The neighbor’s windows and your home vinyl siding are usually side by side, and it's creating a problem for some homeowners.
A Lowcountry family called the I-Team to investigate because the reflection from their neighbor’s windows is melting their siding. The reflection from the high efficiency windows acts like a magnified glass concentrating the sun's hottest rays into the vinyl.
“It is completely warped within a month or two,” Ashley Braced explained to the News 2 I-Team.
The builder, CalAtlantic, already replaced the vinyl siding once. Then they installed trees. Neither the new vinyl nor the trees were any match for the sun’s hot rays. Before a more permanent fix could be found, the Brace’s home warranty ran out.
Who's to blame
It's a problem more and more homeowners will deal with as more and more neighbors opt for energy efficient windows, specifically the low-E style. News 2 first reported on the problem in 2005. The Department of Energy is beginning to push more efficient windows as a standard, with low-E windows at the forefront. Meanwhile, as more low-E windows are installed into homes, unexpected problems have arisen, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
“I've experienced some reflections off windows,” local builder, Alex Webb said. “It can get fairly intense.”
Webb says the low emissivity glass windows are designed to allow light in but filter out the infrared (heat) portion of the light spectrum. Experts say they can filter up to 70% of the heat normally transmitted through standard window glass.
The problem is when those filtered rays are directed back at a neighbor's home. A National Association of Home Builders survey found most vinyl siding damage occurs when homes are 30 feet or fewer apart. The report also found damage up to 100 feet had been reported.
“It's become such a problem many of the vinyl siding companies are excluding the damage from Low-E windows from their warranties,” Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List said.
The Window and Door Manufacturing Association official stance is that using low-E windows is the "most proven durable, effective, and affordable method" for meeting building codes, the organization told News 2 via a statement.
"Cooperative efforts among building scientists and industry stakeholders are currently underway to more clearly understand the nature, extent, and contributing factors... which contribute to the distortion of some types of vinyl siding.”
Seeking a solution
Local realtor Jayme Knoll says she's seeing the problem more frequently.
The I-Team learned the state requires energy efficient windows in all new construction, and the low-E windows are the most commonly used.
Tint is on option if your neighbors will oblige.
But with all the blame passing, Knoll says the builders should take more of an active role in resolving the problems for families like the Braces.
“We sell your products. We stand by your products, so you need to stand by your buyers,” she said.
Neighbors can also help by adding a screen to windows, but in the Brace's case the neighbor's won't cooperate.
When the I-Team contacted the builder, they told us via statement:
“We welcome any customer with a concern to please contact our customer care at (843) 375-5555, ext. 2 so that we can address their concerns directly and work towards a solution, as we have, and continue to do. “
Ashley said since News 2 contacted the company, they have sent a team to her home to survey the damage and look for a better solution.
There are documented cases of the windows causing fire, but Michael A. Julazadeh, the Chief Fire Marshal for the City of Charleston, tells the I-Team there a lot of variables that must come together to start a fire at a home. He said it's more likely to warm and warp the siding than ignite it.