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7 Things to Know Before Tinting the Windows at Home

7 things to know before you tint the windows in your home

Dealing with home windows that are energy inefficient, weak, or outdated? Or just thinking of a renewed appearance for your home window? Tinting a home window screen from the inside with aftermarket window film is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to increase the energy efficiency, safety, even curb appeal of your home without replacing your windows.

While most residential window film is a lightweight, self-adhesive polyester coating made from polyethylene terephthalate (the same polymer used to make plastic water bottles), not all window film is created equal or worth your investment. Read on to learn about the different options as well as the benefits and drawbacks of home tinted windows, so you can decide if this window treatment is right for you and how to install it with the best results.

  1. Different types of window film provide different benefits.

There are three main types of window film, each of which is installed on home windows for a different reason:

  • Solar: This option is recommended if improving energy efficiency is your primary reason for tinted windows in your home. Thicker than decorative film but thinner than safety film, solar films absorb or reflect (most products combine both) up to 99 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This regulates the interior temperature (so rooms stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter), reduces glare, prevents fading of interior furnishings, and ultimately increases interior comfort and energy savings. The film is generally sold in neutral tones ranging from silver to copper.
  • Security: If preventing storm damage or deterring thieves is your biggest concern, install security film, the thickest of all film types. Most security films (usually clear or silver) do not absorb or reflect much heat. In the event of a storm or home break-in that damages the window, they prevent the window from shattering completely by restricting the damage to one large crack, actually allowing your window to hold up longer.
  • Decorative: As the thinnest window film of all types, decorative window film absorbs or reflects minimal heat; its main purpose is to beautify or add privacy to a room. It is sold as a clear or bold colored film in a variety of embossed patterns (such as stripes), stained glass motifs, or frosted opaque designs that keep staring eyes away.
  1. Not all types of window film are compatible with all types of window glass.

As noted in the previous section, different types of window film absorb varying degrees of heat, which some windows are equipped to handle and others…not so much. Most security and decorative films block minimal heat and therefore do not put much thermal stress on the windows. Unless advised against by your manufacturer, you can generally apply them to the three common types of window glass: annealed (basic flat glass), heat-treated (annealed glass that has been exposed to high temperatures), and insulating (consists of two layers of glass with an intermediate layer of air or gas), with minimal risk of damaging the window glass.

However, the International Window Film Association recommends avoiding solar film in the following situations because the film’s higher rate of heat absorption increases thermal stress so much on these types of window glass that they can crack:

  • Clear annealed glass thicker than an inch or having a heat absorption rate of more than 50 percent
  • Tinted tempered glass more than ¼ thick
  • The insulating glass that is more than 10 years old or has had seal failures

If in doubt, consult your window manufacturer’s documentation to identify a compatible window film.

  1. Installing window film could void the window warranty.

Many homeowners report window damage to their manufacturer and discover that they voided the window manufacturer’s warranty by applying window film to the glass panes. In fact, many window manufacturers will not cover defects caused by window modification with aftermarket window film because of the potential for certain types of window film to cause damage to certain types of window glass. So please pay attention: You should never start tinting the windows in your home without first confirming if your window manufacturer’s warranty supports the application of window film.

  1. Windows without energy efficient coatings benefit the most from tint.

Older windows without low-emissivity (low E) coatings (a thin layer of metal oxide on the glass) that block heat can take full advantage of the energy savings that tinting offers. Newer windows with low-emission coatings already provide homes with a measure of energy efficiency, so your interior comfort and energy savings may not be significantly increased by applying window film to these windows.

  1. Tinted house windows are inexpensive.

It will cost you as little as $2 to $4 per square foot to purchase aftermarket window film from a home improvement center (see example on Amazon) and install it on the windows in your home yourself. Meanwhile, professional installation typically costs between $5 and $8 per square foot, according to cost guides on ImproveNet, a home improvement planning website. That would work out to as little as $27 to $54 for a single window pane DIY tint job that measures 3’8″ by 3’8″! Based on these calculations, window film is generally cheaper than other popular sun-blocking window treatments;

  1. It is easy to install by yourself.

Installing a window film yourself is a task you can certainly do. Before you tint your windows, wipe them down with a soft, lint-free cloth dampened with a solution of one teaspoon of tear-free baby shampoo and one gallon of bottled water. Next, cut an aftermarket window film with a utility knife to be ½ inch longer and wider than the window glass you plan to tint. Finally, remove the adhesive backing from the film and gradually adhere it to the window glass from top to bottom. As the film adheres, lightly spray the surface of the film with the remaining baby shampoo solution and run a plastic squeegee or credit card in one direction across the surface to remove any air bubbles trapped in the film. Allow the film to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which typically takes four to eight days.

Potential pitfalls of DIY window tinting, such as dirt or cleaner streaks appearing under the film, scratches in the film from cuts or bubbles and wrinkles, are all reasons some homeowners opt for a professional installation to ensure a better polished, flawless finish. But meticulous DIY window film installation can produce similar high-quality results.

  1. Tenant-friendly options exist.

Solar, security and decorative window films are sold in three permanence options:

  • Temporary varieties that can be easily and cleanly repositioned or removed (ideal for renters)
  • Semi- permanent varieties that are removable with some residue likely left on the window due to the film’s adhesive
  • Permanent varieties that are not designed to be removed

Decorative film is most often sold as a temporary tinting solution, making it an option for commitment-phobic renters or homeowners, while solar and security films are typically semi-permanent or permanent tinting options, making them more suitable for homeowners.


Hello, I’m Rachel Collins. Until recently, I ran my own patchwork quilt business. Having retired from that I have turned my e-commerce site into this blog where I discuss business, home and garden and lifestyle topics for you to enjoy...

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