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Window Films and Shades
Window films and window shades can help keep cooling costs under control this summer
Living on the sunny side of the street can sometimes have a downside. When too much light shines through a home's windows, it can not only cause glare on reading materials, computer and TV screens, but can also cause carpets and fabrics to fade from ultraviolet rays, and create hot-spots that result in excessive inside heat build-up in the summer.
Solar control window films, which apply with adhesive directly onto the interior of glass, and shading systems, which install on the inside of windows, are easy retrofits that can eliminate or reduce some or all of the negative effects of sunlight while preserving the view to the outside.
Let's Roll the Film
Most quality window films are made of metallized film polyester film with a thin layer of metal, often a titanium metal alloy, incorporated into it. Some manufacturers of window films use a process called "sputtering to apply the metal and bind it to the polyester film for an enduringly smooth, clear appearance.
The metal alloys are very effective at reflecting light and heat. In addition, some films integrate a clear ultraviolet filter that blocks up to 99 percent of UV light, providing fade and sunburn protection.
Window films are available in a broad range of tints, such as bronze and gray, as well as neutral tones that are virtually invisible on windows. Many have a scratch-resistant coating that eliminates any need for special precautions in cleaning.
The lifespan of window films is affected by a number of factors, including the type of film, the type of glass, window construction, the direction the window faces and geographic location. All quality window films are warranted by their manufacturers for a minimum of five years, and many can be expected to last for 15 years or more.
Costs for standard window films run between $3.50 and $5.00 a square foot installed, while high-end films can cost $15 to $20 a square foot, notes Chris Sugai, president of Solar Art, an L.A.-based professional installer of solar-control window films. "Homeowners with window film installed generally use less air conditioning and achieve a savings of about 8 to 15 percent annually in utility bills,
Most window films are professionally installed onto clean windows prepared with a soapy liquid solution that ensures optimal adhesion, although homeowners can install some types of window films themselves. The films come on rolls, either as bare film or with a backing sheet that, when pulled off, exposes the adhesive.
Solar Gard and Panorama window films, from San Diego, Calif.-based Bekaert Specialty Films, and Vista, from CPFilms based in Martinsville, Va., are examples of films that require professional installation, while Gila Residential Windows Films, also from CPFilms, can be installed by homeowners. Briefly, here's how these films compare to each other.
Solar Gard. This architectural window film is sputter-coated with durable metals such as titanium, stainless steel, copper, gold, silver and bronze. The distinct combination of metals determines the film's performance capabilities and color. Solar Gard is available in four series: Stainless Steel, a gray-toned film with a low reflectivity quality; Solar Bronze, which provides high heat rejection and privacy; Aluminum, which offers optimum privacy with minimal heat transmitted into the home; and Low-Emissivity (Low-e), which helps prevent interior heat loss through glass and is therefore well suited for colder climates.
Vista. Highly transparent laminates of polyester and metallized coatings, Vista films block 99 percent of UV light and have a scratch-free face coating for easy maintenance using standard window cleaning products. Four types of Vista films are available: Neutrals, which block UV light and are virtually invisible, enabling optimal outdoor views; Dual Reflectives, which are highly reflective on the outside to reject solar heat but less reflective inside to reduce reflection of indoor lighting at night; Low Emissivity (Low-e) films, which reduce heat loss in winter and lower solar heat gain in the summer; and Spectrally Selective films, which provide excellent light transmission while substantially reducing solar heat gain. As an added safety benefit, all Vista films will hold fragments in place if the glass if broken.
Panorama. Panorama window film is available in a number of different series, including HiLite 70, which has several layers of metals like titanium oxide, gold and silver to block 99 percent of UV light while transmitting high amounts of visible light. The film has a lifetime warranty and sells for about $15 to $16 a square foot including professional installation. Other versions include neutral, dual-reflective films that reject solar heat and UV light without being traditionally dark or highly reflective. In addition, thicker safety film versions are available for enhanced protection in the event of glass breakage.
