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Conductivity main drawback, but light metal still shines

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Aluminum is a minor player in the residential door market, largely due to its conductivity, as mostly vinyl products take on the starring role.

"While aluminum dominates the market for fenestration products in commercial applications, aluminum doors are not widely used in the residential market. In fact, the market share of aluminum residential doors is statistically insignificant," said Libby Magliolo, spokeswoman for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, Schaumburg, Ill. Aluminum is used for only about 9 percent of residential patio doors and represents only a very small percentage of exterior or interior residential doors, she added.

U.S. residential windows, doors and screens have overwhelmingly gone to vinyl, according to Nick Adams, vice president of business information and member services at the Arlington, Va.-based Aluminum Association.

Aluminum frames are used in some storm doors, especially in some colder areas of the country, and their strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance makes them viable alternatives in certain marine climates and areas that are prone to hurricane activity, according to Charles Johnson, the Aluminum Association's director of environmental health and safety, noting that coatings tend to adhere better to aluminum than vinyl.

In contrast, in the nonresidential market aluminum entry doors comprise almost half of the market (and the majority of the commercial window market) due to the energy-efficient properties of the metal and its structural strength, which allows it to support heavy spans of glass, Magliolo said.

But in residential applications, aluminum isn't very popular, largely because of its conductivity, Adams said, noting that it is a good conductor of both heat and cold, which means it isn't very energy efficient on its own and requires a good thermal break. Vinyl, by comparison, doesn't let the cold in or out, he added.

But the aluminum industry continues to promote the use of aluminum based on lifecycle cost and sustainability, Adams said, noting that while the metal has a very high recycling rate most vinyl doors end up in a landfill. Likewise, aluminum is more durable than vinyl and, therefore, lasts longer. MYRA PINKHAM


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