When you hear the words “window tint,” you probably picture a limousine with darkened windows protecting the privacy of the politician, celebrity, or high school prom attendees within. You might also think of an office building with towering walls of blue-hued windows reflecting images of the clouds in the sky or of the other buildings in the cityscape. Or maybe you picture the glass partition between a witness and a lineup of suspected criminals. None of these impressions of window tinting is wrong, but all of them represent quite a narrow view of a surprisingly versatile, beneficial product. You can be easily forgiven for not having an expansive opinion on window tint, of course; I certainly didn’t pay the stuff much mind until I began researching and writing about it a few years back. Hopefully thanks to all those years spent focused on tint, I can convince you of its merits in just a few paragraphs.

It’s worth a few minutes of your time to read up on window tint, by the way. Because beyond darkening the windows of a hired stretch limo, it can also help you save fuel when you’re driving, reduce your electric bills at home and at the office, and protect your skin from cancer. And a lot more, too. So read on.

Not All Tints Are, Well, Tinted

First off, let’s clear up one of the most common misconceptions people have about window tinting: not all window tints are tinted. These days, the more common industry term is actually window film, not window tint, and that slight change in terminology speaks volumes. While many window films do appear opaque when viewed from the outside — whether black or gray, with a colored hue, or with a reflective surface — many types of window film appear optically clear or quite close to clear. Which is to say you can hardly even tell the film is in place.

Older tinted windows (meaning actual tinted glass) and early generation window tint films used dyes that physically blocked much of the visible light that would otherwise pass through them, meaning they also effectively blocked the view into the windows. These dyed tints also blocked the view out through the windows, which wasn’t ideal for drivers with tinted vehicle windows or for people who liked to be able to see out from within their homes or offices. Early dyed window tint also tended to attract in more invisible infrared solar heat, as darker colors draw in warmth (you knew that, though), making them counterproductive in terms of cooling and comfort.

Many modern window tints use nano-ceramics, which is to say very small bits of ceramic particles, that are arranged by the billions of pieces per square yard. Nano-ceramic window tint can actually block out the invisible infrared solar wavelengths while letting visible light pass through. In other words, window tint can block a large portion of the sun’s heat without blocking its light or your view, so you can still see through the windows (good for safe driving and for the view from your living room) and can enjoy a sunlit home or office but without needing to constantly crank the A/C and/or sweat whenever the sun is shining.

And all that progress, from dark tint that damaged the view and made interiors warmer to clear window films that preserve the view while keeping things cooler, came over the course of about fifty years of development. Which is pretty good, really!

Here’s Why Too Much Sunlight Is Bad

If you like easing yourself into a car that feels like a sauna, then perhaps the solar heat gain caused by sunshine passing through the glass windows of your parked car isn’t much of a problem for you. But FYI the temperature inside a parked car on a sunny day with an ambient temperature 70 degrees can rise to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in about an hour. When it’s above 90 out, the inside temperature of the car can get to more than 170 degrees, and that will kill you, to put it bluntly. Car window tint can block fifty or even sixty percent of the solar heat that would otherwise convert the automobile’s interior into a furnace, keeping the parked car cooler. And of course vehicle window tint can also keep your car much cooler while you drive, and can help maintain the interior temperature established by the breeze through the open windows or via the A/C, meaning less use of the air conditioning, which means better gas mileage. (Or less draining of your battery if you have an electric vehicle.)

One of the leading causes of injuries or fatalities on the road is driver fatigue, and one of the leading contributors to driver fatigue is eyestrain. Eyestrain can be caused by the harsh shine of sunlight or by the glare of oncoming headlights. When your eyes have to fight to stay tightly dilated against excessive light, they get sore and tired and they simply don’t work as well. Straining your vision also tires out your brain. Many experts recommend wearing specialized driving glasses that can help cut down on the glare of sunlight or headlights, but you can achieve much the same effect, day or night, by applying a great window tint to your car’s windshield and windows. A clear tint that reduces glare will make your view crisper both day and night.

Unless you enjoy seeing the interior of your car rapidly age and discolor, and unless you like cracked and/or faded upholstery and dashboards, then you’re going to want to block as much ultraviolet light as you can from getting into your car. UV light is chiefly responsible for the fading and damage an interior suffers over time. Also, UV light is the leading contributor to the development of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society:

“…most skin cancers are a direct result of exposure to the UV rays in sunlight. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers (the most common types of skin cancer) tend to be found on sun-exposed parts of the body, and their occurrence is typically related to lifetime sun exposure.”

And what blocks 99% the sun’s UVA and UVB rays? Yep. Window film. Seriously, great window tint blocks almost all of the ultraviolet light that would otherwise wreak havoc on your vehicle and on your health. And yes, without reducing your clear view.

(And for the record, all this stuff applies to window film for residences and commercial properties too; you can block infrared heat, ultraviolet damage, and a glare from excessive visible light using home or office window tint.)

How Can Window Tint Save Money At Home?

I’m glad you asked. Or… allowed me to ask for you and are now reading on to learn how window tint saves money for residences. (This also goes for businesses, schools, hospitals, and so forth.) In most homes, the HVAC costs account for as much as fifty perfect of the annual energy bill. We’ll include electricity used for the A/C and fans and gas or oil used for heating in there, by the way. And in most homes, the windows are the primary source of lost cool air during the warm months and lost warm air when it’s cold out. The more unwanted temperature transfer your windows allow, the more you need to use the heating or cooling system to compensate.

In the summer, window film keeps your home cooler by blocking out a large percentage of the sunlight’s warming infrared light. It also helps by enhancing the insulation properties of the windows, in fact making most single paned windows work as well as double paned options (or double pane windows work like triples. As for triple paned windows, those aren’t really a thing, so we’ll stop here). This improved insulation means your windows will lose less heat during the winter, too, so window tint helps keep your home at the ideal temperature all year round with less use of costly, power-draining HVAC systems.

Window tint can also strengthen glass window panes, helping the windows or glass doors to resist cracking when struck by flying debris, the pressure of high winds or a blast force, or even by a thief’s hammer or crow bar. And windows treated with window film do crack, they will not shatter into lots of pieces that fly out of the frame. This helps keep people safe against injuries caused by sharp shards of glass and helps prevent a thief from entering the property. That can help protect your valuables (i.e. saving you money you won’t need to spend to replace things) and help keep the people inside the residence safer (which you can’t really put a price on).

And of course if you do choose window film that tints the windows of your home, you will enhance your privacy and potentially deter a thief from even trying to break and enter, as the criminal will not able to study the interior of the home with an eye toward a theft.