With energy costs continuing to rise, homeowners are looking for ways to reduce electricity bills. One option that is growing in popularity is installing solar screens on windows. But can solar screens really help cut cooling costs and save money?
This article will take an in-depth look at how solar screens work, their benefits, factors to consider when buying them, typical energy savings, costs, DIY vs professional installation, and products offered by Arrowhead Solar Screens.
How Solar Screens Work
Solar screens are mesh screens made of materials like aluminum, fiberglass, or vinyl that are installed on the outside of windows. They are designed to block and reflect sunlight and heat before it can enter the home through the glass.
This reduces the solar heat gain that raises indoor temperatures, allowing less cool air from the air conditioner to escape. Solar screens provide shade and also create an insulating buffer zone of stationary air between the screen and window to further reduce heat transfer.
Types of Solar Screen Materials
Common solar screen materials include aluminum, fiberglass, and vinyl. Aluminum screens with a tighter mesh reflect more sunlight while allowing air to pass through. Fiberglass screens filter sunlight well but are less durable. Vinyl-coated polyester screens offer effectiveness, durability, and flexibility.
Benefits of Solar Screens
Reduce Air Conditioning Costs
By blocking up to 70-80% of solar heat from entering the home, solar screens can significantly reduce the need for air conditioning in hot weather. This leads directly to lower electricity bills, since air conditioning can account for over half of a home’s energy use in summer. The U.S. Department of Energy found properly installed solar screens can cut annual cooling costs by 7-15%.
Lower Peak Energy Demand
Solar screens are especially effective at reducing energy usage during the hottest times of day when the sun is shining directly on windows. Lowering peak demand saves money and also benefits utility companies by reducing strain on the power grid on sweltering afternoons.
More Comfortable Home Environment
Along with lowering temperatures, solar screens prevent sun glare and block UV rays that can damage furnishings. This creates a more comfortable indoor environment year-round. Less condensation also means lower humidity inside. With solar screens, reliance on air conditioning is reduced, so windows can be opened more for fresh airflow.
Considerations When Buying Solar Screens
Climate and Weather
The benefits of solar screens will be maximized in homes with hot, sunny climates that use a lot of air conditioning. Areas with more moderate temperatures may see more limited savings compared to cooler regions where they may not be worth the cost.
Home Energy Efficiency
It’s important to have an energy-efficient, well-insulated home before installing solar screens. This ensures they will be effective and have maximum impact on energy savings without wasting cooled indoor air. Consider upgrades like weatherstripping and insulation first.
Proper installation is key for solar screens to function correctly. They must be securely mounted in the window frame to create a tight seal that prevents airflow around the edges.
Average Energy Savings from Solar Screens
Studies have shown solar screens can reduce air conditioning costs and cooling energy usage by anywhere from 25-80%, with typical savings averaging around 40%. According to the Florida Solar Energy Center, solar screens can lower cooling bills by around $150 per year for the average home. Experts recommend screens with at least a 60-80% shade coefficient for optimal performance and energy savings from reduced solar heat gain.
Variables That Impact Savings
Screen Material and Quality
The type and quality of material affects solar heat-blocking ability, with tighter aluminum mesh and darker colors reflecting more sunlight. Poor-quality screens may sag over time and lose effectiveness. Look for screens that block at least 90% of UV rays.
Home Size and Windows
Larger homes with more numerous and expansive windows exposed to sunlight will benefit more than small homes. South and west-facing windows receive the most direct sun exposure, so they are ideal candidates for screens.
Climate and Weather Patterns
Areas with hotter climates, like the southwest, will see greater savings than cooler northern regions. Consistent sunny weather means consistent energy reductions from solar screens compared to cloudier locations.
Ways to Maximize Savings
Strategic Window Placement
Install solar screens on windows that receive the most sunlight – typically on the south, east, and west sides of the home. Prioritize windows hit with the afternoon sun. Properly positioned trees, awnings, and other shading can complement screens.
