Which Is Better, Window Tinting or Sunscreens for the Home?

Tinted windows and exterior sunscreens both reduce visible light in the home, lowering the temperature and the cost of cooling the home in sunny climates.

Advantages to Tinted Windows and Sunscreens

The fine weave on sunscreens allows air circulation while providing shade.The fine weave on sunscreens allows air circulation while providing shade.
There is no consensus on which method is better because the decision depends on the window's use, whether the tint is created with a film on an existing window and the flexibility that the owner prefers.

Both tinted windows and sunscreens can reduce heat from the sun by reducing the light (and thus heat) that enters through the glass as well as the heat absorbed by the glass and transmitted into the house. This last effect is measured as "solar heat gain co-efficient."

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tinted Windows

Tinted windows only limit sunlight when the window is shut. With this method, you can enjoy either shade or air circulation, but not both. This limitation may not be an issue for some windows, such as a decorative foyer window that doesn't open. The tinted pane itself can absorb solar heat and transmit it into the home. This process is especially important when tinting existing windows with a film. Solar heat that isn't reflected or transmitted can be trapped between the pane and an improperly applied film, creating temperatures that stress the pane and affect the windows' warranty.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sunscreens

Sunscreens can reduce visibility from the outside more than tint. Unlike tinting, sunscreens allow solar heat to circulate away before being absorbed by the panes and transmitted into the home. According to the Efficient Windows Collaborative, this circulation can reduce a window's solar heat gain co-efficient by 30 to 70 percent. Sunscreens also give homeowners the flexibility of opening windows to increase air circulation and removing the panes in winter to allow more solar heat, which reduces heating bills.

About the Author

A writer since 2005, Elizabeth Ontaneda is a planner and consultant specializing in housing and organizational development. She has developed training curricula and written materials for the nonprofit Urban Homesteading Assistance Board and has presented at the Annual Conference of the Council of New York City Cooperatives and Condominiums. She holds a Master of Science in urban development planning from University College London.