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Category: Frequently Asked Questions

Best Window Film For Privacy?

This article is not about which brand of film is the best for privacy, but rather which type we think is the best. The best window film for privacy ultimately depends on the individual taste of the person having the film installed, but there are 3 main categories of varying privacy to choose from – frosted, reflective and “limo”.

In our opinion the best privacy films are of the frosted variety. They allow all of the light through the windows, and offer privacy 24 hours a day. The only drawback is no longer being able to see out of the windows. If your situation demands privacy over a view – this is the way to go.

Some people don’t want to block the view through the glass and still get privacy. This is possible using super reflective films, but the privacy ends as soon as the sun goes down and your lights go on – people will easily be able to see inside. There are some ways to “stretch” the privacy through the night, but you need to be in control of carefully placed lighting outside the windows you are trying to add privacy to. As long as the light level outside the windows is brighter than inside – privacy is achieved. Some of our clients have set dimmers in the room in question and placed flood lights outside. This allows the owner to see anyone that might be lurking outside without them being able to see in.

As a side note, if you are only interested in daytime privacy there are many 60%-65% films that aren’t reflective that might be able to do the job for you.  Using these films works best in situations where there are only windows on one side of the room and light is not being shined in from rooms on the opposite side of the house. The privacy isn’t that great if you stand close to the windows, but this method allows plenty of light into your home and still allows you to easily see outside.

If you are willing to block most of the light that comes through the windows to achieve privacy, you can always have a “limo” tint installed the outside of the glass. You will have some idea of what is going on outside, and as long as the light level is kept low no one will be able to see in day or night. This still works better with a light outside the window – but the advantage to this scenario is that the windows will not look like mirrors, just dark. It’s best to go this route if the windows are in a bedroom as the film will double as glare reduction in the morning.

It’s entirely possible that none of these films achieves privacy on the terms you were looking for. Sometimes shades or blinds are the best solution. If you are mostly interested in night-time privacy and want to enjoy your view through the day, then window film is not the solution you need.

If one of these films sounds like it will work for your situation and you live in the Chicago area, visit our main website at where you can arrange a free estimate and see samples in person.

Window Film Cabinet Doors?

Many of our customers want to window film cabinet doors! The most popular films we install on cabinet doors are of the frosted variety. There are many advantages to using window film on your cabinet doors:

  • Can achieve the same look as etched glass and obscure cabinet contents
  • Much cheaper than hiring a glass company to fabricate and cut custom sizes
  • Eliminates the need to completely replace the doors or glass of your cabinets
  • Faster turnaround than custom glass
  • Window film can easily be changed with a new design to suit your needs

The most popular applications are the simplest. White matte frost film is usually applied to the entire face of the glass, or each piece of film is cut to leave a clear border anywhere from 1/2″ to 1″ from the edge.

Frosted window film hides the mess in the cabinets, but still allows the lights inside to glow through. We have also applied dark window films to glass on wine coolers to cut down on the light getting to the bottles.

Whether you’ve been researching this process for some time or have just started, we have the expertise to help your vision quickly come to life. We guarantee a great looking installation and offer a 7-year product warranty. If you live in or around the Chicagoland area, visit our website to take a look at some of the frosted film styles we have available, or just give us a call to get a free, no-obligation consultation and estimate.

How Much Energy Does Window Film Save?

Window film energy saving performance is based on the amount of visible  and infrared light absorbed or reflected by the film. UV light also contributes to heat gain, but because most window films reduce 99% of the UV, we’re not including this factor as a variable.

The more visible and infrared light you reject, the more energy you save. The maximum available performance for architectural window films is around 80% heat reduction. These high-peformance films have a reflective exterior appearance and are usually only applied to commercial windows and skylights.

Most residential window films reduce around 55% of solar heat from entering the home. These products are designed to have a subtle appearance (lighter in color and less reflective than high-performance films) and sacrifice performance for aesthetics.

Spectrally-selective films can reduce the same level of heat as traditional home window films without being reflective or dark. These films reject a high level of infrared light, so homes in colder climates will get the added benefit of increased heat retention in the winter months. The combined energy savings throughout the year comes to around 35%-50%.

There is no way to accurately calculate how much energy window film will save you in your specific application. The compass orientation of the glass, the number of windows, size of the windows and type of glass you have are all factors that affect your bottom line energy savings.

If your windows face north and you get little or no direct sunlight through them, window film will do little to help save energy. Heat issues in these situations are more often caused by poor circulation and/or the room being located on the top floor of a multi-level home.

If you have windows that face south and get direct sunlight for most of the day, you will quickly notice a significant difference in energy expenditure. Similarly, a “wall” of windows that face east and/or west will also exhibit a high energy savings after the application of film.

