There are more than a dozen decisions homeowners have to make when building a new house or remodeling an existing one. For example, besides ensuring the foundation of the home is sturdy and the walls strong and durable, every property owner has to pick the best windows and doors that complement their entire architectural structure.
Whether to opt for aluminum or steel windows has been at the forefront of intense debates over the past few decades. No doubt, both materials have their unique sets of properties that amplify a home’s aesthetic appeal. But since their natural characteristics are poles apart, you’ll need to make a clear-cut decision on which is the better option for your home: aluminum or steel?
To simplify your decision making, we’re going to compare aluminum windows vs steel windows side by side. By the time you’re done reading this guide, you should be in a position to make an educated decision devoid of any shreds of regrets.
Popularly christened a “magical metal”, aluminum naturally occurs as Bauxite ore in the earth’s crust. It’s the third most abundant element on the planet, and 96% of this plucky metal can be recycled at the end of its product life. So, which properties does aluminum have that make it an ideal choice for building windows, doors, and curtain walling?
Aluminum is not only resistant to corrosion but also has vital anti-bacterial properties. These qualities make this metal an excellent option in homes where food is ingested. Furthermore, UV light has no effect on aluminum, meaning that it won’t rust even in areas where windows and doors are regularly exposed to out-of-door elements that can result in oxidation.
It is for this reason that aluminum is able to hold its original color for longer, plus it’s got a smooth finish that calls for little-to-no maintenance. What’s more, the aluminum’s sleek, lightweight, and versatile stature makes it easily moldable into all shapes and sizes. Be that as it may, you need to be savvy while shopping to get the best value for your hard-earned money.
Steel’s popularity arises from the fact that it’s one of the strongest and most durable materials used in construction. Being stronger than most other metals, steel can be used to build stronger windows and doors that withstand harsh and wobbly weather elements. Thanks to its incredible strength, steel window frames are typically sleek and slender.
Modern steel windows often showcase precise, crisp, and creative styling. Available as doubled-glazed or fully weather-stripped, steel windows are not just thermally efficient and compliant with current Building Regulations, but also create an alluring entry to your home.
Modern steel windows use a variety of locking techniques that have been subjected to current security tests to ensure they pass with excellent results. What’s more, steel comes in a broad array of BS, Syntha Pulvin and RAL colors alongside other special finishes not typically found elsewhere.
A Side-By-Side Comparison Between Aluminum and Steel Windows
Aluminum vs Steel Windows: Strength
Of course, steel is almost three times stronger than aluminum when both metals are tested in their original form. That means pure steel produces stronger windows that have all it takes to withstand unstable or harsh weather conditions. But while aluminum on its own lacks a high tensile strength, it can be alloyed with other elements like copper, magnesium, silicon, and manganese to improve the overall strength.
Pure aluminum has around 90 MPa tensile strength, but aluminum alloy raises this to as high as 690 MPa, making it suitable for making windows, doors, and even curtain wall frames. And more importantly, aluminum’s strength tends to increase as it gets colder, unlike steel that becomes brittle at lower temperatures. Thus, if you want windows that are going to endure extreme winter temperatures in the UK, you’d better go for aluminum.
Aluminum vs Steel Windows: Cost
If we compare aluminum and steel windows from the cost perspective, then it’s common knowledge that aluminum scores big – hands-down! Aluminum is a cost-effective material whose manufacturing procedure is more abridged and refined. Aluminum frames are simply crimped with mechanical joints that enable the frames to be slotted and fixed together with utmost ease.
On the contrary, steel’s manufacturing process is quite involving. This metal must to go through a complex manufacturing process to produce a window frame, and the high cost of production will have a substantial impact on the overall outlay of your development project. If you’re working on a tight budget and need the most cost-effective material, make aluminum your ally.
Aluminum vs Steel Windows: Recyclability
Aluminum is a unique metal that’s 100% recyclable, and the quality of the recycled aluminum is more or less the same as the virgin aluminum. Unlike steel, aluminum can be recycled multiple times. In fact, studies have shown that about 75% of all industrial aluminum available today is derived from the first industrial quantities produced more than 100 years ago.
Not only is this news good for aluminum supply but even better for Mother Nature. Whereas 1 ton of new aluminum requires about 14,000 kWh of energy for production, the same amount of aluminum takes 5-10% of that energy to remelt. This means lower recycling costs and a smaller carbon footprint. Great news, huh!
Aluminum vs Steel Windows: Resistance to Corrosion
Aluminum is more resistant to corrosion than steel and demands the least maintenance throughout its lifespan. When aluminum comes into contact with air, it immediately forms a protective aluminum oxide film on the surface. Due to this layer of aluminum oxide, the aluminum metal cannot be damaged by anything thrown its way by weather, such as acid rain.
Steel, on the other hand, requires a considerably high level of maintenance. Whilst steel scores high points in terms of tensile strength, this metal is susceptible to rusting and corrosion. Thus, it must be treated every so often to protect the windows and frames from the harsh weather elements. You’ll need to anodize or paint the surface to protect against the elements it would be exposed to throughout the seasons.
Aluminum vs Steel Windows: Thermal Efficiency
Steel windows and their frames cannot be manufactured with a thermal break. Therefore, the frame can draw cold from the outside into the house and create condensation, ultimately leading to corrosion. And excessive condensation may damage furnishings and fabrics that are close to the windows.
By contrast, a majority of companies that build and sell aluminum windows these days install their frames with modern thermal break technology. Fitting aluminum window frames with a thermal break serves a fundamental purpose. A thermal break provides the highest possible thermal insulation.
Which Way to Go Then?
Generally speaking, both aluminum and steel windows deserve a slot in the market. Whilst some homeowners tend to paint steel windows in a negative light, it’s incredibly sturdy and won’t give in to the outdoor elements anytime soon.
It’s up to you as a homeowner to make an informed decision on whether to opt for aluminum or steel windows. Your decision should be informed by your budget and architectural requirements.
The ancient perception that steel windows are draughty and unfitting for residential use is no longer applicable in the modern era. Aluminum is an ideal alternative, but steel offers a wide range of excellent qualities that cannot be overlooked.
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