Are Solar Screens for Windows and Doors Worth It?

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 11/15/22 •  8 min read

What Are Solar Screens? Are They Worth the Investment?

Solar screens are essentially window screens with sun protection.

No matter the type of window or door, these dark mesh solar screen panels can be fit over the frame to keep bugs out like a traditional window screen and deflect sunlight too.  

Most solar screens are attached to your windows on the outside, but if necessary, can also be attached to the window on the inside. 

To decide whether or not a solar screen is going to be worth it for your home, let’s look at the pros and cons:

 Do Solar Screens Actually Work?

Yes! Depending on the strength of the mesh they’re made from, solar screens (sometimes called sun screens) can block 65-95% of harmful UV rays and heat from the sun. 

But that’s not the only benefit sun screens provide, in fact, solar shades have a ton of benefits, including:  

1. Solar Screens Can Save Up to 33% on your Energy Bills 

If you live in a hot area like Texas, Florida Nevada, or Arizona you could potentially save up to 33% on your energy bills each year by blocking out the rays with solar screens and reducing your reliance on your air conditioning. 

Though perhaps not as much, even if you live in a cold climate, solar screens can save you energy use all year round thanks to their insulating properties.  

​​During the summer, solar screens will prevent heat from the outside from leaking into your home and cool air from escaping. Those same solar screens will then do the opposite in the winter, keeping the cold outside and the heat inside separate.

2. Solar Screens Protect Flooring, Fixtures, and Furnishings from Sun Damage

It’s not something we think about often, but interior furnishings can be damaged by UV rays from the sun entering your home.

The sun’s rays can cause discoloration and damage to your flooring, tables, sofas, and various other items in your home.

Since a solar screen blocks between 65-90% of these rays from entering your home through your windows, they also protect your home flooring,  fixtures and furnishings.

3. Solar Screens Control Glare

By blocking the direct sunlight from shining through your windows, solar shades control the glare from shiny and glossy surfaces in your home. 

4. Solar Screens Provide Daytime Privacy

Solar shades have an open weave fabric that allows light and air to pass through. During the day, when it’s brighter outside than inside solar screens block the ability to see inside the home. 

It should be noted, however, that at night the effect is reversed. When the lights are on in your home at night, it makes the shades transparent.

What Are the Limitations and Downsides of Solar Screens?

As you can see solar screens have a ton of benefits, but it’s not all sunshine and puppy-dogs, there are a few downsides that should be considered, including: 

1. Solar Screens Make Windows More Difficult to Clean 

Solar screens have the drawback of being hard to clean and maintain and making your windows more difficult to clean. 

Most homeowners hate cleaning the mesh of their solar screens and removing it to properly clean their windows because it’s a laborious process that takes elbow grease. The result is that most people hire an outside company to keep their windows and solar screens clean, which increases their costs.

2. Solar Screens Alter the Appearance of Your Windows 

Attaching fabric solar screens to the outside of your windows changes your home’s appearance. The screens make your windows appear very dark and some homeowners aren’t fans of this look. Moreover, they’re semi-permanent, so you can’t just take them down or replace them.

3. Solar Screens Can Inhibit Ventilation 

If you like to open windows for ventilation, note that solar screens can block some airflow since they are made of significantly thick mesh. 

4. Solar Screens Can Be Easily Damaged in Severe Weather

Since solar screens are after-market additions to your windows, there’s the risk of them blowing away or getting damaged in storms, since they’re not the most secure fit.  In some places, solar screen companies even suggest installing them on the inside of your windows to protect them. 

Are Solar Screens Expensive?

Compared to replacing an entire window with a brand new low- e and double-paned window, a solar screen is an absolute bargain. 

According to South West Exteriors, if you take the measurements and install them yourself, a solar screen can cost less than $50 for an average 35” X 70” window. If you choose to hire a contractor to install them, you can spend around $7.50 per square foot.

If you install solar screens on several windows at the same time, you’ll save some money, so it’s worth upgrading every window in your house at the same time if you can. 

How Long Do Solar Screens Last?

According to most estimates, solar screens should last at least 10 to 15 years if they’re installed properly and aren’t damaged by something hitting them. 

With that said, darker solar screens can begin to fade after just three years

Can you DIY a Solar Screen? 