As a general rule, energy saving window film will pay for itself in energy savings between 2 and 5 years after you have it installed. Review our article on what window tinting costs to get an idea of how much your project will be.

If you live in the Chicago area and would like to know exactly what your installation will cost, you can set up a free estimate with us and see samples in person. If you would like to see how popular window film styles will perform and look right now, visit our web site at

How Much Does Home Window Tinting Cost?

We are a professional window tinting company located in Chicago. We have applied numerous brands and styles of film throughout the years and are offering this general advice to help educate the public about window film. Professional window film is usually priced by the square foot, with the cost including the film and the installation fees.

On typical residential installations (100-300/sqft) prices will usually fall right around $5/sqft for standard semi-metallic  films. On installations close to and over 1000 square feet, prices can fall as low as $4/sqft. Using these prices as a base, installation cost can go up as much as $2/sqft more, depending on the difficulty of the installation.

Typical “square” windows with clean edges that can be accessed without the use of stools, ladders or scaffold and do not have obstructions in the way should be installed at the low end of the price scale.

Things that can raise the base cost of installation:

  • Excessive putty, paint or silicone on the edge of the glass to be filmed
  • Glass that does not have a frame on some or all of the edges
  • Odd shaped windows
  • Skylight application
  • Removal of existing film
  • Storm window application
  • Ladder or scaffold use
  • Window/Door hardware  removal/replacement
  • Applications that require seaming (usually if window is over 72″ in two directions)
  • Windows blocked by immovable obstructions

Square foot price is usually switched to a per-unit price when dealing with “french-pane” windows. Individual preparation and filming of each of the units is labor intensive, so the prices can range from $10-$20 a pane depending on the condition of the glass and the type of film used.

Shades, blinds & curtains are standard obstructions and the price should not be affected by their presence. The service should either work around or remove and replace these obstructions as part of the service.

Spectrally-selective films fall in a higher price range. Less effective films such as 3M Prestige can range from $8-$10/sqft while the higher performance films like V-Kool can range from $10-$14/sqft. The “70” series of each of the manufacturers is the most popular. The “70” refers to the nominal percentage of light allowed through the glass after the  application of the film. This level of light reduction is nearly undetectable to the human eye, so the fact that these films can reject up to 56% of solar energy is impressive. These films also act as an after-market low-E coating, which can reflect heat back into the room, saving energy in the winter.

Less effective spectrally-selective films block less heat, block more light, and in some cases, add distortion to the glass. Review our article about spectrally selective films for more information

 If you live in the Chicago area, visit us at to get a free estimate for your window film project.

Can Window Film Be Removed?

In a word, yes – window film can be removed. Typically removal would consist of first peeling off the polyester layer – exposing the adhesive, wetting down the adhesive with soapy water then scraping off the softened glue. On most windows this is merely a time consuming process and if you only have one or two windows to do, you can complete the project yourself.

But, if you have a large project or are unaware if your windows are tempered, we don’t recommend that you attempt removal on your own. Not only is window film removal labor intensive and messy, but the normal method of razor blade removal might damage the glass if your windows are tempered.

What’s the problem? Well, for around the last 5 years quality control in some tempered glass manufacturing has taken a fall. We don’t know why the glass isn’t made as good as is used to be, but we can still explain what the problem is.

The process of manufacturing a piece of tempered glass is as follows:

  1. Glass is cut to size
  2. Edges are ground smooth
  3. Fabricating debris is washed away
  4. Glass is introduced to high heat followed by a blast of cool air.

It is step 3 – the washing away of the fabricating debris – that is the most important step when producing a piece of glass that can stand up to traditional cleaning and film removal techniques; and in recent years this step has not been given the attention it deserves.

The thing is, if there is any fabricating debris left on the glass before it is heated and cooled(tempered), that material will fuse to the surface of the glass. To the untrained eye, this debris cannot be seen and the glass will appear normal. This is the main reason so many pieces of sub-standard glass have made it into new construction – most people don’t know that there is anything wrong with the glass.

If it can’t be seen, what’s the problem? Well, a poorly cleaned tempered unit is a lot like a piece of fine-grit sandpaper. The paper backing being the glass, the sand being the fabricating debris, and the fusing of the debris to the glass being mimicked by the glue on the sandpaper.

Traditionally the window film is scraped off by razor blade, but if the glass is sub-standard this process will knock loose fabricating debris which will scratch the surface of the glass as it is dragged across the unit.

It is the ability to identify which units will require precautions and treat them accordingly that separates window film installers from experienced window film installers. Believe it or not, only a fraction of window film installation companies are even aware that there can be an issue with tempered glass film removal – so we still urge you to be careful when contracting a company to do the work for you!

If you know, or for that matter do not know if your glass is tempered, seek professional assistance before attempting to remove the film yourself.

What Is A Good Window Tint Brand?

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.

