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Protecting Home From Sun's Damaging Rays

August 07, 1994|JAMES DULLEY | Dulley is a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant

QUESTION: The summer sun bakes me through my windows and skylight and fades my furniture. How can I inexpensively block the sun's direct heat, yet see clearly outdoors and still get free solar heat in the winter?

ANSWER: Blocking the sun's intensity through your windows can lower your air-conditioning costs significantly. In addition to blocking heat and glare, you must block the sun's invisible fading rays. These ultraviolet (UV) fading rays also slowly break down the fabrics and cause premature wear.

There are several inexpensive do-it-yourself summer-only methods to reduce the intensity of the sun through your windows without obstructing the view. These sun control methods are designed to be easily removed each winter to let free solar heat in through your windows.

I use a reusable summer-only self-cling film on several of my own south- and west-facing windows. It is available in lightly tinted gray or bronze, and you can reapply it year after year. It is available in rolls or in do-it-yourself kits that include the film, knife and squeegee for installing it.

This window film is made of self-cling vinyl. The vinyl creates a natural static charge that makes it adhere tightly to your window glass. There is no permanent adhesive. It blocks 55% of the sun's heat and most of the fading rays, yet still provides an undistorted view outdoors.

To install it, spray the window with water so the film slides easily. Lay the film against the window, cut it to size and squeegee away the excess water. In the winter, you just pull one corner loose and peel it off. Roll it onto a paper tube or fold it up until next summer.

Another option is see-through roll-up interior shades that block heat and stop fading. One type uses a durable tinted Mylar film that blocks 96% of the UV fading rays. It is mounted on a spring- or pull-chain roller.

Sun-control fiberglass screening can also be used for the roll-up shade. It blocks 50% to 70% of the sun's heat depending on the weave and color. The most effective new shade is aluminum foil embedded in tough fabric. It blocks all the fading rays and much heat, but you cannot see through it.

For a skylight, you can install a removable interior fiberglass screen shade. You attach narrow channels on either end of your skylight. Wrap the screen ends around the rods and snap them into the channels. There are also exterior skylight screen covers that attach with elastic bungie cords.

Write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 999 listing manufacturers of reusable self-cling window film (and a small sample piece to try), roll-up film and screen window and skylight shades, prices, specifications and installation instructions. Please include $2 and a self-addressed envelope.

Does Dripping Faucet Warrant Plumber Cost?

Q: My bathroom faucet drips, and I wondered if the water saved by fixing it is worth the expense of calling the plumber. About how much water does a dripping faucet waste?

A: I opened a bathroom faucet a little in my own home to measure the amount of water wasted. The faucet dripped eight times per minute. Over six hours, it dripped a pint of water. This is equivalent to 182 gallons per year.

You should have the drip fixed. Although the amount of water wasted from your one faucet is not great, the total water wasted from many homes across the country is significant. Also it may be hot water, which wastes energy too. A slow hot water drip feels cold by the time it gets to the faucet.

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