Shopping for solar shades is often a new experience for consumers, who may have many questions about the product. Solar shades have advantages over regular shades because they are made to block the sun better, and you still have a view when they are drawn. They also help you maintain your privacy. You can buy solar shades for your windows and for outdoor areas where you need privacy or shade. There are lots of choices for styles and materials, so shopping for solar shades can be a challenge.
The first things to consider when shopping for solar shades are how well the shades cool your house, apartment or business, and how opaque they are to the outside world. If your windows take a beating from the morning or afternoon sun, heating up rooms and making your home uncomfortable, you may need solar shades. Or, if you live in an area where there are a lot of opportunities for people to look in your windows—on purpose or inadvertently—then you should consider solar shades.
Good solar shades should block up to 90% of the sun's heat and UV rays. Some come in polyester or fiberglass and have a reflective coating. Others are weaved with a solar-control film. You'll find solar shades with a silver-colored backing that reflects some of the sun's heat. You'll find solar shades in black, but lighter shades that reflect heat work best.
When considering opacity, consider the shade's openness rating. The lower the rating, the less light the shade will allow in, meaning it's more opaque. A shade with a 5% openness rating tells you that 5% of the fabric in the shade is transparent and 95% is solid. A lower openness rating means a shade is more opaque. So if the openness rating is 1%, you probably won't be able to see outside when the shade is pulled down. Solar shades with an openness rating higher than 10% lose their ability to deflect heat, but are easy to see through.
Solar shades aren't just for windows. You can use them for screened in porches, patio shading, gazebos, skylights, and any situation that needs shading from the sun. Indoor solar shades offer both better energy efficiency and privacy, while outdoor shades are retractable and go up and down based on the position of the sun.
Interior Solar Shades
Solar shades for the indoors maximize your home's natural light and allow you to use less energy. The can also be motorized or manual and can raise or lower automatically depending on the position of the same.
Interior solar shades come in a variety of colors to match any decor. Even "black out" solar shades come in a variety of colors. The term black refers only to the shades ability to block the sun.
Indoor solar shades are especially helpful in older homes that have single-pane windows with a low R value (an efficiency rating for thermal resistance). Solar shades increase the efficiency of older windows to as high as R6, which translates to energy savings of up to 60%. Inefficient windows can add 10-25% to heating bills and up to 75% to air conditioning bills.
Exterior Solar Shades
With outdoor solar shades, your main concern isn't energy efficiency, but shade and comfort. On a patio or deck, the shade can function like a wall. They can create the effect of a 3-season porch. They can have an energy savings effect by getting you outside more, thus reducing your need for air conditioning. Also, solar shades on your deck, patio or balcony can provide and extra layer of protection from the sun for your interior.
Outdoor solar shades can be as simple as a deck screen or elaborate systems of multiple shades that raise and lower depending on the position of the sun. Materials used for outdoor shades need to be resistant to UV rays and weather conditions. They should also be sturdy enough to resist punctures and tears. If you maintain your property and take precautions to protect your solar shades, they should last for many, many years. Outdoor solar shades are also available as motorized or manual and can raise or lower automatically depending on the position of the sun.
You may want to have your solar shades custom fitted. If you do, be sure to hire a knowledgeable contractor. They'll be able to help you decide on what type solar shade is right for your home and sun situation.
You'll find an almost endless number of materials available for solar shades. Each manufacturer seems to have its own type of material. The key questions to ask any manufacture are some the points already discussed. What is the material's "openness" percentage? Is it made of a silvery or lighter material that deflects the sun's rays or is it black? What are the color choices? Are there manual and motorized options?
Once you decide on your solar shades and have them installed, the energy savings and comfort you enjoy will make it worth all your efforts.