Whole Home Approach
Take a comprehensive approach to energy efficiency upgrades before adding solar screens. This ensures they will augment savings instead of making up for energy leaks from poor insulation, old equipment, etc.
Proper Use and Maintenance
Keep screens free of dirt and debris that can reduce effectiveness. Repair any holes, tears, or sagging screens to maintain tight seals around windows.
Professional vs. DIY Installation
Professional Installation Benefits
Hiring a professional ensures correct installation for maximum efficiency. Installers have the proper tools and experience for a tight fit and can provide product warranties. Professionals also optimize placement room-by-room.
Homeowners can install solar screens themselves, but mistakes can lead to poor energy savings. DIY’ers need the right mounting hardware, tools to create tight seals, and knowledge of optimal screen positioning. Without professional equipment, installation takes much longer.
Additional Benefits of Solar Screens
Protection from UV Radiation
In addition to reducing energy costs, solar screens also offer protection from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. This is particularly beneficial as UV rays are known to cause skin damage and fading of furnishings within the home. Most solar screens can block up to 90% of UV radiation, thus providing substantial protection for the inhabitants of a home and their possessions.
Solar screens help increase privacy during daytime because it’s harder to see into a window that has a solar screen compared to regular glass windows. Homeowners can enjoy natural light without the worry of prying eyes.
Enhancing Aesthetic Appeal
Beyond functional benefits, solar screens also enhance the curb appeal of homes. They’re available in various colors and designs that can be chosen to match the exterior decor of a house. These screens add a sleek, modern touch that can provide a significant enhancement to a property’s aesthetic values.
Misconceptions About Solar Screens
Solar Screens Block Views
While it is true that solar screens darken windows and reduce glare by filtering sunlight, they still allow for plenty of visibility from inside the house. In fact, many homeowners find that they enhance exterior views by reducing harsh glares.
Solar Screens Make Rooms Dark
Solar screens control excessive light entry, which doesn’t necessarily mean it makes rooms dark. They reduce glare and yet allow adequate natural light in so you would still be able to enjoy daylight in your living spaces.
Tips for Choosing the Right Ones
There are a few considerations when investing in solar screens for your home. Some factors include:
- Solar Transmittance: This determines the amount of sunlight passing through. Depending on your home’s exposure and lightning needs, the level can be decided.
- US Building Codes: Make sure your screens meet local building codes and regulations.
- Manufacturer Reputation: Stick with manufacturers that have strong reputations for quality and service.
- Consider Professional Consultation: Before making a decision, you may want to get a professional consultation to understand what type and shade of solar screen would be most beneficial for your specific needs.
Commonly Asked Questions About Solar Screens
Can Solar Screens Be Cleaned?
Solar screens are low maintenance, but they will eventually collect dust, pollen, and other outdoor elements, which might reduce their effectiveness over time. Screens can be taken down and cleaned with mild soap or detergent solution and a soft bristle brush. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry before reinstalling.
Can I Use Solar Screens on Skylights or Greenhouses?
Yes, solar screens can be used on any windows, including skylights or greenhouses, where sunlight causes unwanted heat gain. They are especially useful in such places as they offer significant heat reduction while allowing sufficient light transmission for plants.
Do Solar Screens Block Out Wind?
Solar screens block much of the sunlight and UV rays, but they are not designed to block wind. Because the screens are permeable, they allow airflow, which doesn’t hamper the purpose of windows to facilitate ventilation in a house.
Can Solar Screens Help During Winters?
Solar screens can offer some insulating benefits during colder months by creating a buffer zone between window glass and outdoor air. This can somewhat reduce draftiness while still allowing needed solar heat gain to help warm your home naturally.
Installing solar window screens is an effective way for many homeowners to lower air conditioning costs and save significantly on cooling bills. While variables like climate and house size impact savings, solar screens can typically reduce energy usage by 25-80% when properly installed. Carefully consider the costs and benefits for your specific situation to determine if they are a smart money-saving investment.