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REHAU UPVC – The Sustainable Material Homeowners Have Been Waiting For

Properly insulated homes are the next frontier for South Africa in a world of higher energy costs and a harsher climate. Explore the best insulation for your home with Rehau Polymer (Pty) Ltd.

South African houses are notorious for being poorly insulated. We’ve never quite understood the reasons for this disregard, but they certainly include cost. Another factor is surely the entrenched view that “we have a great climate and our winters are short” – always forgetting that while our winters may generally be short, they are sharp, and that summers are long and hot.

Mitigating uncomfortably hot or cold conditions is possible thanks to technology but in these days of escalating fuel prices and energy scarcity, it’s less of an option. In addition, even the most advanced heating or cooling technologies are rendered less effective if heat transfer between the interior and exterior is not well controlled.

In short, well-insulated homes stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer, making for a more comfortable environment and reducing energy costs. Insulation also reduces fire risk.

Heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer are responsible for 25%-30% of all cooling and heating used in residential buildings. The US Department of Energy puts the impact of windows even higher, saying that approximately 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through windows,while 76% of sunlight enters to become heat in summer. The loss can be higher depending on the quality of the doors and windows.

How comfortable is your space really?

The way a home is designed and the materials used have been shown to make a big impact on how comfortable it is to live in, through ease of heating and cooling.

Studies by REHAU show that window construction makes a significant impact on reducing energy consumption. This impact is enhanced when other forms of insulation are used, such as wall and ceiling insulation. Reduction in peak energy use in Durban and Johannesburg was shown to be in the 23-76% range, and in the 47-60% range in Cape Town depending on the kind of glazing used.

An important part of the discussion centres around the material used in windows and doors. Timber is one of the best insulators, but it is expensive and also very costly to maintain. Today’s favoured material of choice in South Africa, aluminium, is long-lasting but, unfortunately, is also an excellent conductor, thus facilitating the transfer of heat into the building in summer and cold in the winter.

A much better alternative is uPVC, which has long been the preferred material for energy-efficient windows and doors in Europe, America and Asia. It was introduced many years ago to this country, but it proved to be too expensive for the local market. The good news is that new technology is changing that, and uPVC window and door frames are now available at a cost effective price point.

uPVC’s insulating properties are one good reason why it’s such a good material for door and window frames. Another is that it supports higher construction values, meaning frames made out this material are fully watertight and also minimise drafts – huge factors when it comes to day-to-day comfort.

Any architect and developer will confirm that leaks consistently feature on those pesky snag lists!

Insulation also plays a role in an often-neglected area: noise reduction. Well-constructed windows can reduce noise from the outside significantly, something that affects the well-being of inhabitants especially in noisy neighbourhoods.

Sustainability is increasingly important to individual homeowners as well as residential estates. uPVC’s insulation properties, noted above, are critical when it comes to energy efficiency, but another sustainability angle comes with recycling. uPVC is fully recyclable into new frames, making it compatible with the increasingly popular concept of the circular economy.

For homeowners, maintenance and longevity are important considerations. uPVC frames are manufactured to be resistant to ultra-violet rays and salt, making them durable even in harsh weather conditions. They do not need time-consuming annual servicing like timber, and can be kept clean simply by wiping them down with dishwashing liquid.

In today’s world, with its emphasis on energy efficiency and sustainability more generally, a new range of materials is coming into its own. One of these is uPVC, which has already established its credentials as a highly durable, versatile and energy-efficient material – the big advance is that it is now affordable to a wider range of homeowners.

Contact: Rehau Polymer (Pty) Ltd.

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