Window Tinting 101: Window Film Type or Window Film Hype?

Window tinting film is a viable and popular way of addressing numerous structural problems, both in buildings and vehicles. To make the best of your options, it’s important to understand the basics.

Coating Materials

By far the most common types of window tinting film products on the market are called “Solar Control Films.” Comprising a dye or metalizing agent, these products convert incoming sunlight to infrared radiation, which they then bounce back outside. Ultra-modern ceramic and metallic window films can reduce the transmission of solar energy from outside the building by as much as 80 percent.


Although much the same type of window tinting process is used in both automotive and architectural applications, the term “window tint” is most commonly associated with the former, and “window film” with the latter. This has led to the supposition that only products used on cars are typically dark in color. In fact, many buildings use dark-tinted or reflective films for reasons as diverse as the exclusion of solar rays to employee security.


Window film is extremely effective in reducing heat transfer from the sun, and in reducing glare. Minimizing the amount of solar energy to enter a building can result in a conspicuous percentage drop in the cost of air conditioning a building. Lessening glare has been shown to directly lessen sick days taken by employees who complain of headaches. Reduced UV penetration also minimizes fading in furniture and décor, thus extending working life (solar heat and visible light also cause bleaching, so tinted or metalized window film is recommended for maximum protection).

Conversely, other films are designed to reduce heat loss from a building. Single-paned windows are notoriously impractical to insulate, and — aside from physically replacing all the glazing — window tinting is by far the most cost-effective option. Heat-retaining coatings are typically applied to the interior of glazed panels, while heat-excluding films are normally on the outside. Both are properly called “low-emissivity coatings.”

Your potential clients make judgments on your professionalism based on their first impressions. Because windows that require tints are, by definition, almost always on a building’s exterior. Appearance is an important consideration: they must also look great. Polyester films are not just available in an extraordinary variety of colors. But in textured finishes that resemble:

  • Acid-etched
  • Frosted
  • Sandblasted glass


In many jurisdictions, legislation has been implemented to limit the visible light transmission (VLT) capacity of films used on car windows. This is important to ensure safety when driving at night, and to allow police to identify vehicle passengers.

Safety and Security

Unfortunately, we live in times when attack from terrorists, rioters, vandals and from potential robbers is, if not commonplace, certainly not unknown. Security films are primarily used to prevent glass from shattering when attempts are made to penetrate the substrate glass.

A much heavier-gauge polyester is used; up to 400 micrometers (µm) in thickness, while less than 50 µm is typical for regular-use films. Properly anchored, such coatings can prevent the fragmentation which produces lethal, dagger-like airborne shards in the event of a bomb blast, hurricane-blown debris and even vehicles driven by persons trying to gain entry to the building. Multi-layer applications can even be effective in slowing or stopping bullets.