2008 at 8:41 pm

I was very please how our Accurate Dorwin windows tested out during out HERS score showing little to almost no heat loss. I looked at the Marvin integrity windows and think they are also a nice option but they were not available in the options I wanted at the time, triple paned and awning style.

Jason

2 chad February 27, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Jason,

I noticed the performance on your latest post and it was impressive. Can you comment on the % price difference between the Marvin and Accurate Dorwin that you noticed at the time of your quotes?

Thanks,
Chad

3 Roxanne March 1, 2008 at 5:13 am

Chad,
Thanks for the plug. We’re glad that the time and effort we are putting into documenting our project will help others. Our Inline windows should be installed next week, so we’ll soon have some more feedback regarding windows. The Marvin windows were less expensive and they’re MN-made, which made it tempting. But like Jason, we ultimately needed to have awning and casement windows, which excluded the Integrity line for us.
Good luck on your project! Roxanne

4 Albo March 3, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Thermotech in another option for fiberglass windows. We love ours.

5 Dan March 12, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Roxanne has errored with her comment regarding window manufacturing facility. The Integrity windows are made in Virginia, well within the 500 mile raius for this project. The other location for Integrity, according to their website, is North Dakota.

6 James Glave March 12, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Hi there, I am just completing a 260-square-foot studio that is the subject of a book — ALMOST GREEN — I have coming out this fall. Scoring gold under LEED Homes (I’m not going to go for certification because doing so will add something in the range of $50K to soft costs…)

Anyway, fiberglass windows. If it is not too late in the decision tree, you need to know about Fibertech, a Canadian company that I used. They are in Toronto, within 500 miles of Philly, and they are excellent windows. I dont know if your building has passive solar qualtiies — need to spend more time on your blog — but if it does, you need to consider High-SHGC glazing, which means a Low-E HARD COAT (not a soft coat), which marvin and pella etc will not be able to make for you.

http://www.fibertec.com

To see my Eco-Shed project, pls visit
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesglave and check the link on the right…

7 Roxanne March 13, 2008 at 2:40 am

Dan,
Yes, Marvin Integrity windows are made in Fargo ND, (approximately 1.2 miles from the MN border). Marvin, a MN company also has manufacturing plants around the country, including VA plant that also makes Integrity wdws. My comments were made in regard to our project in MN.
Roxanne

8 Dan March 19, 2008 at 12:57 pm

We are done with our decision making process on windows and are exhausted to say the least. There are a lot of good options out there for fiberglass and we will not use vinyl or vinyl coated products again. We build in the Eastern PA area and the best window for us is Integrity. The 10 day lead time is phenomenal, there are 5 colors, they have awnings (somebody in this list said they did not,but they do), they are within the 500 mile range, and its from a large company. I was a little weary about some of the other smaller companies we researched (thanks to you guys). The best part is that they are priced between the 200 and 400 series Andersen’s we used to use. We have a 4 unit townhouse, in addition to this SFD, that we will use the builders grade version of Integrity. They make a solid fiberglass unit that is available in single hung (don’t think awnings are an option in this line). Costs a little more than the most expensive vinyl window, but nobody claims that building green was going to be cheaper.

9 Pierce July 18, 2008 at 12:54 am

I have a very quick, easy and affordable fix for your problem with window decisions. It is simply window tinting! I am a professional Glass tinter who lives about 5 mins from where you plan on building your home, and I would have no problem helping you achieve your goal of window energy efficiency! You can spend all the money you want on windows, but none of them will be as efficient as a window that has been tinted! Most people think window tint is just a product designed for cars, but in fact it is made for homes as well. I spend most of my time in homes and commercial properties applying window film. Window film was designed for two reasons. One bieng heat reduction from the suns nasty rays, and 2 to stop the ultra violet rays from destroying your interior furnishings. Sure the fading is not the object of your prodject, but why not get an added benefit! What film does is reflects the suns heat back off the glass in the summer. Keeping your home cooler, and using less energy. It also works in the winter, by reflecting the heat back into the home. All you have to do is look into window film, and you will see what I am talking about. Of course like anything else there are more effective and less effective lines of window film, with the more effective costing a bit more. As of right now, the most effective window film would a a ceramic based product. Second only to a metal based product. If your interested in learning more about window film. Feel free to Email me, and I will answer all questions that you have.

