Ask an Expert: Why Window Film is a Low-Cost Way to Reduce Energy Costs

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These days, emissions reduction is on everyone’s agenda. Homeowners in particular are searching for new, cost-effective solutions to their energy problems—and they’re recognizing that AC efficiency is part of that equation. Accordingly, window technology is on the rise—there are newly available options that reduce heat gain and ultimately keep cooling costs reasonable. Since the early 90s, the window film industry has been a key player in that movement, providing an affordable alternative to expensive low-emissive glass with many of the same benefits. Window film, a polyester laminate applied to the surface of window glass, reduces solar radiation by blocking UV rays entering the home, which drives down energy consumption.

We wanted to find out more about window film and its history, so we asked Darrell Smith, Executive Director for the International Window Film Industry Association, a body of dealers, distributors, and manufacturers that promote awareness of window film. Smith has been involved with the industry for over 30 years, and in that time, he’s learned a lot about the material’s benefits.

Compared to other energy-efficiency upgrades, he says, window film installation offers homeowners a bigger bang for their buck. It costs a fraction of the price of new windows, and ultimately reduces a home’s “hot” and “cold” spots, so that HVAC units don’t have to work as hard to regulate temperatures throughout the interior. In fact, Vista Films, a window film manufacturer, estimates that at around $5.00 to $10.00 per square foot, window film works out to about five to ten percent of the cost of a new Low-E window. Smith says those savings also translate to homeowners’ energy bills—households with window film installed could potentially reduce costs by seven dollars for every dollar spent on installation.

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Sunlight isn’t just driving up energy costs in homes, however; it also puts residents at risk for UV exposure. According to Smith, the glass in an average window only blocks about 25 percent of the UV spectrum—what’s known as UVB rays. So you might not get a sunburn from your kitchen window, but you’re still at a higher risk for skin damage or even cancer. On the other hand, Smith says, windows with film installed block an impressive 99 percent of UV rays. That’s not just good for your health, it also protects the life of your furniture as well. The same UV wavelengths that cause skin damage are also responsible for discolorations in wood, laminate and fabrics.

Smith says he’s a passionate conservationist, and in his 20 years as Executive Director, he’s tried to steer the industry toward emerging green technology, monitoring and lobbying for better “building codes, energy efficiency programs, environmental (green) efforts, changes in construction methods, and new product/technology developments involving windows and glass-type materials.” And it’s this type of forward-thinking focus that drives window film manufacturing and sales. He describes it as “a constant whirlwind of ideas about improving products and the installation techniques used,” and predicts a bright future for his field. “The diversity and ingenuity used to develop new ways to deliver ever greater customer satisfaction seems boundless. As long as that type and level of drive continues to propel us, the window film industry will continue to reach new heights.”