Solar Screens and Solar Film for Windows, An Overview

If you’re looking for a simple way to reduce home cooling costs, solar film and solar screens can be great solutions. Screens, a special mesh that blocks sunlight from reaching your window, and film, which is essentially a special tinting application that blocks heat and glare, are two cost-effective simple solutions to beat the summer’s heat. By blocking the sun from hitting windows and entering your home or office, you prevent heat from building up that will then need to be cooled by air conditioning.

Advantages of Solar Screens and Film

  • Reduces energy costs associated with cooling.
  • No additional cost after installation.
  • Many contractors will custom install screens or film; conversely, there are do-it-yourself options available.
  • Solar screens can be easily removed during the winter to allow the sun to warm your home.

Disadvantages of Solar Screen and Film

  • Most screens and films will not obstruct your view. However, they will darken your view, allowing less light to enter a room.
  • Solar screens will need to be cleaned. This usually involves a simple hosing down, although with heavier build-up, some heavier cleaning may be necessary.
  • Some people don’t like the look of screens, as they appear opaque from the outside of your home, entirely concealing your windows from the outside.
  • Solar film cannot be removed, so it will block desirable sun during the winter time.

Phifer makes a solar screen called Super Solar 90, which is a vinyl-coated polyester weave that blocks 90% of the sun’s rays. You can buy it by the linear square foot for under $4 a foot. It’s easy to work with in do-it-yourself installations. They also manufacture a PVC-coated polyester screen called Suntex 80 that provides a good balance between shade and visibility. Retailers have also started selling it by the square foot.

Solar film is much like what people install in their car windows to reduce UV rays fading their interior and to stop heat gain. The same principles apply to the tint for your windows at home.

You can have a contractor install high-quality metalized film to tint your windows. Or you can buy high-quality film and install it yourself. Metalized film reflects UV rays as they come into contact with your film. Many metalized films have the added advantage of maintaining your privacy. Cheaper tinting options, such as vinyl tint, can fade, warp, streak when cleaned and become brittle with age.

Solar films come in different varieties, from dyed films, metalized films, deposit films and hybrid films. All possess a layer of dark polyester (the tint itself) and varying degrees of enhancements to make the films more effective. For a brief run-down of the nitty-gritty on each variety, check out TintCenter.com.

Solar films work at any solar trajectory (the sun’s angle in the sky). Many screens work best when the sun is angled high in the sky. Another benefit of film over screens is that an applied film can make your windows stand up to weather better. Screens can be damaged by debris carried by high winds.

When shopping for tint, look for the total heat which is reflected and rejected. “Reflected” pertains to the solar rays that are bounced off the tint. “Rejected” means the infrared light (that’s what heats your home), absorbed by the tinted window and then rejected. The lower the number advertised in either case, means the less light reflected or rejected. For further information on common jargon, you can check out SolarGard.com. If you want a tint application that will work in both summer and winter, choose one with a moderate rate reflectivity and rejection. It will keep your home cooler (though not as cool as one with higher rejection), and will allow more sunlight in during winter months to provide some heat gain provided by the sun.

One alternative option to consider are roll-down shades. They can be rolled out when you want to block the sun and rolled up whenever you want (for instance, during the winter), if you want to increase the sun coming in.

South-facing windows are a priority, as they get the most exposure to the sun. Considerations such as the climate in your area, how complicated you want to get and the money you’re willing to spend will factor into your particular screening or filming approach. Another thing to consider before going with either option is whether screens or film tinting will affect the warranty on your windows. If they void your warranty, they become less of an attractive option.

Solar screens are generally cheaper to install, whereas a commercial-grade tint can be more pricey. Either one is an effective, low-maintenance way to keep your home or business a comfortable temperature and prevent fading and discoloration of interiors.

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