Should I Tint My Own Windows?

Window tinting on your own has the same benefit as any other DIY project – you can save some money. But before you go to your home improvement store or whip out the credit card for an online purchase, consider the following:

1) DIY window films, even “premium” brands, are made of a soft polyester to make them easier to install. This lower grade material unavoidably has characteristics that make it visually unappealing – such as view distortion, clouding, or excessive “rainbow” like coloring. Professional window films do not have these traits, require training and experience to install and are only available to dealers.

2) No DIY film will warranty the glass that the film is installed to.

3) The DIY window film manufacturer/distributer takes no responsibility for whether the film you are installing will damage the glass, or that the process of installation will not harm the glass.

4) If you have an existing warranty for your windows, you will probably void it if you install the window film yourself. Professional dealers provide you with a warranty that will replace the one you have, and in most cases can provide a warranty that will cover against glass breakage even if you don’t have an existing warranty.

5) Professional installation looks better. DIY window filming always stands out, usually in the form of peeling corners, bubbles, creases, lifted edges and entraped dirt – not to mention distortion from the DIY product.

6) Like everything else DIY, any home improvement project not performed properly will hurt your property value. Home inspectors and prospective buyers never overlook badly tinted windows. If you have a quality window film professionally installed you will actually increase the beauty, comfort and value of your home.

What Should I Look For In A Tinting Company?

1) Guaranteed Installation. The company should guarantee to replace any work that starts to bubble or peel within a minimum 60 day period. This is evidence of a faulty installation.

2) Lifetime residential warranty on solar control films. At least 10 years for commercial applications. Should cover peeling, cracking, delaminating, color change and bubbling.

3) Warranty replacement. The company should be able to replace the current warranty you have for your windows with a warranty to match the life of the one you have, and cover glass breakage and IG unit failure.

4) Quality products. Several window films are manufactured step by step in several locations by different companies, leading to inconsistent product quality.  Many companies also drive down the product cost by using lower quality polyester substrate, which adversely affects the product clarity.

Be sure to ask about how the film will look after it is installed, specifically whether the view will be “distorted” at all. This can include fogginess, waviness, or a “rainbow” like appearance. Even brand name products can distort the view, so be sure to ask and be able to hold the installer accountable if you don’t like what you see.

5) Familiarity with the environment. If you go to a window film service website and see cars all over the screen, they probably don’t do much residential or commercial application, even if they claim to be experienced. Never confuse car tinting with architectural window film installation. Tinting cars does not qualify an installer to work in a home or office, nor does it make them familiar with architectural glass and window types, frame types, glazing materials, ladder or scaffold use, or safe installation guidelines.

6) Fair Pricing. Well this sounds like a no-brainer – but we had to put this one in anyway. Don’t be convinced that a “designer” product will look better or perform better than its traditional counterpart. These products are merely marketed as designer, and some dealers will charge $2-3/sqft more for a product that has no added benefits and only costs them pennies more.

7) Targeted service. To be an expert at something you have to do one thing, all the time, and do it well. Companies that try to cover too many markets end up with installers that are great at one thing and “okay” at another.  Watch out for inconsistent quality from companies that do the following:

– Both architectural and automotive tinting

– Both window film and shades/blinds/curtains

– Any combination of the above

Do I Need Window Film If I Already Have Low-E Windows?

Low-E coatings do a great job of keeping heat in your home, but do nothing to keep the sun’s heat and light out of your home. Low-E coatings provide little or no ultra-violet rejection, while most window films block 99%.

Windows with Low-E coatings can benefit from the installation of window film by reducing glare and blocking unwanted heat from entering your home, helping reduce energy costs year-round and providing a protective barrier to slow the effects of sun damage on furnishings.

If you don’t have Low-E windows, you can have a spectrally-selective window film installed to reflect long-wave infrared heat back into your livingspace, just like a Low-E coating. Like we stated before, these films also reject 99% UV light and reject heat from entering home – offering an average 35%-50% energy savings through the course of a year. If you already have double-pane glass and have heard of the benefits of low-e, having a spectrally-selective film installed is not only more cost effective than replacing your windows, but provides more benefits.

If you live in or around the Chicago area, visit our main website at to arrange a free estimate for window film installation.

Tax Credit For Window Film?

Everyone asks us about the tax credit for window film. If you live in the northern portion of the US, unfortunately it’s a savings you probably won’t qualify for. The government requirements concerning energy tax credits for window film installed in the northern region of th US are as follows:

1) The windows the window film is being applied to must be double-pane insulated units

2) The windows must already have a low-e coating applied to them

3) The windows must have a vinyl frame

4) The installation must be in your principal residence

If you meet these requirements, you will eligible to get back 10% of the cost of the window film (not including the cost of the installation), with a maximum credit of $500 (This post updated 3/1/2011).

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