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Fencing can serve as windbreak

JAMES DULLEY

Q. My children just got a dog, so we need a fence. Since I am going to have a fence, it might as well also function as a windbreak for energy savings. Is expensive vinyl fencing a good choice for this?

Adding a windbreak on the northwest and north side of your house can reduce the energy loss from your house walls during winter. The savings result from reduced convection heat transfer from the walls and less pressure differences across your house.

People often think of a fence or a stand of evergreen trees when they hear about windbreaks. Actually, a dense grouping of low evergreen shrubs, or ones with a thick branch pattern, can be an effective windbreak when planted close to your house. These shrubs can also be an effective containment barrier for a dog and they certainly are less expensive and more environmentally friendly .

For areas farther from your house, vinyl fencing can create an effective windbreak and barrier for your dog. A solid privacy fence is generally most effective, but some of the more open fencing styles can also disrupt the direct force of winter winds.

From an environmental standpoint, vinyl is not as earth-friendly as wood for fencing. However, when you consider that vinyl is practically maintenance-free, the environmental picture changes. There is a lot of embodied energy consumed to manufacturer and transport paint to periodically maintain a wood fence. Even with regular maintenance, a wood fence will eventually have to be replaced.

The high-quality vinyl material used for fencing is expensive, so the fencing style dramatically impacts the initial cost. A solid privacy fence uses much more vinyl material than a more open fence style.

Many of the vinyl fencing styles are designed to assemble easily. This makes it a relatively simple but time-consuming do-it-yourself project. By saving the labor costs of a professionally installed wood fence, the initial cost of a vinyl fence becomes more competitive.

For the best durability and long-term appearance, select vinyl fencing that uses coextrusion technology. This process applies a sun-resistant cap layer to strong durable vinyl underneath it.

The following companies offer vinyl fencing: Certainteed, www.certainteed.com; Genova Products, www.genovaproducts.com; Outdoor Technologies, www.otivinyl.com; Kroy Building Products, www.kroybp.com; and Westech Fence, www.westechfence.com.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, c/o The Charlotte Observer, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244; or visit www.dulley.com.

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