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All About Window Tinting

Window tinting is a sub-section of a broader category of window upgrades more accurately called “window film”. While some tint, others offer no tint or privacy but do increase impact resistance. Read on to learn if adding tint to your home’s windows is worth it, as well as the methods for installation, types of tint available, and more.

Exterior of home with tinted windows. iStock

If you stand near your sliding glass door or window in the summer and feel like you’re in danger of actually melting, well, you might not even stop to ask, “Is tinting house windows worth it?” and move right into, “Why didn’t I know about this until now!?”

If you’re looking for a DIY, or even Do It For Me project, that has all the earmarks of a rapid payback, window tinting is just such a project.

Once you start looking into it, there is a variety of products, price ranges and providers that also come with a blend of differing results. This is a good problem to have because this mix of products looks to solve a lot of different problems with the same basic idea: A film adhered to glass.

Is Tinting House Windows Worth It?

There are three main reasons a window film might work for you. Solar gain (heat coming through the glass), privacy, and security. While we’ll focus on the tinted house windows pros and cons here and tips for how to tint house windows, there are also films that help retain heat in colder climates, and even ones that harden the glass, making it more impact resistant. Some products may offer a combination of these features.

Researching the products and features that best suits your needs and budget can be done online, at retail, or through a specialized window tinting contractor. Generally speaking, the products install the same way.

Window Film

When it comes to tinting, window film is typically installed on the interior surface of the glass. It is a DIY-able project in the same way that hanging wallpaper can be a DIY project. There is a process of cleaning and wiping down the glass that you really want to be sure you do correctly.

Window Tint Installation

You’ll likely need some squeegee type tools and “cards” often sold by the film manufacturer, along with a spray bottle and a utility knife. A long-bladed, (25-mm) snap-off utility knife may be better on a project like this than a typical trapezium-bladed knife.

25-mm knives are very sharp, and the length of the blade may offer some “reach” while cutting the film along an edge guide that stubbier blades don’t. Whichever style you use, start the project with a new blade. If there is even a hint that the blade isn’t cutting as well as it was, replace the blade.

While all projects require some degree of planning and care, window tinting calls for a high degree of meticulousness. It’s vitally important to clean the glass before installing the film— any leftover dust keeps the film from adhering in that spot.

The film must be handled carefully to ensure fingerprint-free installation. The process also involves cutting the film once its installed, then screeding out any bubbles (always working from the center toward the edges

On the other hand, window film is inexpensive, so making multiple attempts until you get in the swing of things isn’t the end of the world.

Types of Window Film

Window films have overlapping feature sets so it is important to list primary and secondary features when determining what individual product will serve your needs best. If keeping summer heat out and enhancing daytime privacy are important to you, select a mirrored product that meets with your budget needs.

If you don’t like the mirrored—or full black-out—look, select a transparent film. If heat retention—holding heat in, rather than keeping it out—is higher in your hierarchy, make that a primary feature and look for products that blend in other features you may also want (tinted/not tinted for example).

Same with security. If you’re hardening the exterior of your home, make shatter-resistance a primary feature and build sub-features in to your product selection.

Pros and Cons of Tinted House Windows

Window tinting yields an instant change for the better. Some of the pros of window tinting include keeping your home cooler, reducing glare, and enhancing privacy (some tints make it harder to see from the outside into the house; some offer total blackout).

Certain manufacturers suggest their tinted films reject upwards of 70% of the solar energy (heat) and glare that pours through the glass and 99% of UV rays. Window film’s energy savings has a multiplier effect too. One the one hand, it is passively reducing heat loss in winter and heat gain in warmer months. Simultaneously, the load on the HVAC unit is diminished—it works less hard and less often to maintain a comfortable temperature.

And while many modern windows have Low-E coatings, argon gas-filled panes, and other light-filtering features, UV rays may still get through and fade furnishings. Adding a tinted film will help. Think of it as sunscreen for your living room.

Window films may also be a budget-saver when remodeling because, they can enhance existing windows’ performance and longevity, assuming the existing windows are in good shape. There’s a big difference between the cost of a sheet of thin plastic and the cost of an entire window.

Efficiency of Tinted Windows

As far as determining which house window tinting will resist the most heat transfer through it, look for the SHGC rating—Solar Heat Gain Coefficient. The lower the number, the better, according to the International Window Film Association. (Replacement window glass has to go through the same rating process.)

Another potential cost savings is with your local utility in the form of a rebate. Combined with a low barrier of entry to buy the film and tools, significant energy savings, lower fuel consumption for your HVAC—and not having to buy replacement windows—the performance gains and budget savings with window films and window tinting are hard to ignore.

Protection

Finally, hardening. Window films are flexible and can spread the load of an impact, say a flying tree branch, out over a wider area than unprotected glass can. The film makes the otherwise brittle glass more durable and much, much harder to break.

A car’s windshield is designed with layers to work on a similar principle. If you live in a hurricane or tornado zone you may already know that wind damage is at its most catastrophic once the air is blowing inside the house, and the easiest route in through the windows. For this reason alone, window films may be a worthy investment.