I have no illusions that making window film seem exciting is no easy feat. But guess what? That’s not my intention, so things are going to be just fine. Window film — AKA window tint — is a material that you can apply over the surface of windows in an office tower, a home, a car, a yacht, or really anything that has glass surfaces, really. Window tint can do things like add privacy, reduce solar energy gain (e.g. the heat level inside the car or home), diminish the glare, and block damaging ultraviolet light that can fade interiors and damage skin. All that sounds beneficial, of course, but not exciting. That, fortunately, is my intention: I intend to convince you of the benefits of window film. Hey, paper towels, staplers, and travel mugs aren’t all that exciting, either, but they make life more pleasant, right? So while window tint might not be scintillating, it is important. And the science behind it is rather fascinating, too.

A Truly Impressive Material

Before we dig in here, let me present this topic in another way, in the form of a question: Aside from window tint, what product can you install  that will improve your quality of life on day one and that will save you enough money to pay for itself many times over in the years that follow? This is not rhetorical, and there are no tricks involved. I’m seriously asking; answers are welcome! Solar panels can save you some money off electrical bills for sure, but they’re expensive, they can be difficult to repair and maintain, and they’re not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Also, when the sun’s not shining, they’re not exactly useful. Double paned windows greatly increase energy efficiency and keep your home cooler (or warmer), but they’re expensive to buy and laborious to install. Ditto the process of upgrading insulation. (There’s always replacing the whole roof of your home, which I had done at my house in Glendale, California, one year, but… I recommend it, if you can avoid it. Why? Noise, dust, and money, basically.)

Ah, but adding window film to the windows of your home (or boat or bunker or business) can make the interior of the residence more comfortable within an hour of the project’s completion, and can save you cash on your electric bill for years to come. Tinting the windows of your vehicle will keep the cabin cooler whether the car is parked or is one the move, and will save you fuel costs thanks to reduce use of the AC system. I could go on and on, but here’s the major takeaway: window film saves you money off your home heating and cooling costs and off the operating costs of your vehicle.

How Much Can You Save With Window Film?

For the home, you might well save as much as 35% off your average annual energy costs, in fact, and sometimes more. How so? Stay with me! The average residence expends about half of its energy costs on heating and cooling — that’s the electricity to run the AC, the gas or oil burned for heat, and so forth. Window tinting rejects a large amount of the solar heat that warms the interior and necessitates use of air condition systems. It also adds insulation to the windows, thereby helping to maintain the established interior temperature whether it’s warm or cool inside. (Windows are traditionally the Achilles heel of home insulation; adding window film helps mitigate these weak points of temperature transfer.) That, of course, means even less need for AC and fans when it’s hot and heaters when it’s cold. The power bill gets smaller, and in a matter of a few years (or even within a single year, depending on your average HVAC expenses), that window tint you installed (or had installed) has paid for itself in savings.

Your More Comfortable Car

For cars, the savings are a bit harder to quantify. No one is going to send you a monthly bill for the electricity or gas your car has used. (And if they do, you should not pay it, because it’s a scam. Get a lawyer.) But if you pay close attention to how long your fuel tank lasts before and after you have your car’s windows upgraded with vehicle window film, you’ll realize you can get a few extra miles out of each tank as your vehicle consumes less fuel for the purpose of running the AC. And you will enjoy a cooler, more temperate vehicle interior each and every time you climb into the car on a warm day.

Now, lots of people think that window film and window tint are the same thing, but that’s only true part of the time. Many types of window film add tinting to the windows of a car, home, or business, but not all window films are tinted. You can use window tint to enhance the privacy and/or to change the appearance of a building, residence, or car, but if your primary interests are comfort and cost savings, you can upgrade windows to satisfy those needs without darkening your windows at all. Here’s where the science comes in. Big time.

Through a Glass, and Darkly

Early window tinting basically consisted of adding dyes to glass. It made the glass darker and reduced the view in through it, lessened glare, and even blocked a bit of solar energy in most conditions, keeping the interior behind the windows cooler. (Some of the darker tints actually backfired in this regard, making interiors warmer by attracting more heat.) These early tinted windows also reduced the clarity of view out through the panes, though. In the latter half of the 1960s, the first window tinting films came out. These were still dye-based and had basically the same effects and the same drawbacks as tinted glass.

Through the Glass, Quite Clearly

But shortly before the turn of the last century, companies like Huper Optik (based in Germany, but now with divisions in America and around the globe) developed the first truly spectrally selective window films. Keep in mind that sunlight comes in a broad spectrum, consisting primarily of three types of light: UV light, which is the portion of the spectra with the shortest wavelengths and that can cause the most damage, infrared light, which as the longest wavelengths and that is the warmest part of the spectrum, and visible light, which is what you see bouncing off shrubs, sandwiches, t-shirts, Lamborghinis, and well, everything. Advanced nano-ceramic spectrally selective window films are infused with microscopic bits of nonmetallic, inorganic ceramic material. When clustered by the billions in ultra thin sheets of window film, these particles can reject 99% of those unwanted UV rays and a majority of the warming infrared light, while (in most iterations) permitting around 90% of the welcome visible light to pass right on through and into your home, office, car, or cruise ship.

With optically clear, spectrally selective window film, you get an interior space that is essentially free of ultraviolet light, that stays much cooler thanks to reduced infrared light, and that is still bright and inviting yet with a bit less glare even when sunlight spills directly onto the windows. You will also have windows that look as though they are completely unchanged. That’s right, there’s no need to have dark windows to enjoy a cooler, more cost-effective interior.

What Else Can Window Film Do for Your Home, Business, and Car?

Aside from keeping your home or your car cooler or warmer and thus reducing your heating and cooling costs, and aside from blocking the UV light that can cause skin damage and contribute to the development of skin cancer and that fades floors, upholstery, and artwork, what else can window film do for you? Well, you sure are asking a lot of this not very exciting product, aren’t you? Fortunately, window film does have more to offer. Most window films strengthen glass windows, helping the panes resist cracking when struck by the force of an object or by the pressure of a blast wave or when subjected to extremes of temperature. The film will also prevent the glass from shattering into multiple pieces even if the pane is cracked, therefore protecting those inside the home, business, or vehicle against being cut by broken glass. Many window films can even reinforce a window or glass door so much that they will thwart the advance of a criminal trying to break into the car or structure by preventing the glass from breaking apart and falling out of the frame.

So window film can not only make your home or car more comfortable and more energy efficient (which means a smaller carbon footprint, by the way — yes, window film is even eco friendly), but it can even protect you, your family and friends, coworkers, and the valuable items within the property. All things considered, I’d say it’s a pretty good investment, right? Even almost exciting.