Installing Home Window Film
© bignai / Adobe Stock

Your windows might give you a great view, but they also let in summer heat, glare, and damaging UV rays and give would-be thieves a chance to browse your valuables. With window tinting film, you can enjoy your view without the downsides.

While window tinting can keep you cooler and protect your privacy, not every tinting film works the same way or is suitable for every home. To get the results you want, take some time to learn how residential window tinting works.

    Pros: Lower Cooling Bills and Improved Home Security

    Model House Bathed in Sunlight
    © tomertu / Adobe Stock

    Tinted windows let you enjoy you home more in summer, discourage burglars, and help your furniture last longer.

    Cooler summer temperatures – Home window tinting can block up to half the sun’s heat in summer, potentially reducing your summer utility bills by as much as 30 percent. Tinting is an easy, inexpensive alternative to replacing your existing windows with low emissivity (low-E) or triple-pane models.

    In certain locations, such as California and Arizona, some utility companies offer rebates to customers who install home window tinting.

    Less glare – In addition to holding back the heat, window tinting also tones down the light that enters. You can keep your curtains open without irritating bright sun in your eyes.

    Better home security and safety – Dark home window tinting obscures the view into your home so potential burglars can’t easily see your valuables as they walk around casing the neighborhood. You can keep your curtains open to enjoy the daylight and the view, but still feel safe.

    Tinted security film adds another layer of protection by preventing broken glass from shattering. A potential burglar would need to tear their way through the film, rather than quickly stepping through the broken window. It also keeps you safer in an accident and after storm damage.

    Protection for carpets and furniture – By blocking 99 percent of the sun’s UV rays, solar window tinting protects your carpets, walls, soft furniture, and other surfaces from fading and early deterioration. This is especially helpful if you have dark furniture, which tends to show fading quickly. You won’t end up with a bleached out spot on the carpet just because you didn’t close the curtains on summer days.

    Cons: Visible Wear and Less Winter Warmth

    Model House Covered in Snow
    © zoomingfoto1712 / Adobe Stock

    In a cold-winter climate, you might not always appreciate the reduced sunlight. Getting window film installation right is tricky, and a small error during a DIY installation job can mean failed film.

    Fewer benefits in cooler climates – In a cool climate, solar film can reduce the amount of winter sunlight and warmth coming through the windows so much that you’ll need to raise your thermostat to compensate. That can counteract any savings you might have gained in summer.

    No extra privacy at night – If you’re considering window tinting for security reasons, remember they offer much less protection after sunset. Even with tinting, if you have your lights on and curtains open at night, passers-by can still see into your home.

    Installation difficulties  – Installation is more difficult on windows with multiple small lites (panes of glass). Thick window frames and protruding latches can also interfere with installation. On windows like these, the film is more likely to crease or bubble.

    Maintenance and wear – Home window tinting typically lasts for at least 10 years, but can often keep doing its job for up to 30 years. Within the first five years, though, it often develops minor creases and bubbles. These flaws don’t impair the tint’s function, but they can look unsightly. Even if the film is installed correctly and well maintained, you’ll eventually need to replace it.

    Risk of thermal breakage – Window film increases thermal stress on the window. If the film is installed incorrectly or the window has a slight crack or another flaw, the glass can crack. Even a barely visible fracture puts your window at risk, so if your windows are older, inspect them thoroughly before you apply a film.

    What’s more, some windows and films just aren’t compatible. Solar film isn’t recommended for single pane windows larger than 100 square feet, and not all films can be applied to metal-frame windows.

    Depending on your window manufacturer, applying window film could void the warranty. Some tinting manufacturers offer to match the window manufacturer’s warranty, though, so you’ll still be covered.

    Potential fire hazard – Highly reflective window film can create glare that can annoy your neighbors and produce concentrated heat that can burn their lawns and damage their property. Some evidence suggests these windows can even start fires.

    Choosing the Right Tint for Your Needs

    Window Film on Home Office Windows
    Window Film on Left Hand Side Windows
    Photo Credit: Mackenzie Kosut

    Before you start shopping around for home window tinting, get clear on your goals. Many window films can do multiple jobs, but they don’t all work the same way.

    The most basic window tinting film reduces sunlight and glare, but does nothing else. If you want to control both the light and heat coming in, look for solar or low-E film. Want to let visible light in, but keep UV rays out? A spectrally selective film lets you do that. This film is even available in completely clear designs that won’t dim your view at all. To learn more about allowing visible light while blocking UV rays, read our informative article that details steps to prevent sunlight entry through windows.

    If you’re aiming to improve your light and heat control, look for a film that carries the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) label. The NFRC is an independent, non-profit organization that tests and certified window products for energy efficiency.

    On home window tinting products, the NFRC label tells you about the product’s energy efficiency based on its solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) and visible transmittance, which indicate how well the film blocks heat and light respectively.

    If strengthening and shatter-proofing your windows is one of your goals, you’ll need security film. Unlike ordinary window tinting film, this film is designed to resist impact and tearing. Combined solar and security film isn’t uncommon.

    If you’d like more privacy and want to add visual interest to your room, look for a decorative window film with a frosted or stained glass pattern. You can also check our comprehensive guide on why you need frosted window film.

    Correct Installation Matters

    Window Film Being Installed
    © Missyphoto / Adobe Stock

    You can install window film yourself, but the job requires close attention to detail. First, you’ll need to thoroughly clean the window. A mixture of 1 qt. water and 1 tsp. baby shampoo is ideal for cleaning because it dries clear. You might also need to scrub the window and clean dirt from the frames. Any traces of dust, grease or cleaning products on the window can prevent the film from adhering correctly.

    Wet the clean window with the water and soap mixture, apply the film from the top of the glass downward and the liner outward. Once the film is on, remove the liner while spraying it down to prevent static. Then carefully squeegee the window from the center outward to remove the water and air bubbles.

    Finally, use a razor blade to trim the film to fit the window, leaving a 1/16th inch gap between the film and window frame.

    Follow the application instructions precisely, or you’ll end up with dust specks and air bubbles, which are unsightly and, in more severe cases, can cause your film to fail early. If you want a flawless application without the hassle, talk with a window film or residential glass specialist.

    With the right home window tinting, you can enjoy your home’s view without uncomfortable summertime heat buildup or glare in your eyes. Solar films with security features help reduce the risk of break-ins, too. Before you buy, though, do your research to make sure you get the film that performs the way you want.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Henry Parker

    Henry Parker

    Henry Parker is a home improvement enthusiast who loves to share his passion and expertise with others. He writes on a variety of topics, such as painting, flooring, windows, and lawn care, to help homeowners make informed decisions and achieve their desired results. Henry strives to write high quality guides and reviews that are easy to understand and practical to follow. Whether you are looking for the best electric riding lawn mower, the easiest way to remove paint from flooring, or the signs of a bad tile job, Henry has you covered with his insightful and honest articles. Henry lives in Florida with his wife and two kids, and enjoys spending his free time on DIY projects around the house. You can find some of his work on Today’s Homeowner, where he is a regular contributor.

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