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Solar Shades 101

Updated on January 22, 2015

Solar Shades Overview

Solar shades, or sun shades, as they are sometimes referred to, offer a great solution for the modern home. The most popular feature is the ability to block ultraviolet rays from damaging your furniture or flooring, usually while maintaining your view. In addition, solar shades do a fabulous job of insulating- that is blocking heat, or even keeping warmth in during the winter. There are tons of options available, from interior to exterior solar shades, multiple brands of material, manual vs. motorized shades - and much more. Solar shading has become a mainstream window covering, from commercial shades to upscale, and even more modest homes. Most window covering companies carry a line of solar shades, but I would really recommend looking for a company that specializes in Solar Shades - like the one I work for in San Diego. As you will see from this article, there are lots of things to consider when choosing the style of shade you want, much more than your typical budget blind man really understands.

UV Protection

Solar Shades come in a variety of materials and degrees of protection. When we talk about fading furniture or flooring solar shades are a perfect solution. Most window tints, even the darkest of tints, don't afford the level of protection you can get with a solar shade. Basically, a solar shade is a mesh material, usually a fiberglass or polyester yarn wrapped in a PVC coating. The tightness of the weave, coupled with the thickness of the yarn correlate to the UV block. Typically solar shades are purchased in the 90 or 95% UV block, but are available in dozens of unique percentages. There are several textile mills that manufacture the material- Phifer, Twitchell, Mermet, Vertilux, and Ferrari are a few.

Interior vs Exterior Solar Shades

The first thing to consider is whether you want your shades on the inside or outside. There are severaladvantages to exterior shades, for example:

1. They afford better HEAT protection - usually in the 80% range, while interior shades fall anywhere from 30-70%

2. Outside solar shades are, quite obviously, invisible from that inside, meaning they do not change the decor of your home

When done correctly, exterior shades are the ultimate in shading. The consumer does have to be careful, however. A lot of "shading" companies use interior materials, or home-made systems on the outside, and they will not hold up. When

considering an exterior solar shade make sure to evaluate an engineered unit designed specifically for the outside- like the CLEARVIEW MOTION SCREEN or the world screen to name 2 of the more popular. In addition- make sure to go with a motorized shade if you're mounting outside. It can be very frustrating otherwise- and heavy!

Why then would anyone go with an interior solar shade? Simple- price. Interior shades are typically less than half the cost of exterior shades. While they are similar in function, they share no components in common. Whether you select manual or motorized interior solar shades still offer an elegant solution to glare and heat, while preserving your view.

Solar Shades cut glare

Besides the UV protection, most people think of blocking glare when it comes to solar shades. Can't see your flatscreen TV or computer? Solar shades can eliminate the glare. It is important to note that color plays a crucial role here.

White shades- or lighter color shades- reflect light, and so they do not cut the glare nearly as well as darker, or blacker shade materials. A lot of designers and window covering "experts" don't understand this- so make sure you see a large sample in your window before you decide on color of shade-cloth.

Solar Shades and Heat Protection

As mentioned above, exterior shades do a better job. Once the heat penetrates the glass, however, interior shades can still combat heat. Again, color plays a factor. Lighter color cloths provide much better heat protection than darker cloths. Each and every solar shade material has a lab rating for heat block- its called the shading coefficient. If the "expert" your talking to doesn't know this- find another.

Manual or Motorized Solar Shades

Manual shades have come a long way from old fashioned rollers. There are lots of companies offering roller shade parts, but I'd stick with Roll-ease continuous chains and clutches. They set the standard in the industry. The same with Somfy and motors- make sure your solar shade provider is a certified somfy expert if you're purchasing motorized shades.

Solar Shade Summary

There are lots of applications for solar shades- commercial to residential. Solar shades offer a great alternative to traditional window shades. Make sure to pick a company that specializes in your application- ask questions, and you'll be sure to get a product that is as functional as it is beautiful.


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