Monday, May 18, 2009

Tech Focus: Solar Screens vs. your old windows

It's hard to avoid all the commercials touting the benefits of new high efficiency windows for your home - especially now that you could be eligible for a tax credit when you replace old windows. But before you lay out big cash for new windows, you may want to consider an option you may not be familiar with: solar screens.

Solar screens fit over your existing windows to help block UV rays and reduce the amount of heat coming into your home. They are typically made of a mesh material in varying levels of "blockage" ranging from 70 - 90% and come in both fixed and roll-up versions. In some ways, these screens act similar to the "glare film" you may have seen at hardware stores, but with significant advantages - and a far better look.

As you might imagine, solar screens appear to be far more common in hot, sunny areas like Texas and Arizona as compared to Cincinnati. Yet that doesn't mean we can't benefit from their use. While the main goal for homeowners in those more sunny areas is to reflect heat and reduce AC usage, some of these screens are meant to be "flipped" in the wintertime so that they act as solar heat collectors. Some of the advantages that are routinely touted by vendors include:

  • Achieves energy savings between 30 and 40% in both summer and winter
  • Reduces sunlight damage/fading of indoor furnishings and artwork
  • Provides privacy without losing outdoor views
  • Reduces or eliminates air leakage through windows
Yes, surely, they are the best thing since sliced bread! Flip comments aside, when you compare the cost of a new window ($200 and up) vs. the cost of a screen (in the $50 and up range) it's just basic economics to evaluate which one is going let you actually save money.

There are many valid reasons for replacing old windows, but buying them simply for energy-efficiency should probably not be your primary driver. That, however, I leave as a discussion for another day....

Check these vendors to see some of the many options available for solar screens:

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