As the first snow of winter ices, melts, and re-ices again over the past few days here in Northern Virginia, it’s probably not a good time to realize your windows need to be replaced. It may, however, be a good time to start planning for next year’s home upgrades, to include updgraded vinyl replacement windows, doors, perhaps some siding repairs or a new patio enclosure. As you consider options, perhaps it’s useful to consider what vinyl actually is, and why it’s such a great material for durable, long lasting replacement windows and doors. Following is an explanation of what vinyl really is, brought to you by Vinyl-Lite Northern Virginia windows and doors, makers of the very popular vinyl replacement windows, doors, siding and patio enclosures.
“Vinyl” is actually a chemical polymer (i.e. plastic) called more formally “polyvinyl chloride” or “PVC”. Very durable and strong, over half of all the PVC manufactured worldwide is used in construction, both residential and commercial. It is inexpensive, cheap and easy to produce, and very lightweight. Wood, clay and concrete have all begun to be replaced by PVC in recent years.
In its pure state, PVC is rigid and stiff. It does not gain flexibility or true usefulness until “plasticizers” are added to it, the most common of which are “phthalates” (esters of phthalic acid). PVC is a common plastic with many applications – including vinyl siding, replacement vinyl windows and window frames, accessory structures like garages and patio enclosures, plumbing, clothing, upholstery and even children’s toys and accessories. Remember the “LP” – i.e. the vinyl audio record?
PVC was first discovered in the 19th century on two separate occasions. In 1838 Henri Victor Regnault, and in 1872 Eugen Baumann found a white solid floating in flasks of vinyl chloride that had been left in the sun. However, it was not until the early 20th century that public development of polyvinyl chloride began. Russian chemist Ivan Ostromislensky, in a partnership with Fritz Klatte, a German (both of the German chemical company Griesheim-Elektron) began the application of PVC to commercial products. In 1926, Waldo Semon of B.F. Goodrich came up with a process of giving PVC more flexibility with various additives. This plasticized PVC proved financially successful and became the precursor of the polyvinyl chloride used today.
Some health concerns exist with PVC. If used properly, there is no known threat from the substance. However, the additives and softeners utilized in making the material more flexible can be harmful – though not directly poisonous, it is possible that chemicals could leech out of vinyl products.
To produce PVC, vinyl chloride must be present first as a solution in water. It is then put into a high pressure chamber at 50-70 degrees Celsius (122-158 Fahrenheit). Water is also present to remove and absorb heat. PVC will eventually form in increasingly larger pieces until the process is stopped. It is then removed from the water, dried and forms a white powder. This is now PVC and can be melted and shaped for nearly any purpose.
PVC is synthetic and must be disposed of properly – or recycled. PVC can either be melted down and reshaped, or mechanically crushed and used in its most basic form, for reuse as anything from artificial filler for pillows and bedding, to vinyl windows, doors and outdoor furniture, to packing material. PVC is also able to be incinerated, and it produces no more toxins then burning wood (though pollution control equipment is typically used to control the toxins). When discarded into a controlled landfill, PVC proposes no serious threat to the environment.
Find out more about vinyl products, including vinyl replacement windows, vinyl doors, vinyl patio enclosures and other vinyl home repair products at Vinyl-Lite Northern Virginia Window Factory – providing replacement windows to Northern Virginia, Burke, Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and other Prince William County customers for over 30 years.