Yes! Here’s a solid DIY tutorial from Salt River Project showing you how to measure, cut, and build a solar screen for a window, even if it doesn’t have a screen track. 

EnergyStar estimates the average American home has 22 windows, so I’m not sure how feasible it would be to make  DIY screens for a whole house if you’re doing it as a weekend warrior project, but for that one window that gets a ton of heat from the afternoon sun the time investment could be worth it. 

You can get all the materials including the screen mesh itself at your local Home Depot or Lowes. Sunscreen fabric is also available in large or small quantities to suit the number of windows you’re tackling. 

Here are a few examples from Home Depot: 

  1. Charcoal Super Solar Screen
  2. Charcoal Super Solar Screen
    $141.87

    Solar Protection: 90% against the sun's heat and glare

    Size: 60 in. x 25 ft.

    Other Details:

    -Good insect protection

    -Good outward visibility

    -Daytime privacy

    -Saves on cooling and heating cost

    -GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD GOLD certified

    Check it out On Home Depot
  3. Charcoal Fiberglass Sun Guard 90 Solar Screen Roll
  4. Charcoal Fiberglass Sun Guard 90 Solar Screen Roll

    Solar Protection: designed to block up to 85% of the sun's UV rays

    Size: 36 in. x 84 in. 

    Other details:

    -Spline 0.140-inch diameter is recommended for the best fit in a standard frame

    -Charcoal color helps reduces glare and make the screen less visible

    -Ideal for replacing up to 2 window screen or 1 screen door

    -Durable PVC coated polyester screen mesh creates a long-lasting window screen that you can enjoy for years

    -ADFORS leads the industry with Ortho-phthalate free screens with GREENGUARD Gold certifications for a healthier living space

    -10-year warranty


    Check it Out at Home Depot

What Color Solar Screen Is Best?

Solar screens come in a variety of colors, but the color matters more than just for design purposes. 

A lighter color solar screen is typically thicker, making it more difficult to see through and making it better for privacy. Darker colors, like black or brown, are more transparent, making them easier to see through. 

Looking around Home Depot, charcoal sun shade screen in a 90% sun blocking mesh seems to be the most popular choice. 

Alternatives to Solar Screens

While solar blinds are a great option to keep the sun’s heat and light out of your home, there are alternatives. 

Here’s a quick comparison of each to solar screens to help you decide if solar screens are the right solution for your home: 

1. Solar Screens vs. Solar Blinds

Solar blinds work similarly to regular blinds but have the added benefit of blocking the sun. 

While they cost significantly more than regular blinds the cost comparison to solar screens is somewhat comparable since while they have more components, they’re also easier to install. 

2. Solar Shades vs. Solar Screens

A solar shade also keeps the sun from coming inside your home, but unlike solar screens, solar shades roll open and close to control how much sun gets into your window, or even your whole porch. 

Solar screens can be motorized or manual with the cost varying greatly depending on size and function. 

You can think of them almost like an outdoor solar blind. 

3. Solar Screens vs. Solar Window Tint Film

You can always put a layer of solar film on your windows if you don’t want a permanent fixture like a solar screen. 

Solar tint film is a bargain at roughly $8 – $14 per square ft, but it’s not quite as effective as a solar screen.

4. Solar Screens vs. Awnings

According to Energy.gov, Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% when used on south-facing windows and 77% when used on west-facing windows. 

Awnings are also a semi-permanent fixture and also change the look of a home considerably, which many homeowners don’t like, especially since awnings are often seen as dated. 

Are Solar Screens Worth it?

There’s no right or wrong answer to whether solar screens are worth it or not for you. 

If you’re looking to lower your energy costs, protect your flooring, fixtures, and furnishings from sun damage, stop glare in your home, and gain a little privacy from nosy neighbors during the day, solar shades can do all of that for you for relatively little cost, especially if you’re able to DIY them yourself. 

However, for all those benefits, you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable with the many drawbacks of solar shades including difficult window cleaning and maintenance, dark-looking windows, inhibited ventilation, and possible repairs after extreme weather conditions (which are more and more common today). 

If you’re not sold on the features of external solar screens, you can always look at one of the alternatives listed above. 

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.