I decided I should write a post about the pros and cons of Steel Windows, as I receive so many emails with questions about them. While they have been around for over one hundred years now (first used in an industrial context, then in Architecture from the post WW1 era onwards and associated heavily with Art Deco Architecture), they fell out of favour once aluminium windows were developed in the 60s/70's and have only really seen a big resurgence in their use in the past 10 years in Architectural design. I had never used them in a project before, so they were new to me and obviously I've learn a lot about them in the process of specifying and then living with them.
Steel windows do not look anything like aluminium windows for a few reason. Firstly, they give a much thinner frame profile - aluminium sections are extruded, meaning they are hollow in the centre, and this in turn means that they have a minimum thickness. You can now get sections that are fairly thin, but they still are not as thin as steel window sections.
Regarding thermal efficiency, they are suitable for anywhere in Australia, barring places with temps that dip into minus degrees consistently overnight or that have snow. So in Canberra, and some country areas it's not advisable to install them. The frames do heat up or feel cold transferring exactly the outside temperature to the inside of the house, and are probably the poorest performer in frame types for thermal resistance (although they are rated as medium, they are lower than aluminium or timber). The other factor to consider is that you do not get perfect seals on the door and window openings. As the frames are not perfectly straight, they don't give a perfect seal. We've overcome this to some extent with a lot of foam seals on all the openings, but if you're looking for true high energy efficiency, then they fail in that regard. We have double glazed glass panes, which has helped with thermal transference, but there's only so much it can do given the nature of the frame.
Flyscreens are the other factor to consider. In some parts of Australia this is not a big deal at all, but in rural areas this is definitely something to think about. The steel sections are extremely thin and flat, meaning they don't give any thickness in the frame to attach a flyscreen to. The window locks protrude from the window frames (as shown above), which means that you can't fix a flyscreen over the top of the frame. We looked into using some sort of removable magnetic flyscreen, but in the end decided it was too hard, as we'd need somewhere to store them when they weren't in use - to fix them permanently they'd be incredibly boxy to accommodate a window lock. French doors also have the same problem of not having anything to fix a flyscreen to on the frame. We looked into the invisible flyscreens (which retract into walls), however they were going to have to be enormous, and I was told it would be over $8000 per flyscreen. Coupled with the fact that if one of our children ran through it and damaged it it would require complete replacement, we decided to forgo flyscreens completely.
Our second set of windows were manufactured by Skyrange in Melbourne, and I have no hesitation in recommending them if you're interested in obtaining a quote for your own project. They have been in business for a long time, were straightforward to deal with, and supplied a good quality product in their specified time frame. Beware of any business offering a full install and claiming it's all highly specialised. It's not.
I think that sums it up and hopefully this is helpful to those looking at steel windows for their own project, however if there's anything you'd specifically like to know, please leave a comment and I'll try to answer.
All images are of the steel windows in our extension
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