In its standard form, neither vinyl siding nor fiber cement does much to insulate your home. What they do provide is protection from both weather and critters. Where brick and stucco can crack, well-installed vinyl or hardiplank siding will keep your home sealed tight.
However, for those who want to increase their home’s energy efficiency, know that there are vinyl siding options that come with a layer of insulation. While most homes in most climates are insulated between their interior and exterior walls, an additional layer between the exterior walls and the siding will greatly increase your home’s insulating ability, or r-value.
Keep in mind that this insulated siding will keep warm air inside your home during the winter and keep the heat of the sun outside during the summer. Vinyl siding does absorb heat during the summer, and an insulation layer will prevent that heat from transferring into your home.
If you are the type of green-minded homeowner that also cares about fuel consumption during the transportation of building materials, also know that vinyl siding is incredibly light, meaning getting the siding to your home requires the minimal amount of fossil fuels.
On the other hand, fiber cement is made from more sustainable materials. Because the wood pulp used in the manufacture of fiber cement is made primarily of wood waste, it doesn’t require the harvesting of trees like natural shingles nor the use of fossil fuels like vinyl. Finally, while there are plenty of eco-benefits to vinyl, disposal of used vinyl siding is a big concern. Disposal of fiber cement is much easier on the environment.
Additionally, even perfectly installed vinyl siding is water resistant, not waterproof. While this distinction may not be too big of a deal under most weather conditions, places where wind-driven rain is common — especially hurricane-prone areas — water can find its way behind your vinyl siding, causing some of the same issues mentioned above.
Plus, wind and debris can more easily damage vinyl siding, as vinyl shows impact more easily and can be pulled in sheets off of the side of your home. If you live in warmer, sunnier climates, this weakness can be exacerbated, as sun and heat can make otherwise flexible vinyl more brittle. In fact, in hurricane regions, fiber cement may actually perform better in terms of both water and wind resistance.
Also, if you do suffer weather damage, fiber cement does have the advantage of being easier to repair. If a portion of a vinyl siding panel is damaged, then the whole panel needs to be replaced. However, if the same amount of damage is done to fiber cement siding, you may just need to replace a couple of individual shingles. This is a much smaller job than a whole panel replacement.
In both cases, durability is contingent upon proper installation. While vinyl may be slightly more durable, if installed properly, both hardiplank and vinyl siding are far more durable than natural options.