Friday, June 5, 2009

Savvy Supermom Savings - DIY Window Film/Tint

Looking for a weekend project? How about tinting your windows? Sounds fun doesn't it? Ok, maybe not compared to hanging out at the pool or the beach with your family, but the savings definitely will make you smile. I have teased y'all about this easy do-it-yourself project for a while now and now I am finally ready to reveal the secrets of installing window film!

Our house faces east to west and so the afternoon sun blazes right on our front door. Given that we have a steel coated/styrofoam core door that sits behind a glass storm door, it gets BLAZING hot. So hot, in fact, that the metal of the door warped soon after we installed the storm door. Given the extreme heat building up between the storm door and the door, wood or composite doors would still suffer so our only solution seemed to either a) get rid of the storm door or b) find a way to decrease the heat coming in. We stumbled on window tinting!

My husband did some research and found that for a professional installation including the product would run us about $5-6 a square foot. Our storm door is a standard size and the glass measures 6 feet by 2.5 feet or 15 sq ft - which means it would be about $100 to tint.

Being avid DIY'ers we figured there had to be a product we could apply ourselves and indeed there was, in the form of window film which is applied to the
inside of the window. We went to our local home improvement store and found Gila Window Film.

A single box of the highest percentage of light/UVA blocked measuring 3 ft x 15 ft costs about $35, with which we were able to cover the storm door with enough extra to take care of two of the four bonus room window panels. Including the window kit we spent just $50 to get that all done, breaking it down to a little over $1 a square foot. Talk about savvy savings!

Admittedly, it would have been easier to start with a smaller size window to begin with, but still our first attempt turned out well, and we were extremely pleased. We immediately noticed a difference in the temperature of the door and are now even able to leave the door open (storm door locked) for a good portion of the day to let light in without fear of it ruining the hardwood floors. Given our success we decided to use the film on every window of the house.

Here's a quick run through of how to install the window film. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being difficult, I would rate this a 5 or 6. It requires two people to do the job though only because of the type of work it is, not because it's difficult. At different stages of the process we served as "surgeon's assistants" to each other handing tools or spraying down the window if it got too dry.

The Tool Kit.
We spent the $9 that it cost to buy the initial kit with a bottle of the Window Film Application Solution (which activates the glue on the window film so that it sticks). It is worth the money and is necessary to make the job easier.

Additional Tools Needed
An additional flat razor blade, glass cleaner and paper towels to clean the window helps. You'll also need scotch tape and a tape measure. Handy extras include a pair of scissors, a large trash bag and a towel/tarp to lay down in front of the windows if you don't want the excess solution to damage the floors.

Step 1
Remove all the window "stuff" - i.e. curtains, blinds, shades, etc.

Step 2
Clean the window. This is a very important step and requires a razor blade in order to ensure that every little thing has been removed from the surface of the window. Extra caulking on the edges from the initial build, a speck of dirt, these will show up by way of a bump in your tint if you don't remove them. Standard glass cleaner with paper towels work just fine though I did find the microfiber cloth that came with the glue activator was useful.

Step 3
Measure the window, then measure the window film to cut. Allow at least 2 inches on each side. We laid the box on the tint for a straight edge and used a permanent marker. Given that there is extra tint on each side, you don't have to worry about the line showing up on the window when you're done. Sliding a sharp scissor across the film makes it easy to cut, sort of like gift wrapping paper.

Step 4
Put a piece of tape on both sides of the tint, folding the top over so that you can pull the two apart easily when it's time. What you are trying to do is have an easy way to separate film from the protective plastic. The clear coat covers the side of the tint that has the "glue" which the Window Film Application Solution will activate.

Step 5
Spray the window down with the Window Film Application Solution (glue activator).

Step 6
Have one person hold the piece of tint up, clear side facing out. The other person then pulls off the clear coat all the while spraying both sides of the tint (the one facing the person holding the film) and the other side of the film (it's not really necessary to spray the outside of the clear plastic coat). This gets a little messy and drippy so you may want a towel or tarp below. The solution also made us cough so it would be wise to use a mask if you have any breathing difficulties and well, just to be safe! Also, be careful not to spray the activator into your partner's face...not that I did that to my Hubby but I'm just saying...

Step 7
Once the clear plastic coat has been fulled off and both sides of the film sprayed with the activator, the person who is holding the tint can place it on the window. Standing in front of the window, holding the film centered, have the other person tap the middle of the tint. The rest of the film will slowly cling to the window. Make sure the window is still wet from the coat of activator before you do this step.

Step 8
Use the black squeegee provided in the Application Kit and first drag it down the center of the window film from top to bottom to set the film in place. Then drag the squeegee from from the center out to the edges stopping short by a couple inches on all sides. It's during this stage that you'll see whether or not your windows are clean. On a couple occasions we found little bits of stuff under the tint. If you're careful you can lift the film and scrape it off, make sure you spray more solution on if this happens. The excess solution will drip on the window sill so have some paper towels handy.

Step 9
Now take the clear tool and press it up into one corner of the window. Place the blade of the provided razor and insert into the groove and slide down the sides of the window to cut off the excess film. We found this to be the most difficult part of the process as sometimes the blade didn't cut all the way through to the top or bottom, but a pair of scissors did the trick. You may need to continue spraying down the window film in order to have the blade tool slide easier.

Step 10
Use the yellow squeegee to get out the remaining bubbles.

That's it!

The whole thing takes about 15 minutes per section of window that you do once you get the hang of the process. It's best to apply the film during the cool of the morning or the afternoon. The warmer it is outside the more difficult it becomes to apply because the film activator dries too quickly, thus making it easier to tear the film when you squeegee it or trim it.

On our standard builder grade window panes (36" across by 28" tall) we could get about 5-6 window panels done from a single roll. The film also comes in a wider 4 ft size that was useful for our large bay window in the kitchen nook. We bought the titanium/platinum (they changed names) for the highest level of reflection and protection for the storm door and front of the house windows and the lighter 50% reflection for the kitchen bay windows at the back of the house where we don't get the fierce afternoon sun like we do up front. Plus, these windows face the deck and we didn't want a higher mirror reflection upon the wood which would cause more wear and tear on the deck plus the higher opacity woudl make it harder to see inside when you're out on the deck, something we didn't need.

Since applying the film we are using 10-20% less energy to heat and cool the house. Because we choose the highest level of heat control (they call it titanium) it also provided a bit of privacy as well. The tint looks a little like a mirror on the outside and at night diffuses the ability to see into our house as well.

I highly recommend this product in particular since it was so easy to use and works so well. Not only are we cutting energy costs we also are saving our hard wood floors from overexposure. While the possibility exists that it may not last forever which may be a factor in deciding whether or not to have it professionally installed, the process is so easy and so much less expensive than professionally installed to me it's worth the risk of having to reinstall at some point. Though I will say it's been on our front door for two summers now and we've not had a single problem.

The bottom line:
Window film/tint is a cost-effective way to increase energy efficiency on standard builder's grade windows.

NOTE: A special thanks goes out to my Beloved who begrudgingly let me take pictures of the process without growling too much.

Stay Savvy Y'all!

1 comment:

  1. This is a great article. I did not know it was so easy to install these window films and so cheap. Also its great how they coll your house. maryjrock