PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Solar distortion – that’s what they call it when a home’s vinyl siding melts due to reflected sunlight off of the windows next door.
It’s happening all across the country and costing individual homeowners thousands of dollars.
Vinyl siding is the most popular single-family home siding product in the United States. It’s attractive, economical and durable, unless it’s in the “hot zone” of a neighbor’s energy efficient, or Low E, windows.
“It’s just a perfect confluence of events that leads to this. You have to have the right angle of the sun, so depending on the time of day, if the sun’s high in the sky or not, we actually see more cases, we’ve been called out more in the winter time when the sun is lower,” says Judd Haag, a siding professional.
The Low-E windows act like a magnifying glass, shooting the sun’s rays like a laser beam onto the house next door.
“This has become such a problem that many of the vinyl siding companies are actually excluding damage from Low E window reflection from their warranties,” Angie Hicks, of Angie’s List, said.
Vinyl siding companies and window manufacturers point the finger of responsibility at each other.
Numerous lawsuits are in the works, but that still leaves homeowners like Maura Lewis to find their own solutions. One option is to upgrade to a fiber-cement or “hearty plank” siding, but that’s about three times more expensive than standard vinyl.
“I kind of felt like our hands were tied, you know. We were kind of stuck with the situation and not really being able to fix it at the time until we got more information on how to do that,” said Lewis.
Experts recommend installing exterior screens over the offending windows to diffuse the heat. That requires a cooperative neighbor.
Bill O’Patterson saw what his windows were doing to the house next door and had no issue spending $245 to have three screens installed.
“Hopefully, people have the mindset of being neighborly. I mean, we all want to sell our houses at one point and you really can’t sell a house that has severe damage,” said O’Patterson.
“It’s probably going to become more and more prevalent, and unfortunately, builders are probably gonna try and keep their costs down and they’re still gonna use the lower-cost vinyl siding,” said Haag. “And unfortunately, customers and homeowners are gonna have this problem popping up more and more.”
If you notice solar distortion on your home, Hicks says to first talk to your neighbor and see if he or she will work with you.
If they agree to install screens or awnings, then you can contact your homebuilder and ask if the company will cover the cost to fix your siding.
At least one national company is offering to do just that as long as there’s a signed agreement with the neighbor to install screens and prevent future damage.