A new category has emerged within the siding industry: insulated vinyl siding. Originally available from only one manufacturer, insulated vinyl siding is now offered by five vinyl-siding makers: Crane, RMC, Norandex/Reynolds, Heartland Building Products, and CertainTeed. Backed by Progressive Foam Technology's contoured Fullback expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam material, insulated vinyl siding "doubles the choices in vinyl," says Pat Culpepper, Progressive Foam's president and CEO.

Compared with other exterior underlayments, Progressive Foam says, Fullback can reduce energy costs by as much as 20% when fiberglass and other traditional insulation materials are used throughout a home.Not only does the EPS backing propel vinyl siding into a thermal category, it also makes these products more rigid and durable than hollow siding. This makes vinyl siding easier for installers to handle, says Phyllis Vail, marketing manager for Wolverine Siding Products, which manufactures insulated vinyl siding accessories.

Also, the Fullback backing creates a vinyl product that "doesn't have the same expansion and contraction issues as traditional vinyl," says Jim Ziminski, president of Crane Performance Siding.

"It's improving the choice selection dramatically," says Culpepper of the many new insulated vinyl siding products on the market. "When consumers see it, they want it and they're willing to pay for it."

The popularity of fiber-cement siding products is spurring the growth of insulated vinyl siding, adds Culpepper. "In the last couple of years, it's become evident that fiber cement is a competitive threat to vinyl," he says.

The Fullback backing "overcomes some weaknesses in ordinary vinyl and [makes vinyl more competitive with] fiber-cement products because of its increased rigidity," says Allen Duck, marketing director for Heartland Building Products.

With so many insulated vinyl siding products available, and all using the same EPS foam backing, manufacturers differentiate themselves with their vinyl veneers. "Each individual system has different performance characteristics based on the vinyl veneer that each uses," says Culpepper.

For example, CertainTeed's TrueComfort insulated siding has a patented feature that helps set it apart. "One of the big differentiators for us is our STUDfinder feature, which no one else has," says Barbara Dennis, director of marketing for CertainTeed's Siding Group.

Several new siding offerings in other materials are available as well. We feature five of them below.

CertainTeed. Backed with 1 inch of contoured polystyrene foam insulation, new TrueComfort vinyl siding helps increase a home's R-value, resists impacts, and allows moisture to escape, says the maker. Available in double 4-inch and double 5-inch clapboard and a double 4-inch Dutch lap, TrueComfort comes in 10 colors. (800) 233-8990. www.certainteed.com.

Norandex/Reynolds. Polar Wall Plus! Exterior System insulated vinyl siding reduces energy losses up to 25%, according to the maker. Its laminated polystyrene foam backing also strengthens the vinyl siding, providing greater impact resistance. Polar Wall Plus! is available in a double 4-inch clapboard and a double 5-inch Dutch lap, both of which feature a low-gloss, light cedar wood-grain finish in several colors. (330) 468-2200. www.norandexreynolds.com.

James Hardie. Three new colors have been added to the maker's ColorPlus Collection of prefinished fiber-cement siding products, including lap and shingle panel siding, trim boards, fascias, and soffit panels. Redwood, Slate Blue, and Colonial Grey round out the collection of 11 colors. ColorPlus siding products are covered by two warranties: a 50-year limited transferable warranty against rotting, cracking, and delaminating; and up to a 15-year finish warranty. (866) 442-7343. www.jameshardie.com.

RMC. InsulSiding insulated vinyl siding has an R-value of 4.3. Available in traditional and Dutch lap profiles, InsulSiding features a positive locking system and a lifetime warranty. The foam backing is treated with AFM Corp.'s Perform Guard, which deters termites and carpenter ants. (419) 332-9465. www.rmcsiding.com.

Shakertown. Made of Western red cedar, new Craftsman 1-Course Cedar Panels feature concealed nailing and overlocking end joints that give the finished application a seamless appearance and reduce material waste by 5%, says the maker. The panels come 8 feet long and have a 7-inch exposure. Craftsman 1-Course Cedar Panels are available in natural or primed white or come prefinished in a semitransparent oil stain in four colors. (800) 426-8970. www.shakertown.com.

Heartland Building Products. Vinyl CedarMAX Thermal Siding features the EP-Xtra Foundation of Protection foam backing to increase impact resistance. Treated with AFM Corp.'s Perform Guard to repel termites and carpenter ants, CedarMAX's foam backing also increases energy efficiency, says the maker. CedarMAX is available in a double 6-inch clapboard profile with a low-gloss cedar-grain finish. The siding can withstand winds of more than 165 mph. (800) 432-7801. www.heartlandsiding.com.

ABTco. ColorSide prefinished hardboard siding is now available in a D5 profile, with two 5-inch-wide horizontal traditional planks in each 12-inch panel. ColorSide features a deeply embossed cedar grain and an interlocking, self-aligning installation system. Each 16-foot-long panel is backed with a rigid, 1/2-inch-thick substrate. The siding comes in five colors. (877) 777-6158. www.lpcorp.com.

Nichiha. The fiber-cement Sierra Premium Shake now comes stained as well as primed. The stains simulate the look of mahogany, maple, redwood, and cedar and are backed with a 12-year factory-applied-finish warranty. The maker says the stains are applied to bring the shakes' cedarlike grooves into high definition. (866) 424-4421. www.n-usa.com.

Crane. CraneBoard Double 7 solid-core insulated vinyl siding is now available in a 7-inch profile. The Energy Star-approved product has an R-value of 4.0 and is 300 times more impact-resistant than traditional vinyl siding, says the maker. (800) 366-8472. www.cranesiding.com.

Alside. Six dark vinyl siding colors make up the new Architectural Colors Collection, available on the maker's Charter Oak Vinyl Siding and Soffit and Trimworks accessories. The low-gloss dark colors are protected from UV rays, humidity, hot temperatures, and acid rain by the LUCITE acrylic compound that is fused to the pigments. (800) 922-6009. www.alside.com.

For more product information, visit ebuild , Hanley-Wood's interactive product catalog.