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Window Film vs. Solar Screens

October 23, 2012 | 4 comments

Solar heat gain through windows accounts for up to one-third of the cooling costs in a building, according to an annual publication from the U.S. Department of Energy. Window film and solar screens are two options that are often used when it comes to controlling solar heat gain to reduce electric bills and save energy.

Solar screens are fixed, framed panels made of dense mesh or fabric that are mounted on the exterior of a window. They serve the same purpose as window film: to stop heat transfer and block UV rays. The specialty mesh or fabric blocks harmful rays and reduces glare, which can improve energy efficiency, prevent furniture and carpet from fading, and stop UV rays from penetrating the glass. Some solar screens are permanently attached to windows, while others are removable.

The dense mesh used in solar screens can affect how a building looks from the exterior; it can also affect views from inside. The type and thickness of material used in a solar screen can also block airflow through an operable window, which is a factor to keep in mind if opened windows are used to provide ventilation or control temperature. Solar screens tend to collect dirt, debris, and bugs, which means they need to be cleaned often to prevent further view distortion. Because different weave densities are available, solar screens are rated by “openness factor” (a measure of how much they obstruct views).

Just like solar screens, window film improves energy efficiency, stops fading, provides protection against UV rays, and reduces glare. Window film is a laminate made of strong polyester and metalized coatings bonded by adhesives. It can be clear, colored, reflective, or patterned, and is available in a variety of selections (security film, low-e film, etc.). When solar radiation hits the window, window film reduces UV rays and regulates the heat and lighting levels that pass through.

Window film usually doesn’t block views to the outside like solar screens do, so tenants/occupants don’t lose sight of the outdoors. It doesn’t collect dirt or debris, so it can be cleaned less often than solar screens. Low-e window film also allows for energy savings year-round, reducing heat loss in the winter and both solar and non-solar heat gain in the summer. It reduces the heat  entering in the summer months, and retains certain heat  during winter.

Have you used solar screens or window film on your commercial building? What benefits did you see as a result?



  1. Sam
    May 1, 2014

    We found that many people in Austin (Texas) are choosing solar window screens. Film rests against the window. In the summer, with over 300 days of sun here and our high heat – the film conducts the heat to the window glass and then convection allows the interior of the room to continue heating, particularly in West or Southern exposures.

  2. Lee Kilpack
    May 2, 2014

    I have been trying for months to find the perfect Solar Shades Las Vegas. I may have to seek outside help.

  3. Vista
    May 6, 2014

    Thanks for your note, Sam. We wanted to clear up a few pretty common misconceptions about window film. The performance of many window films is certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council, so there is no doubt as to how effective window film is at reducing solar heat gain (often reducing solar gain by 50-70% or more). Many utilities, in Texas and elsewhere, also offer rebates for installing window film (as you referenced in another post), so they are also confident in film’s ability to reduce the need for cooling and to help save energy. As for conducting heat into a room, it is important to note that most films work by first reflecting a large portion of the solar heat away, before it can be absorbed into the window glass or directly transmitted into the room. While some absorbed heat can be conducted into the room, it is a very small percentage of the total solar heat shining on the window. We hope that will help you clear up some of the confusion for people in Austin who may be trying to pick the right window film! Here’s a link to a blog post we did last year about common window film myths. Might be an interesting read for you!

  4. Vista
    May 6, 2014

    Hi Lee! We can help you connect with someone if you’re looking for assistance with selecting window film.

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