Replacement windows cost and light: Low-e glass vs. film

July 26, 2011

Spectrally selective, low emissivity (SS low-e) sounds like something out of Star Trek, and it's been around almost as long as the original TV series. In the late 1970s, scientists found they could apply a microscopically thin layer of metal and metal oxide to glass to "block high levels of heat-generating infrared light, while allowing most visible light to pass through," says Dave Barista, Managing Editor of Building Design & Construction Magazine in an online article, "Spectrally Selective Glazing, More Daylight, Less Heat Gain."

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More quality light, less heat

In the past 40 years, manufacturers have figured out how to add two layers to make more energy-efficient, low-e windows with excellent visibility; they've also added spectrally selective coatings, which are optically designed to filter out infrared light, while allowing visible light. According to Barista, leading glass producers PPG Industries sells a product that keeps up to 73 percent of the sun's energy out, while allowing 64 percent of its light in. These top windows manufacturers use Low-E glass in their windows:

  • Anderson: High-Performance Low-E4, SmartSun and SunGlass
  • Marvin, Simonton and CertainTeed/MI Windows: LoE3-366 from Cardinal

More quality light, less cost

Replacement windows cost more than window film, which can be a less expensive solution to your quest for energy-efficient windows. Film diffuses glare and softens harsh sunlight. Available in a variety of tints and intensities from charcoal to copper and bronze, window film is also available in decorative tropical designs, art deco or frosted, etched, embossed and "stained glass."

Window film installation can be a relatively easy DIY project, though for more expensive tinted windows, you'll want to consider professional installation, depending on the type and cost of film and recommendations of the manufacturer. Top manufacturers provide a wide range of window film products, including these:

  • 3M™ offers Sun Control Window Films and Fasara™ Decorative Window Films.
  • Solar Gard® window films are coated with titanium, gold, silver, copper and other metals for both performance and color.
  • Concord® offers a variety of standard residential film, as well as decorative, opaque and transparent color window film.
  • SunTek® offers Ultra-VisionDS™ window film, which is spectrally selective and has a low reflectivity for an unaltered view.

You can also buy a limited selection of window film at home improvement stores, but websites such as WallpaperforWindows.com and WindowFilmWorld.com have huge selections of window film online.

More quality light, more choices

Energy and cost savings, increased light and views, improved comfort, reduced fading of your carpet and furnishings, and doing your part for the environment are some of the benefits of Low-E replacement windows or window film for your existing windows. The choices you make can improve the quality of light entering your home.


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