Home Innovations: Solar Windows & Solar Film


Generating Electricity from Invisible Light

You’ve heard of solar panels on the roof and gadgets that absorb sunlight to charge cell phones, but have you ever heard of electricity-producing windows?

Research from 3M, a global innovation company, and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) are fine-tuning the ability to generate electricity from invisible light. UCLA claims to have developed a transparent polymer solar cell that generates energy (NOTE: you need a subscription to read the full research).

How Does It Work?

The solar radiation is absorbed through a film that is placed on your window (or any other place), similar to a tint on a car window. The energy is created from the photoactive plastic material (the film), which collects mostly infrared light, rather than visible light. This absorption creates electricity.

Since the film is primarily absorbing infrared light, it has little effect on the clarity of the window. UCLA reports that the solar cells are 70 percent transparent to the human eye. This means we would see little, if any, change in the way the window looks.

In 2011, 3M released a similar film, converting windows into solar panels. The company boasts that the film is easy to apply and can be installed by the average person with no special skill or knowledge required.

About Solar Window Films

Solar window film is a similar product that has been on the market longer and is sold online and in home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot. Similar to the breakthrough technology above, solar films conserve energy, cool rooms and lower energy bills.

The installation is fairly simple and requires a measuring tape, razor blade, marker or pencil, old credit card and a wet sponge. By measuring the window and cutting to exact measurements, you apply the film directly to the window and smooth it out.

The cost per roll varies from $30 – $50 dollars, which is substantially cheaper than other environmentally friendly window options, like new windows or solar blinds.

Ask yourself these questions before you purchase and install solar window film:

  • Will adding solar film to my windows void my warranty?
  • Do I want the room to be brighter or darker?
  • What direction does the window face (north, east, south, west)?
  • How much sun does the room get during the day?
  • Am I capable of installing the film myself, or should I hire a professional? (Professional installation can cost up to $3 a square foot.)

Where to Begin?

If you are interested in learning more about your options for leveraging the potential solar energy your windows can produce, talk to a professional at your local hardware store. They will be able to advise you on the best options given your geographical location and can make a recommendation that fits your particular needs.

Check out the popular brands below to get a baseline for pricing information:

  • Solargard, window film manufacturer of commercial, residential and automotive window film
  • Vista-Films, a brand of window films for homes and commercial buildings

If your interest is in lower energy bills, cooling your rooms and conserving energy, talk with an industry professional for the best advice on purchasing and installing solar energy window films in your geographical area.

Additional Resources





Print Friendly, PDF & Email