Window Film vs. Exterior Shade Systems

It can be difficult to strike the balance between allowing the benefits of natural light into spaces while avoiding the unpleasantness of overheating, glare, and fading. Click here to learn about two options.

Block the Sun, Not the View

Installing window film or an exterior shade system can be one of the best ways to upgrade your building. Gaining control over the light that passes through your windows makes the interior more comfortable and energy-efficient. How do you know which solution is right for you?

As energy efficiency and occupant wellness become the focus of our buildings, daylighting is front and center in the creation of sustainable, healthy environments. Building owners want to know how to strike the balance between allowing the benefits of natural light into commercial spaces while avoiding the unpleasantness of overheating, glare, and fading.

There are several ways to address these questions. High-performance window film and exterior shade systems both control the impact of the sun’s rays through windows, for improved comfort, lower utility bills, and reduced energy usage. But one impacts your view and the other last longer for less upfront investment. Let’s dig into the differences.

Exterior Shade Systems

Exterior shade systems manage the amount of direct sunlight that reaches the windows. A variety of systems are available. They consist of overhangs, vertical fins, exterior louvers, and blinds that are affixed to the exterior of your building. Some have automated features, that enable the system to retract or tilt based on outdoor weather conditions.

The advantages to an exterior shade system are significant heat and glare reduction in the windows nearest the system, without the reliance of lowering window shades or closing blinds. The absence of window coverings means occupants situated near the window with the exterior shade system, will still benefit from access to natural light and outdoor views.

The disadvantages are the high installation costs, altered aesthetics, and fees for ongoing maintenance associated with retrofitting a commercial building with an exterior shade system. In the case of fixed overhangs or fins, this style won’t solve solar heat gain problems entirely. For example, an overhang will provide shade for a south-facing window in the summer, but won’t have any effect on blocking low afternoon sun from entering a west-facing window.

Solar Window Film

Like exterior shade systems, high-performance window film reduces hot spots, glare and allows for access to natural light. Unlike exterior shade systems, window film is applied directly to all windows, evenly reducing the impact of UV rays and solar heat gain.

Window film doesn’t alter either the building’s exterior profile and aesthetic or impede views from the inside out. Compared to exterior shade systems, window film is affordable to install, and because it’s applied to the inside of the windows, it requires virtually no maintenance.

If you want to save energy costs, window film has been shown to improve the insulating capacity of existing commercial windows by up to 92%. The highest performing window films transform single-pane windows to have the same insulating performance as double-pane windows while providing double-pane windows with the same insulating performance as triple-pane windows.

If you are looking for the most cost-effective and versatile way to improve the comfort and performance of your building, window films are an ideal solution. If you have any questions about window film or are interested in upgrading your windows, give us a shout and we’d be happy to help.


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