We’re thinking about areas like the Florida Coast, the Gulf Coast, Hawaii and US territories in the Caribbean.
Let’s stretch the zone a little and include the Atlantic Coast up to the Carolinas since that area has some characteristics of a tropical zone – Lots of rain, hurricane potential, salt spray and high humidity.
Homeowners in these areas have to select a window that will hold up to torrential rains, high-velocity winds and high humidity. What windows will do the job?
The Best Windows for a Tropical Climate
The three best windows for the tropics are:
- Aluminum: Light but strong; affordable
- Fiberglass: Strong and gives the appearance of a wood window; more expensive
- Vinyl: Not quite as strong as the other two, but more affordable than fiberglass with better insulation than aluminum.
There is much more to a window than the frame. Glass (glazing), storm windows and even where to position windows in your home in a tropical climate are covered below.
Aluminum Windows Pros, Cons, Cost and Brands
Tropical regions are the ideal location for aluminum windows. And the aluminum windows made today are much more attractive than the bare, squeaky windows of yesteryear.
- Very strong – The tensile strength of quality aluminum windows makes them a good choice for high-velocity hurricane zones (HVHZ). Their strength also means they won’t warp.
- Resist corrosion – The surface of a bare aluminum window oxidizes to form a patina-like “skin” that protects the window. Vinyl-coated aluminum is another excellent choice for the tropics. In short, aluminum stands up to the moisture and salt spray.
- Durability – Aluminum windows last. Many brands offer a lifetime warranty.
- Poor insulation – This isn’t as big a problem in warm climates, but it will impact your air conditioning bills. Look for a thermally improved aluminum window like Milgard Aluminum Series windows.
- Price – Average installed costs range from $285 to $450 for most window types (fixed, single-hung, sliding, etc. There are full cost details on our Aluminum Window Prices page.
- Best Brands
Fiberglass Windows Pros, Cons, Cost and Brands
Fiberglass frames are very strong and are textured to have the look of painted wood. Of course, wood windows would be the worst choice for tropical climates because of their susceptibility to moisture (rot, warping). So fiberglass is a good alternative.
- Strength – They can be as strong as aluminum, though a bit heavier.
- Durable – Most have lifetime warranties.
- Wood-look, but not wood – Won’t peel, warp or crack.
- Insulated frames – Higher R-value helps control energy use.
- Low maintenance – You might have to hose down the frames occasionally to remove dust and bird stuff, if the rain doesn’t do it for you.
- Lots of color choices – Lights, darks, neutrals…
- Cost – Of the three types discussed in this post, fiberglass windows cost the most.
- Price – The average installed cost of fiberglass windows is $455 to $800 depending on the window type. Our Fiberglass Window Prices page has prices by window type and brand plus cost factors to consider.
- Best Brands
Vinyl Windows Pros, Cons, Cost and Brands
Vinyl remains the most popular window material. There are outstanding national brands to consider, but you’ll also find quality windows from regional manufacturers in your area.
- Good strength – If you’re in a HVHZ, perhaps aluminum or fiberglass is a better choice, but for most tropical climates, vinyl will withstand the elements.
- Style and color options – Textured vinyl windows have a painted wood look. Smooth styles are more contemporary. Plus, vinyl doesn’t come in white-only anymore. Most brands are also made in almond/off-white, grays and darker colors like green and deep red.
- Not wood/Low maintenance – Vinyl won’t peel, crack or warp. Like fiberglass, wash the frames as/if needed.
- Durability – Most vinyl windows are backed by a lifetime warranty.
- Insulated frames – Less heat transfer means lower energy use and AC bills.
- Cost – Average installed costs for vinyl windows start at about $450 for fixed and single-hung windows to more than $600 for casement windows. Of course, depending on size and type, costs can be lower or much higher.
As noted, these are the best national brands. Check with your window installer about recommended regional brands. You can learn more by requesting no-obligation, free estimates on this page.
Here are the top brands. Some make more than one series of vinyl window – Basic/Better/Best lines.
- Pella ($$-$$$$)
- Jeld-Wen ($-$$$)
- Milgard ($-$$$)
- MI – Used to be CertainTeed ($-$$$$)
- Ply-Gem ($$-$$$$)
- Simonton ($$-$$$$)
Other Considerations for Windows in Tropical Climates
Most window manufacturers make glass designed for tropical climates.
Impact-resistant glass: Your local building code might require you to have windows fitted with glass that will resist 100mph and stronger winds and the debris that comes with it.
Energy-Efficient glass: Another option is a low-E glass package made for very warm areas.
Pella InsulShield is a good example. The glass is triple-pane, low-E glass that protects from extreme heat and blocks 86% of UV rays. These are ideal for tropical areas less prone to high-wind events.
Storm Windows: Finally, if you’re in a hurricane zone, you should consider aluminum storm windows for your home. They’re a single-pane aluminum-frame window that installs from the outside to protect your windows.
When a tropical storm or hurricane is headed your way, they can be quickly fitted into place. Most homeowners use them on the sides of the house most likely to take a direct hit from wind and blowing debris.
Hurricane shutters: The window installer you select will also offer hurricane shutters – steel shutters designed to prevent window damage from wind-blown debris.
Window Placement in Tropical Climates
Are you building a home? Do you have a choice about positioning your home on the lot or property?
If so, consider orienting it so that windows don’t get the brunt of the day’s sun. In US and Caribbean tropical zones, windows facing northeast and southwest will absorb the least amount of heat.