Buildings Buzz

Window Film – Separating Fact from Fiction

Installing window film on new buildings or as part of a facility retrofit can be a smart way to achieve energy savings, reduce solar glare, increase occupant comfort, improve safety and security, and even enhance aesthetics.

But when searching for the right window film to meet their needs, building owners and facility managers have a lot of information – and even some misconceptions – to sort through.

Determining what exactly window film can do – and what it can’t do – is an important part of the decision making process and it can sometimes be difficult to separate the myth from reality. First, we need some background.

What is window film?

Window film is a polyester product typically made of Polyethylene Teraphthalate (PET). Most films are applied to the interior surface of a glass window in a home, commercial building, or car, they also have a scratch resistant coating on the outer surface to protect the film.

There are many types of window films, including some that are clear and others that have multiple layers of PET to protect against shattering glass; others are tinted with pigments, metals, or dyes to reduce the amount of visible light transmitted through the glass and block heat.  Decorative window films can replicate the look of frosted glass or etched patterns.

The decades-old perception of window film as a purple, peeling bubbly material seen on many cars in the 1970s is now a thing of the past. Today’s window films are high-performing, durable, and the result of continuing research and development.

Below are five popular perceptions of window film, and whether they are fact or fiction.

Perception #1  - Window film doesn’t last very long: Fiction

Many window film providers offer a warranty of up to 15 years for commercial installations. Depending on the film type, glass type, window construction and the location of the building, some professionally installed window films can last well past their warranties. Most factory warranties will cover issues such as peeling, bubbling, rippling, cracking, adhesive failure, among others.

Perception #2 - Window film can achieve significant energy savings for a commercial or public building: FACT

When the weather is warm, window film can reduce air conditioning costs and save on lighting costs by reducing solar heat gain while letting in natural light. When it’s cold, window film can retain interior heat, saving heating costs. In existing commercial structures, the energy savings achieved by window film can offer a payback of less than two years, or up to a 70% ROI (depending on factors such as construction, location, and type of film used).

Perception #3: Window film can be a panacea for storm protection: FICTION

When properly installed, here’s what window film can do during a storm:

  • It can help hold glass in windows together, thus helping to prevent shattering
  • It can help prevent potential physical harm
  • It can help prevent high winds from entering a structure
  • It can serve as a passive protection in the event hurricane approved shutters or others systems can’t be installed prior to a storm.

Here’s what it can’t do:

  • By itself, window film is not a panacea for storm protection
  • Window film alone can’t keep the glass from breaking or the window unit including the frame intact
  • It’s not a replacement for other storm protection measures (like shutters)
  • Insurance companies won’t give homeowners or businesses a “hurricane mitigation discount” for using window film

Perception #4 – Window film can reduce fading in furnishings: FACT

While it’s practically impossible to eliminate all risk of fading, window film can block greater than 99 percent of dangerous ultraviolet radiation, which is among the factors that can contribute to fading. Other factors in fading are visible light, heat and chemicals given off by carpeting and other components of a space.

Perception #5 – Window film can help delay and deter the efforts of an intruder: FACT

This is another perception that frequently is misunderstood. Using safety window films alone likely will not prevent an intruder from entering a building through glass. Instead, glass that has safety film installed on it is designed to hold together, not shatter into fragments. This can potentially delay an intruder from entering quickly and, in some cases, cause them to reconsider and move on. It’s also important to understand that even if the filmed glass can remain intact as an intruder is attempting to enter, the window’s framing system may not be able to hold together (which means there would be less of an intrusion-delay benefit).

For facilities that are considering upgrading their windows or renovating their facility entirely, window film can achieve long-lasting improvements for your occupants and your bottom line. Understanding exactly what window film can or can’t do for your commercial facility or public building is an important first step in making the right decision. 

Jeffery Plummer is the senior vice president of sales and marketing for Madico Window Films. He can be reached at

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