Solar radiation contributes about 30% of a home’s cooling costs in the USA, and both window tint or window film and solar screens are designed to reduce the heat and UV entering the home, but which one is better?
Solar screens are physical barriers made of fabric that attach to the windows and the outside of the home, while window tint is a film applied to the glass to insulate and deflect UV and heat from the sun away from the interior and maintain visibility.
There are some significant pros and cons of each, and depending on what you are looking for in your home, either could be more than sufficient to achieve a cooler, more energy-efficient interior environment
Solar Screens Vs. Window Tint – Installation & Cost
The DIY option is not recommended for either of these solutions as you need to have some proper skills to install them properly. The window tint needs to be applied correctly and allowed to dry.
The solar screens require fitting to the exterior of the windows outside, and again this should be done by qualified personnel to ensure correct fitment and efficacy of the solar screens once installed.
Window tint is usually more expensive to install, and this is due to the materials and installation time required to cut and fit window tint properly.
So in this category, the honors are slightly in favor of the window tint.
Solar Screens Vs. Window Tint – Visibility
Here is where we start to see the split between the two options. Solar screens are fabric, so they are solid barriers, and this will significantly reduce the visibility through the screens from the interior of the house.
If your solar screens have 80% screening, you only have 20% visibility to the outside, and from both a security and view perspective, this is not ideal. If you have a junkyard view from your lounge, this would be ok, but to block off a pristine ocean view doesn’t make sense.
Window tint does come in degrees of shade, so you can pick a lighter or darker tint depending on the level of protection you want, but regardless of the tint, you still have 100% visibility through the tint to the outside.
Solar Screens Vs. Window Tint – Energy Efficiency
Most homeowners look at either of these to reduce the heat and glare, keep the home cooler, and use less energy on interior cooling. In this category, the solar screens win hands down.
Solar screens prevent the sun’s rays from penetrating the glass and reduce the level of solar thermal radiation that gets into the house. Window tint doesn’t prevent the sun’s heat from entering, so the solar screens are much better if you need a cooling solution.
It should be remembered that window tint deflects 99% of the UV and reduces glare, and this will also reduce the temperature inside, possibly not as much as solar screens, but it will still make a difference and reduce energy costs.
If you have had window tint applied to your car windows, you will immediately notice the difference in the internal temperature before and after application.
Solar Screens Vs. Window Tint- Aesthetics & Maintenance
So far, the solar screens have shown to be more effective in reducing the interior temperatures of the house when applied to the windows and are cheaper, but in this category, they aren’t as favorable.
Because solar screens are fabric, they tend to attract and trap insects and debris, and this means that you need to clean them regularly to prevent them from clogging up with dirt, dust, and dead insects.
You may end up paying 50% more to window cleaners if you have solar screens, as there is more labor involved than cleaning tinted windows as tint requires no special cleaning or preparation inside or outside.
This is because to clean the windows, the solar screens need to be removed, cleaned, and replaced, and the windows need to be cleaned as well; this is why some homeowners don’t bother with cleaning external windows if they have solar screens.
This means they require more maintenance than window tint does. Window tint needs to be applied correctly to prevent bubbling, but it requires very little maintenance besides the occasional hose down to remove dirt and dust once it’s on.
Plus, even if tinted windows get dusty, it does not affect the transparency, while clogged solar screens add to the lack of visibility, and the sight of expired insects outside your window is a bit of a mood killer.
While homeowners do appreciate the cooler internal environment, the prospect of having to clean out the solar screens may reduce the enthusiasm for fabric protection.
Solar Screens Vs. Window Tint – Longevity
This is another win for window tint as this solution will last for the life of your home, presuming it is properly installed, but solar screens will only last around ten years or so, and this is due to the nature of their design.
Their continued exposure to sunlight will inevitably lead to their demise, and when this happens, the exterior of your home won’t look very appealing at all.
Window tint doesn’t fade, and even after 20 odd years, your windows will look just as bright and shiny as they did the day the film was applied.
There are some concerns that window tint can cause thermal shock to insulated windows, but this is only if the wrong tint is applied or the installer is not properly qualified.
As far as lifespan goes, the window tint wins that battle.
Each solution has its distinct advantages and disadvantages, but it would seem that window tint brings a little more to the table than solar screens do. If you simply want to cut the level of heat in the home regardless of aesthetics or maintenance, solar screens are the best option.
However, if you are looking for a heat reduction solution that does not affect your view, will last longer, and requires no additional maintenance, then window tint would be the best option, but the ultimate decision lies with you.