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Insulated vinyl siding and energy efficiency

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ May 11, 2012

Once the butt of comedian's jokes, vinyl siding has been improved by leaps and bounds and today has captured a large share of the American market. Its relative ease of maintenance, good insulation qualities and affordability has silenced a lot of critics.

Benefits are legion. For starters, there's no need to repaint vinyl siding as the color is dyed into the PVC. Unlike wood siding, vinyl won't chip, crack, blister or peel. It cleans with common soap and a garden hose. The newest products come with colors and patterns that replicate wood, brick or stone.

Because it requires minimal upkeep, vinyl siding can also be a prudent choice for homeowners who choose to "age in place" and keep their houses protected from the elements throughout their Golden Years.

Vinyl siding and energy efficiency

Insulated vinyl siding can raise your home energy efficiency to a new level of performance. According to the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI), the first insulated siding was tested in 1997 in the American South. In recent years, manufacturers Crane, Alcoa, CertainTeed, Revere, Variform and others have offered pre-installation siding with built-in insulation.

The siding is typically insulated with contoured rigid foam. For those who choose green products, you'll find vinyl siding with insulation made from recycled materials. You can easily find products that meet the specifications for ENERGY STAR® Qualified Homes Version 3 and for the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code.

The VSI reports that some states even allow insulated siding projects to qualify for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), assisting low-income families to improve their home energy efficiency.

In 2010, the VSI conducted an Insulated Siding Energy Performance Study that found a "five to 12 percent improvement in the heating energy savings" in homes that had retrofits of insulated vinyl siding. Final survey results are expected out next year.

Demand expert installation

One way to compromise the thermal component of your vinyl siding is to cut corners on installation. One contractor may insist on using a Green Guard insulation backerboard, while another may wrap sheathing with Tyvek, then install top-performance insulation over it. Interview your bidders with an eye toward understanding the levels of insulation you can expect.

If you choose a product with the insulation already built into the panels, take heed. The panels will be thicker than traditional, non-insulated siding. You'll want an installer that knows your product and the details of all warranty specifications. Play it safe.

You may want to look at insulated vinyl siding as an alternative to other exterior cladding for its value alone. The VSI reports that retrofitting with vinyl siding brought a 72 percent return on investment, 2010-2011.

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