10 Jim Wiseblatt December 3, 2008 at 5:39 pm

I have used Inline Fiberglass Ltd windows in the past. They have the largest product line with the most available options. When comparing them with other window companies, I had found them to be most price competitive. Their leadtimes were good and most of all the quality. I had used their stain oak veneer and they were better than I could wished!

http://www.inlinefiberglass.com

11 Roger May 28, 2009 at 11:36 am

Have you folks considered the fact that Fiberglass is so NOT a green material??? Have you seen what the workers wear in the pultrusion factories? As far as fiberglass goes, you do need to paint it, just like a wood window, because fiberglass degrades in UV. It does have its benefits, but it also has its challenges…I’d feel much better putting a composite window into my home so I wouldn’t have to maintain it…

12 chad May 28, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Roger – Do you have an example of a composite window. Not sure if I’ve heard of this before. I’m assuming you would agree that fiberglass is a bit better than vinyl though, correct?

13 Dan May 28, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Ditto on Chad’s question Roger. What is a composite window? Never been/seen a fiberglass plant or a pvc plant. I’ve been using fiberglass windows without problems now for a year and this is the first time I’m hearing they are not manufactured in a green way or the contents not green. Silica sand is main component, which is abundant and efficient to manufacture. When I hear of a composite I think of deck material, which I would not use on the envelope of one of my homes.

14 Replacement Windows VA February 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I got quotes for Vinyl and Fiberglass. Although the fiberglass looked nice, there was not any real difference beween the 2 except cost. Plus the fiberglass window needs to be painted and taken care of like a wood window. I ended up purchasing Gorell 5100 Vinyl Replacement Windows for my Northern VA home.

15 Leslie May 27, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I think i’m sold on fiberglass. From everything read so far it is more durable than vinyl. I don’t want to do this again in my life time. I’ve found this website informative. It’s good to have opinions from many that are more knowledgable than I. But I am still on the quest for info and if I find something of interest I will gladly share with you all.

16 Michaelangelo June 9, 2010 at 10:51 pm

If you guys want to see some really well designed fibreglass windows/frames check out Pro Tec 7

17 Jonathan K March 5, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Just to clear up some mis-information here. Infinity windows from Marvin do not have to be painted. They are pultruded with an acrylic capstock. An inherent property of acrylic is that it does not fade. Also fiberglass is definitely the most green alternative for windows. As mentioned earlier it is made from silica an extremely abundant and sustainable material. Also, it requires 1/2 the amount of energy to manufacture a fiberglass window as it does to produce a wood or vinyl, and will outlast both my many, many, many years.

18 Dave Bradley January 3, 2013 at 9:53 am

Some wood windows in old houses are over 100 years old. So why do we think wood is not durable? Wood is renewable and let’s face it, compared to the frame of the house and sheathing, sub-floor and sub-roofing, there is very little wood used in the window frames.

19 Chad Ludeman January 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Dave – Good point. I think the main point we’re making here is that any material can be durable if it’s maintained perfectly. Wood needs to be painted ever few years and monitored for caulking failures and such. Products like vinyl, fiberglass and metal require less maintenance. If it were up to me and we had the budget, we’d put wooden and cork windows like they make in Germany in every home. Unfortunately, we don’t have the budget and the market is not there yet in the US to support it. Thanks for the comment.

20 Dave Bradley January 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Chad,

Do you have a sense or opinion if the market for fiberglass framed windows is growing, or going to grow? I read on another site f/g is 3% of the market. Vinyl can easily meet Energy Star zone D using triple glazing, and this is a real challenge for f/g sellers as the building codes get more strict on window performance. So the selling feature of fiberglass becomes the durability, longevity, ecological and health benefits. Vinyl is a horrific material. But these features I listed are not immediately tangible to most consumers when fiberglass is twice the cost of vinyl.

21 Dave Bradley January 3, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I should add the structural strenght of f/g is the best, but again, to the average consumer, a wood or vinyl window fits into the rough opening fine, plus the rough opening really provides all the support. The superiority of f/g is technical and obscure, and hard to sell.

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