When renovating or building a new home, home owners are now faced with a wide selection of fenestration products. PVC, aluminium, wood, or hybrid windows: what constitutes the wisest choice? What are the main differences between standard and hybrid windows?

The terms “standard windows” typically refer to windows made of only one material, such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), aluminium, or wood, whereas “hybrid windows” refer to windows made of at least two materials, for example, PVC and aluminium.

Standard PVC, Aluminium, or Wood Windows

Most often than not the most economical option, PVC windows constitute a good reliable product, requiring minimal maintenance and providing excellent insulation; its esthetic value, however, sometimes leaves something to be desired. Although PVC is highly energy-efficient, thanks to its low heat transfer capacity, its general appearance and larger frames often seem to discredit it or tarnish its quality value. Yet, this very competitive product offers excellent value for money with regards to energy efficiency and maintenance for people with relatively simple fenestration needs.

Both refined and robust, aluminium windows are light yet ultra weather-resistant. Thinner but also sturdier, aluminium frames allow the creation of oversized windows and are often offered in a large selection of colours. For slick-looking windows that are easy to maintain, aluminium constitutes a very interesting option. However, you’ll typically pay more for these windows, which, by the way, also provide less insulation due to the material’s high thermal conductivity.

Finally, wood windows represent another option, especially for the eternal lovers of more traditional or noble materials. Painted or stained, these premium products bestow upon your home unrivalled character and legendary old world charm… which tends to be reflected in their higher price, both financially and in terms of maintenance. Indeed, wood windows absolutely require meticulous annual care to remain beautiful and watertight.

The Solution? Hybrid Windows!

Fortunately, nowadays, there is no need to only choose one material at the expense of others! Indeed, the perfect combination now exists: hybrid windows!

Typically in aluminium on the outside and PVC on the inside – but possibilities are truly endless! -, hybrid windows represent the best “compromise”… without really being one! Think about it: for example, the elegant sturdiness of aluminium associated with the high energy- and cost-efficiency of PVC. Such hybrid windows probably constitute the biggest bang for your buck, most definitely a win-win product.

Other hybrid combinations also exist, such as aluminium on the outside and wood on the inside. It is really up to you to determine your needs and choose your materials accordingly; you truly have the creative freedom to design the ideal fenestration for your home.

For a professional installation of your windows, choose Portatec, a Canadian door and window manufacturer specializing in premium custom entry doors.

Thinking of replacing your windows? Not only will you have to choose among the various frame and sash materials now available (for example, aluminium, PVC, and wood), you’ll also have to make a decision between double or triple glazing.

In the energy efficiency certification program ENERGY STAR, the southern region of the province of Québec is located within their Climate Zone 2. In this zone, windows must be at least double-glazed (simple-glazed windows have, for the most part, fallen into disuse, thanks to their poor energy efficiency performance). That being said, how advantageous is opting for triple-glazed windows, considering their higher cost?

Glazing… Glazing?

But let’s first define what we mean by “glazing”.

Glazing refers to the transparent material used in a window, typically glass.

A double-glazed window generally contains two panes of glass, which are separated by a spacer. The space created can then be filled with air or a special insulating inert gas, such as argon, for example. A fine low-emissivity (Low-E) metallic coating can also be added to limit the sun from coming in during summer while reflecting the heat back in during winter. Note that, within the industry, double or triple glazing is also referred to as insulating glass units (IGUs), sealed glazing, or “thermopane” windows.

Finally, you will have guessed that triple-glazed windows are composed of two air spaces, which can also – both or either – contain an inert gas or a Low-E coating.

Triple-Glazed Windows: Advantages and Disadvantages

Considering this, should we be choosing triple glazing units over double?

Triple glazing offers numerous advantages, the most significant one being – not surprisingly – its outstanding thermal performance. Its temperature coefficient of resistance (R-value) is indeed much higher than double glazing (Source: CAA Québec). This explains in part why triple-glazed products can be up to 50% more efficient than double-glazed (Source: Natural Resources Canada).

A better heat barrier also means an enhanced comfort experience, especially closer to the windows. Another advantage noted is a reduction in indoor condensation, while others also mention greater acoustic insulation for some types of fast traffic noise.

Overall, for colder regions, north-facing windows, or owners wanting to create a more passive house, triple glazing can be an excellent strategic choice.

Triple glazing, whoever, also has its drawbacks. Triple-glazed windows are known to be more expensive. Then, windows made of three glass panes are heavier and require, as such, a sturdier frame and stronger hinges, which implies additional work and cost. Finally, some still report reduced brightness because of the glazing unit’s greater thickness.

So, what is the take-home message? For housing units located in the South of Québec, double-glazed windows made of an insulating spacer, with a Low-E coating, and filled with an inert gas represent, more often than not, the best overall value, in addition to adequately meeting this region’s energy efficiency criteria.

Having said that, we do recommend you consult a window professional to help you fully understand your options and find the best solution for your needs and budget.

Portatec offers a wide selection of high energy efficiency window models. Have their experienced and meticulous team professionally install your windows!