uPVC (unplasticised PolyVinyl Chloride) was the term used in Britain before the name was changed to PVCu in the late 1980s to fall in line with the rest of Europe. It’s called PVCu on the continent because most European languages place the noun (the word PVC in this case) before the adjective (U).
1. Thermal efficiency
It’s well known that PVCu is a low conductor of heat, helping to retain warmth within a building and keep the cold out. This is further enhanced by designing multiple chambers inside the window profiles, allowing them to trap air and create a thermal barrier.
Add double or triple glazing to a PVCu frame, and U-values as low as 0.8 W/m²K can be achieved.
According to the British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC), when it comes to ‘A’ rated windows, PVCu outperforms any other material, with 10 times more PVCu windows achieving an ‘A’ rating compared to the nearest alternative.
2. Benefit vs. cost
There are three distinct areas where installing PVCu windows saves on cost and adds benefit:
• Lower purchase price and installation costs
• Higher energy savings over the life of the windows, and
• Lower maintenance costs.
According to the Glass & Glazing Federation’s Energy Saving Calculator, if single glazed windows of an alternative material are replaced by ‘A’ rated PVCu double-glazed windows, annual savings would be achieved.
3. Low maintenance
With PVCu, the ongoing maintenance consists of a wipe down with warm soapy water, making them simpler and more cost effective to look after. Woodgrain or foiled windows with minor scratches can be repaired using a RAL-matched pen.
Contrast this with timber windows – they need treating or painting on a regular basis, which is time consuming and can be costly. Aluminium windows can fade and oxidise when exposed to the sun, often requiring the use of specialist cleaners and coatings to restore.
PVCu windows have an expected life span of up to 35 years.
Frames will not rot, corrode, warp or split, and special additives make them tough enough to suit European requirements. In addition, the lightweight nature of a PVCu frame makes it easier to handle and install, reducing time on site for fitters and contractors.
The old chunky white PVCu frames seen in the 1980s are well and truly in the past.
With a wide range of woodgrain effects and colours, as well as slim sightlines, PVCu windows can be as aesthetically pleasing as their timber or aluminium counterparts.
Designs have advanced to the extent that sashes can sit flush in the frame, mirroring a pre-1932 style timber frame – ideal for conservation properties where timber is preferred, or alternatively to offer a sleek, contemporary appearance.
PVCu windows are ideal for the damp British weather. The frames will not swell or rot, and co-extruded gaskets provide excellent resistance to air and water.
With both timber and aluminium frames, the seals are added in afterwards. Joints can also shrink back over time, causing gaps in the seals.
With PVCu, the gaskets are welded together as part of the manufacturing process, providing a continuous seal all the way round and eliminating draughts for longer.
It’s often believed that PVCu windows are not environmentally friendly.
In fact, the case can be argued for quite the opposite.
PVCu windows can be made from 100% lead-free materials, better for both family living and for the environment.
PVCu windows use less energy to produce in the factory, in comparison to both aluminium and timber windows.
The ongoing energy savings are higher, with more PVCu windows achieving BFRC ‘A’ ratings than other materials.
A PVCu window is 100% recyclable and can be recycled up to 10 times, giving each window an estimated life span of 350 years – far more eco-friendly than depleting timber sources.