Gila. Designed for do-it-yourself installation, Gila Residential Window Film is a self-adhesive window film sold at home improvement retailers. The film is available in several versions, which can block UV rays, reduce glare and reflect up to 70 percent of solar heat in summer. Homeowners can select from two levels of heat control: Platinum, which reflects up to 70 percent of the sun's heat, and Light, which reflects up to 55 percent of heat. Gila also provides products designed for glare control, fade control and privacy. Costs vary according to product and size, though the average cost is less than 90 cents per square foot.
Other brands of window film include Llumar, which can cut from 12 to 93 percent of incoming light and eliminate 72 percent of solar heat gain through the glass and 99 percent of UV light; V-Kool, which produces films with spectrally selective coatings that provide optimal day lighting while reducing solar heat gain and fading; and 3M Window Films, which include Scotchtint sun-control films and Scotchshield safety and security films.
Save With Shades
Another good way to control the amount of the sun's heat that enters your home is to install solar shades to the interior of windows. These shades are made in a variety of ways. Some are composed of polyester or fiberglass materials that have been coated with a reflective material or woven with vinyl-coated yarns, and some are made of material that has solar-control film (basically the same material used in window films) integrated into it. In others, the fabric is often a polyester weave coupled with silver backing that reflects heat.
When choosing a solar shade, be sure to check the openness rating, which conveys the "see-through percentage of the fabric. A 1-percent openness rating means that 1 percent of the fabric is porous and 99 percent of the material is solid. A 10-percent openness rating means that 90 percent of the fabric is solid and the fabric is very sheer. A zero rating connotes a blackout shade.
Fabrics carrying a 5-percent rating are the most popular because they offer a good balance between light blockage and views. Fabrics with ratings over 10 percent start to fall more into the decorative rather than solar-protection category.
The color of a solar shade also affects its performance. Lighter shade materials reflect light better but decrease the view to the outside. Darker shade materials provide a better view, but because dark colors absorb light and heat, dark-colored shades are less energy efficient than lighter-colored shades. However, room-darkening shades with a light backing will reflect incoming heat.
Both motorized and manually operated solar control shades are available. Typically, a motorized shading system includes roller shades, Roman shades or draperies, an internal or external electric or electronic drive unit, a wall-mounted or handheld controller, and wiring to the household electrical system or batteries. The system also includes communication links enabling, for example, control of one shade or a grouping of shades to fully open, close or stop at any pre-programmed point.
In addition, some motorized shading systems can be interfaced with light-dimming controls, including timers and sensors, for maximizing the benefits of illumination through natural light and for integration into automated controls for the room or the whole house.
There are a variety of solar shades and shading systems available on the market, including the following:
Sivoia QED. The Sivoia QED (Quiet Electronic Drive) window shading system from Lutron Electronics features controllable roller shades, Roman shades and drapery systems in a broad range of fabrics, including environmentally friendly materials that are free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and toxins known as halogens. The system, which is low voltage, features a motor located in the tube at the top of the shade.
Fabrics are available in three families SheerShade, Privacy and Blackout which are differentiated by the density of the fabric weave, the amount of light allowed to pass through and the quality of the view afforded. The sheer-weave SheerShade fabrics, for instance, control glare and heat build-up in the room, while the denser-weave Privacy fabrics block most of the view in or out. Blackout shades are for darkening a room up to the level of total blackout.
Sivoia QED window shades work with Lutron wall-mounted seeTouch keypads or hand-held remote controls, and can be grouped and adjusted electronically. They can be easily linked to Lutron lighting control systems to provide one-button control of all the light in a space, and can be integrated with other systems, including audio/visual products, security and climate control. Perhaps most importantly, they're sure to make life on the sunny side of the street just a little bit cooler.
William and Patti Feldman are frequent contributors to Smart HomeOwner. They're based in New York.
When choosing a solar shade, be sure to check the openness rating, which conveys the "see-through percentage of the fabric.
"Homeowners with window film installed generally use less air conditioning and achieve a savings of about 8 to 15 percent annually in utility bills.