Window Film

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How much can window films save you on your utility bill? A friend claims that they really cut down her bills. Isn't it really expensive to buy?
Anne SV

Be Careful of Warranty Issues When Applying Window Film

We had window film professionally installed almost 20 years ago and I think it was an excellent investment. Our house faces east/west and there are no windows on the north/south walls of the house. As a result, we get heavy late afternoon sun, which is tolerable when we close blinds/draperies and use our ceiling fans. If we did not have the window film in addition, we would suffocate in the upstairs of our house. I don't know whether there is a difference having the film professionally installed versus DIY.

Be forewarned, however, that some window companies revoke your warranty when you apply a film. We have Anderson windows, which started getting a little fuzzy in the corners of the thermal panes (could be related to the age of the window), and when we contacted them to ask about it, their first question was whether film was applied.

Window Film Will Last if Cared for Correctly

Window films help keep the sun out when it is shining in during the summer and reduce the radiant heat allowing you to saving on cooling costs. They also help protect your fabrics and woods by decreasing the bleaching effects of the sun on your furniture and floors. The films are a little expensive, but once they are placed, they last for years if cared for correctly. You cannot use ammonia on them, so just use a dilute soap and water solution when cleaning them. They are also easy to put up if you have a sharp razor knife. Cut the film within 1/8 inch of the edge the window.

Their Cooling Bills Dropped 5%

The initial investment in window film isn't really cheap, but it will pay for itself the first year. We noticed about 5% drop in our cooling bills. We were more comfortable a few degrees lower, as less escaped.

It isn't like replacing windows, but it really helps! Consider how a car feels in summer with tinted windows and then get into one that doesn't have them. There's a big difference in how they feel right off, and how quickly they cool later.

What You Need to Know Before Installing Window Film

Last year, I purchased window film from Lowe's to put on a bedroom window that faces east (and gets a lot of direct morning sun). Before purchasing the window film, the bedroom frequently would get very warm in the summer, even though the shades were drawn and the curtains closed. Although I did not track any particular savings (we'd just moved into the house), I can tell you my experiences in the window film.

  • It blocked a lot of the heat and light, but not all. Although light still came through, it was less intense. Therefore, the heat was less intense. It does, however, block a lot of the heat of the winter sun as well!
  • Easy to see out, but not to see in. The reflective quality of the window film makes it easy to see out (although everything has a bluish hue), but not to see in. This is particularly helpful in bedroom windows.
  • Fabric hasn't faded! Due to the window film, my curtains or bedspread have not faded, which is something I've noticed that can occur without window film.

Now, for installing the window film:

  • Read the instructions before you begin. This may sound like a no-brainer, but do it! You should actually read the instructions in the store before purchasing the window film. Depending on the film, a special spray may be recommended, and you'd hate to find that out when you get home and are preparing to install it!
  • Take notice of any prep work. Installing window film means there may be some required prep work, like washing windows (and letting them dry completely), measuring the window panes (to ensure the size of the film you purchase is correct), gathering any supplies needed to install the film (will you use scissors, or a utility knife? Is the blade sharp? Do you need clean rags for any liquid "overflow"?), or even clearing away curtains or furniture, or taking down window shades.
  • Take your time. Trying to hurry is a straight shot to making mistakes. Take your time. Remember the old saying: Measure twice, cut once./li>
  • Call in a favor. Window film can be delicate and can tear easily. It can be cumbersome and slick when wet. If you windows are high, there is the added challenge of climbing on a ladder, holding a wet, slick, delicate piece of window film, plus any necessary tools for applying it (like a rubber wedge to smooth it into place). Having a friend help can make the difference between a well placed and efficient window film, or too much frustration and aggravation.

Hanging window film can lower the temperature of a room, save fabric from discoloration, and may offer some privacy. However, it must be installed correctly to do so.

There Are Different Types Of Window Film

Yes, it is immediately effective used on a window the sun hits. While the sun is shining on the glass, you can hold your hand over the covered glass and the uncovered glass and notice the difference. Your electric bills will also go down, due to less cooling required in the home, and your home will be more comfortable. (We are in sunny, hot California.)

I think it's about $25 a roll from what I remember. However, I've used two different kinds over the years (in different homes) and I must warn you not to get the one that is similar to very thin aluminum foil. It comes in a long rectangular box, all rolled up, just like aluminum foil, and one side is adhesive. It is absolutely a nightmare to put up. It folds in on itself quite easily and sticks and cannot be undone. When you are trying to put up a sheet of this stuff that is four or five feet wide and keep it smooth on the window, it is just horrendous. Ours is up, but there are creases, and I used about twice what was needed, due to the folding in on itself problem! Once it's on the glass, it is like cement and never moves so you must get it right.

I have used a second kind, but I couldn't find it in this town. It is thicker and goes on so easily! One sprays the glass with water (using a spray bottle) and spreads the sheet on and it stays. If it needs moving around, it's so simple. Just pull it off and do it again. It's very dark. You may think it will be too dark to see through, but it's not. You barely notice it's there. (I think Wal-Mart has it.)

I couldn't find the second type when I was ready this time, and bought the first type. Never, never again! I even wrote to the company and complained! After I went through the agony, someone told me Wal-Mart sells the second type.
Mary J.

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