Monday, August 16, 2010

Solar Screens

Girlschool. Badass rock'n'rollers.  Fashion icons.

It's hot, bright, humid, miserable. My personal constitution protests when it's over about 75 degrees, plus the continuous air conditioning, the weight of the heavy atmosphere and the ugliness of the summer is driving me to excessive beer consumption.  Some would say this is not a bad thing at all, but I say someone please give me a summer house in the cold Siberian mountains...
We have four windows on the west side of our house.  In the winter it's fine (as is everything), but in summer the sun beats down through those windows and makes a fiery furnace of our living room and kitchen.  We planted a couple of Burr Oak trees west of the windows  last year, but they're still pretty small so no life saving shade for us yet.

Here are the trees, still puny....

In order to not melt this summer I decided some kind of intervention was in order.  A pool?  I wish.  Nope, we got solar screens.

Solar screens look like regular outside window screens but are made from a sun blocking fabric.   Solar screens are mounted on the outside of the window.  This provides "shade", just like a tree would, but also blocks the sun from heating up window glass and interior floors, so no heat radiation. 

You can make solar screens from kits that are available at home supply stores, but we decided to skip the self-labor and ordered custom screens. We shopped around a little, and settled on a husband/wife solar screen supplier.  They came and measured our four windows, sent us an invoice, and when the screens arrived from their supplier 10 days later they installed them.  

But before the screens went in we had to paint the frames of the four old peeling windows.  A horrible job.  Especially in the 103 degree sun that fries that side of the house 10 hours a day.  This meant either getting up at the crack of dawn and getting the bulk of the work done then (not very likely), or working in short shifts during the hot daylight hours so we wouldn't get sunstroke.

Here is picture of me all slathered up with sunscreen on my way outside to work on the windows.  I think it's probably about noon.  We are not morning people.

Here is picture of one of the windows.  Notice how much work it needs.

Dan broke out the paint scrapers and sander.   This job takes absolutely no cortex power at all, just elbow grease, sweat, swearing and blind determination to get it done.

Next up was priming.  I like Kilz primer a lot.  I also like those paint brushes with the short handles that make it super easy to paint trim, but they cost like 12 bucks.  Ever the cheapo, I cut the handle off a 2" angled brush to achieve the same thing. This saved me about 5 bucks!

I taped off the windows with painters tape and dug in.  Here is a window after priming.

And here is a window after 2 coats of high gloss black paint.

When you paint window frames you have to make sure the paint doesn't dry while the window is closed.  Open the window about an inch before the paint dries.  Then close it about 15 minutes later, and repeat this cycle maybe eight times so the window won't be stuck forever from dried paint.

A couple of days later the solar screens were installed. We got black 90% screen fabric with white frames.  I think they look cool.

And speaking of cool, the living room and kitchen are probably 10 degrees cooler now, giving the AC a big break.  The room is darker, as if we had trees outside instead of screens, but totally worth it.

Here is a picture of the west side of the house before and after the screens.

It will be interesting to see if our electric bill is less.  But regardless, the rooms are cooler, and the outside looks 100% better.


  1. Wow! You really did a good job. I was read your full article. you have served such a valuable information about Solar Screens. I am very Impressed. Keep sharing more information