We specialize in architectural window tinting in Chicago. So you know which products we are comparing to one another: We’ve worked with Huper Optik Ceramic & Spectrally-Selective Films, 3M Prestige, Madico, Sunscape, V-Kool, Solargard, Panorama, Llumar, Hanita Tek, Decolite, SunTek, Solyx, Graffiti-Gard & Graffiti-Free products.
Because no one company manufactures the best of every type of film, we’re going to go over the different types of architectural energy films available and then let you know which products we have found to be the best of the best. The three architectural film types are traditional, ceramic, and spectrally-selective.
All traditional architectural window films are semi-metallic. This composition provides high heat rejection, high visible light transmission and low heat absorption.
Heat rejection is the key difference between ceramic window films and traditional window films. Ceramic window films reduce heat primarily through absorption, not rejection.
High heat absorption can cause non-tempered glass to break and can also cause damage to insulated glass (IG) units, causing them to trap moisture and mold over time. For this reason, the best heat rejection of a ceramic film that can be safely applied to most architectural glass maxes out at 56%. The single benefit to ceramic window film over traditional film is slightly less reflectivity. Since this is the only quantifiable benefit to ceramics and the risk to the glass is so high, we never recommend ceramics to our clients, but rather suggest a spectrally-selective film.
Besides, most traditional architectural window films are only around 5%-10% more reflective than standard insulated glass, and can block the same amount of heat as the safest ceramic film gradient. Consider this before paying 50%-100% more for the film that is only slightly less reflective.
If you need to use a ceramic film, Huper-Optik ceramics are the best we have worked with. They have no distortion and have the lowest reflection available in a ceramic film.
Now if you are looking for a reliable, cost-effective and high performance traditional window film - Madico films deliver. The longest US manufacturer of window films, Madico films have the best distortion free adhesives and polyester substrate of any traditional film we have worked with. Styles come in neutral, gray, silver and bronze. Films that are typically installed to vertical glass (not skylights) max out at around 25% visible light reflectance, a small price to pay for nearly 75% solar heat rejection.
Finally we get to spectrally selective films. These films add no reflectivity to the glass and up the ante by not darkening the window either! The popular ”70″ series from each manufacturer refers to the percentage of visible light transmitted through the film.
The 30% visible light reduction is nearly undetectable to the human eye. These films are safer than ceramic films because they reject heat in addition to absorbing it, causing less stress on the glass. This level of technology makes the films expensive, about 100%-200% more than traditional films.
If you want the best performing, distortion free, highest visible light transmitting film, go with V-Kool 70. V-Kool pioneered spectrally-selective window film and has been manufacturing it for nearly 20 years. No other manufacturer sells a spectrally-selective film that can surpass its performance – period.
To recap what is the best window tinting film for architectural application:
- Best traditional films: Madico
- Best ceramic films: Huper Optik
- Best spectrally-selective film: V-Kool
Now that you know what the best films are, what is the best window tinting film for your specific application?
The most common issue we deal with is condo and building association regulations concerning changing the outside appearance of the windows. You can make a direct comparison between each of the three film styles we have discussed, and there are even three styles of traditional film that can be used without being noticable.
Since the nominal heat rejection of V-Kool 70 and Huper Optik Ceramic 40 is around 56%, we can compare these to three of Madico’s film styles – neutral, gray and bronze, which have gradients that also reject the same amount of heat.
Unless you are located on the ground floor of the building and there’s an overhang, none of these films will change the look of the glass to the point where anyone will care. These films are relatively light in color and don’t reflect enough light to be noticable without standing directly in front of the glass.