Insulated Vinyl Siding: Pros & Cons, Brand Reviews and Prices
Homeowners committed to reducing energy use while cutting utility costs have the option of choosing insulated vinyl siding. The material is designed to slow the transfer of heat through the walls, and this helps to keep the indoor climate comfortable in all weathers. Whether insulated vinyl is a good choice for your home depends on:
- Your climate
- The level of insulation your wall cavities contain
- How long you plan to be in your home
Insulated siding can be one of several steps you take to reduce your energy use, lower both heating and air conditioning costs and winterize your home.
WHAT IS INSULATED VINYL SIDING
Insulated vinyl siding is standard vinyl siding with a layer of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation adhered to it.
Most manufacturers charge about 50 percent more for insulated vinyl siding than for non-insulated vinyl siding. The additional cost of insulated vinyl siding is recouped over time in the form of lower energy bills. How long it takes to recover the additional cost is known as the payback period or payback time.
Experts suggest that insulated vinyl siding is most cost-effective in climates with extreme heat or cold. In those regions, the payback period could be as short as five years. In a moderate climate, it typically takes a decade or more to recoup the higher material cost through lower energy bills. Of course, if you are committed to the greenest possible heating and air conditioning regardless of your climate, insulated vinyl siding can be part of a strategy for an existing home, especially when coupled with other energy-efficient upgrades.
What is R-value?: The R-value of an insulation product is its resistance to heat passing through it, either leaving your home while you’re heating it or entering your home during warm months. Insulated vinyl siding is available in various thicknesses and types of insulation, so the R-value of these products varies. CertainTeed CedarBoards insulated siding is a good example of the specifications for most insulated vinyl siding. It includes a layer of foam about ¼” thick to produce an R-value of R-2.0 to R-2.2. Alside Prodigy insulated siding is the exception. It has an R-value of R-5 with its foam layer nearly 1” thick.
To put the R-value of insulated siding into perspective, walls with 2”x4” construction are typically insulated in the R-13 to R-20 range depending on the type of insulation selected. Using 2”x6” construction offers the potential for R-value up to R-25.
To meet the criteria for the Energy Star program which might qualify you for tax credits or utility credits, the insulated vinyl siding must have an R-value of:
- R-3 for Climate Zones 1-4 in the southern half of the US
- R-5 for Climate Zones 5-8 in the northern half of the US
PROS AND CONS OF INSULATED VINYL SIDING VS NON-INSULATED
Studies backed by the siding industry have shown that insulated vinyl siding offers modest benefits at a substantial cost. Here is an overview of the data.
Insulated vinyl siding advantages:
- Reduced energy use ranging from just 1 percent to about 11 percent.
- More robust siding that stands up slightly better to wind, hail and being hit by objects
- When torrential rains penetrate to a home’s sheathing, insulated vinyl siding allows for slightly faster drying than standard siding (perhaps because it creates additional warmth that enhances evaporation)
- Slightly reduces outside noise entering the home
Insulated vinyl siding disadvantages:
- Cost increase averaging 50 percent for siding and 20 percent for trim over standard vinyl siding
- It is available in a limited number of styles and colors
Further Reading: Aluminum Siding Cost vs Vinyl
INSULATED VINYL SIDING MANUFACTURER REVIEWS
Here are the top brands making insulated vinyl siding and what they offer.
Alside Prodigy insulated vinyl siding is backed with .5” of insulation, the thickest in the industry, to provide R-5 (Energy Star-qualified) heat resistance. Products include:
- Double-6” clapboard siding in 21 colors
- Single-7” clapboard siding in 14 colors
- Double-5” Dutch lap siding in 21 colors
CertainTeed CedarBoards and CedarBoards XL insulated siding products are backed by insulation with R-2.0 to R-2.2 value. Twelve colors are produced.
Standard CedarBoards are made in these profiles:
- Double-4” clapboard
- Double-4.5” clapboard
- Double-6” clapboard
- Single-7” clapboard
- Single-12” board & batten
CedarBoards XL in lengths to 18” are available in:
- Double-6” clapboard
- Single-7” clapboard
Crane CraneBoard 6 and CraneBoard 7 are 6” and 7” clapboard products with R-2.0 insulation value. You’ve got your choice of 23 colors for either siding.
The Ply Gem Mastic Structure Home Insulation System delivers R-3.0 insulation (Energy Star-qualified) in these styles and colors:
- Double-4” clapboard in 15 colors
- Double-4.5” Dutch lap in 19 colors
- Double-6” clapboard in 24 colors
- Single-7” clapboard in 19 colors
ProVia Cedarmax insulated siding is produced in 20 colors:
- Single-7” clapboard with R-2.3 insulation
- Triple-4” Dutch lap with R-2.8
- Double-6” clapboard with R-2.4
These leading brands provide an idea of what’s available in insulated vinyl siding. Other brands producing insulated vinyl include:
- KP Building Products
- Royal Group
INSULATED VINYL SIDING PRICES
As we’ve noted, insulated siding costs about 50 percent more than non-insulated siding. The average price of insulated vinyl siding material is $2.25 to $3.50 per square foot depending on the brand, profile and color.
Conclusions about Insulated Vinyl Siding and its Alternatives
The data seems to suggest that for most consumers, insulated vinyl siding is not a cost-effective method of reducing heating and air conditioning bills. The additional money spent on insulated siding versus non-insulated siding would be better spent on these upgrades:
Adding insulation to the attic: This is the most cost-efficient way to reduce energy use and bills. Check with an insulation installer to determine the R-value of your current attic insulation and the potential benefits of adding more.
Making doors and windows air-tight: Your window frames and door frames should be adequately insulated and caulked. When replacing your siding, look for gaps around windows and doors, and fill them with insulation. Remove and replace loose caulk. Apply weatherstripping to doors and windows that don’t close tightly.
Installing house wrap: If your home doesn’t have house wrap, consider adding it as part of the new siding project. Wrap will reduce air flow and energy loss. It slows the penetration of moisture into your home too, so helps reduce the risk of mold. However, it won’t trap moisture, since the material is made to “breath.”
Installing a more energy-efficient HVAC system: While this is a big investment, today’s gas furnaces, heat pumps and central air conditioners are very misers. This is especially true with heat pumps and central air conditioners. Taken as a whole, the product lineups for top brands like Trane, Carrier, Lennox, Rheem and Amana are about 60 percent more efficient than they were 20 years ago.