Great Spaces • Sun, sun go away

Posted on 14 Apr 2009 at 11:27am
By Howard Lewis Russsell

Window tinting can save on utilities, preserve furnishings and deliver a great look to a home


Dan Palya, co-owner of Alta Mere/Atwood Window Films on Lemmon, stands in front of outside windows tinted with a nano-ceramic reflective film, a cutting-edge technology that preserves views while it keeps the sun from blinding the home’s occupants during the brightest part of the day. Photo by ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

In our sobering new economic downturn, residential window tinting, like hand-woven wool carpets or swag curtains with silk tassels, may rank as one of God’s ways of saying you’re making too much money. (To quote Maurice Sendak, "There must be more to life than having everything.")

However, in a sun-drenched city like Dallas, window tinting comes closer to the category of necessity than it does to last year’s superfluous luxury. Furniture, carpets, draperies and artwork can all be severely compromised by sunlight, causing untold solar damage to fabrics and furnishings every year.

But it’s not just protection from damaging rays. Myriad new window films available in the market today offer every conceivable benefit, from purely decorative to reinforcement protection from break-ins and even bomb blasts.

Minimally, a good tinting will keep both the heat out in the summer and add insulation in the winter, providing one’s home with a moderate and consistent climate year-round — in the long run saving both energy and money.

Alta Mere Window Tinting/ Atwood Window Films offers multiple brands of residential window films to choose from. According to Alta Mere’s co-owners, Mike Gleason and Dan Palya, the top selling films "exceed expectations of discerning consumers who are increasingly concerned about comfort, aesthetics, safety and security in the home."

Security? Really? Yes. Of course tinting can control fading, reduce heat, glare and UV radiation. But products are available including "18mm-thick safety/ security commercial films, specifically designed for reducing glass mitigation in the event of such destructive forces as hurricanes, tornadoes and even explosions," says Rick Dietel, owner and president of Amersol Commercial and Residential Window Films.

"For residential window films, the no. 1 issue is usually fading; the no. 2 issue is increased comfort level; and no. 3 is glare reduction," according to Dietel.

Ordinary window glass lets in about 70 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and though new varieties of high-performance window glass (commonly called "low-e" glazings) provide some protection, even the best of these still transmit 26 percent of damaging UV rays — still too much for sensitive silks and satins.

Not all fabrics fade at the same rate; depending upon the type of dye, method of application, fiber, finish and even color, one pillow may show wear must faster than its neighbor on your sofa. Unless you’re a scientist who knows the molecular structure of dye molecules, the main thing to remember when purchasing fabrics — whether for upholstery, draperies or rugs — is that compared to manmade dyes, natural dyes fade very easily. Even in artificial light, all fabrics (no matter what their dye) fade eventually.

Artwork is also affected by UV to different degrees, depending on the media used. Watercolors, for example, are highly susceptible to UV degradation. Natural wood, when exposed to sunlight filtered through ordinary window glass, typically bleaches completely if unfinished, and wood varnishes become either yellow or darken.

Even diffused light coming in through windows facing north contains more than 60 percent of the damaging UV radiation coming in through windows facing direct sun exposure. (In fact, about the only home décor materials that won’t noticeably fade in sunlight are wicker, driftwood, polyresin and Plexiglas: the four interior design elements of the apocalypse.)

You could prevent fading by closing heavy curtains, of course, but tinting is meant to accent visibility. The top products installed by Alta Mere — HanitaTek, Llumar and Huper Optik — offer surprisingly effective protection. Huper Optik nanotechnology films cut out more than 99.9 percent of UV rays, and also provide "the added feature of low reflection at night so that views are not obscured," as well as affording the additional safety of reducing glass fragmentation in the event of accidental breakage, according to Palya.

In addition to light, tinting "increases up to 70 percent of the total solar heat energy rejected," Dietel says. "Best of all, the new generation of window films is only 1 to 2 percent more reflective than clear glass, making them virtually unnoticeable. Indoor houseplants thrive better as well, the reason being that window film cuts out so much Dallas heat. Most plants require very little sun for photosynthesis."

And for those customers desiring privacy — whether it be for a shower door application or for a garage door, or anything in between — Alta Mere offers what is known as "frost" films: decorative films with a white tint that, while allowing in light, furnish an opaque surface that adds an element of privacy.

"Any Dallas resident with an east, west or southern exposure will benefit from some sort of window tinting," Palya says. Free estimates are available, with an average cost range from $4 per square foot of film up to $10. Additionally, customers receive a 2009 tax credit up to 30 percent of what is spent on materials, with a cap of $1,500." "The average 2009 customer will save anywhere from at least $200 to $500," he says.

And during tough economic times, that sounds more and more like a darned good investment.

Alta Mere Window Tinting/ Atwood Window Films, 4302 Lemmon Ave. 214-521-7477. Altameredallas.com.

Amersol Commercial & Residential Window Films, 9750 Skillman St. 214-503-9977.

This article appeared in Dallas Voice’s print edition of Great Spaces magazine April 17, 2009.

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