We here at Vinyl Verified monitor press coverage about vinyl matters every day to ensure the facts about the material prevail throughout the public discourse.
Recently, we noticed a sudden spike in stories containing misleading and inaccurate information about “solar distortion,” a so-called phenomenon where reflected sunlight from a specific type of modern window can melt vinyl siding on nearby structures.
A closer look revealed that many of these segments were exactly the same. They featured the same script and video footage in their stories. And further research showed that a similar report containing the same misinformation was previously aired by numerous news outlets in 2015 and again in 2017.
It turns out these stations simply re-aired a pre-packaged segment provided to them by an outside organization, where reporters failed to do any original research or fact-checking of their own.
That’s not sound journalism. And when it misleads the public, it does a disservice to viewers.
We’ll take this opportunity to clarify the facts.
The Facts on Solar Distortion
Solar distortion happens when sunlight is concentrated and reflected by modern, energy efficient window panes onto a neighbor’s property. These newer windows reflect sunlight at a much higher intensity than older window designs. Heat generated by that reflection can cause damage to a wide variety of materials, including furniture, vehicles, and–under rare circumstances–vinyl siding.
The chances of solar distortion affecting your home? Extremely small. Vinyl siding has been the most popular siding option, due to its durability and affordability, for almost two decades, and only a very small fraction of houses with vinyl siding have been impacted by solar distortion. And it’s nowhere near the epidemic the press desperately wants viewers to believe.
It takes a unique and specific set of circumstances for solar distortion to impact vinyl siding. If your house has not been affected in the past, it is not likely to be affected in the future. This can change, however, if windows are replaced (either on your home or your neighbor’s) with ones that are more likely to concentrate the sunlight, or if something that blocked sunlight (like a tree) is removed.
How the Media Gets it Wrong
The important takeaway here is that this “phenomenon” is not caused in any way by vinyl siding. It’s caused by newer “low-e” windows that are installed on nearby structures where the light happens to reflect in a particular way. And that key fact is often overlooked or under-emphasized by reporters who cover this issue.
As we noted above, news stations across the country are running a pre-packaged, four-year-old report on solar distortion provided to them by Angie’s List. Angie’s List pitched the same video to news outlets back in 2015. Now media outlets are airing the exact same advertisement “story” again – without doing any fact-checking of their own. Our research shows that this exact same segment, word-for-word, ran on almost a dozen stations in 8 cities.
The segment is a recycled, air-time-filler that spends its entirety critiquing vinyl siding. And that’s odd, because Angie’s List has, in the past, touted the many benefits of vinyl on other occasions. The recent report claims there is some ambiguity as to who is at fault when windows damage vinyl siding. But in every case, the evidence is overwhelming that energy efficient windows are at fault for causing the damage.
Contractors and homeowners alike choose vinyl siding because it’s affordable, stylish, durable and efficient. Consumers deserve to have the facts about the material, instead of being subjected to misleading claims by news outlets that have done no original reporting of their own on the issue.