You are absolutely right to ask first and buy later! I started my
solar window screening project last month and had a similar experience
at the hardware stores. Know one really knows the products very well.
I finally found http://www.onlinesolarscreens.com/index.htm?catalog.htm&1 .
If you are lucky enough to get a hold of someone called Brandon, he
can explain the differences and give you good advice on your project.
So, I will pass along my experience and research with DYI solar
screens and try to answer some of the question from this thread.
1.Heathcliff Bambino wonders if and how it is different from any other
screen? Ameridan: The differences are significant! Normal screen
material has a larger "MESH." The solar material is coated with a
fiberglass (Super Solar) or Vinyl Coated Polyester (SunTex) and has a
much tighter "MESH." This how the sun rays are captured and absorbed
before passing through your window. After installing my solar screens,
it look like you have put sunglasses on my widows and when the sun
shines directly through them, you really notice how effective they
2.Mike wants to no were a good, cheap place to purchase the screens
Walmart, Kmart, Home Depot, Lowe's? Ameridan: Home Depot and Lows have
the best prices for Super Solar but they only sale it in small
quantities. If you need larger sizes, Suntex, Insect Screen, or Pet
Screen, http://www.onlinesolarscreens.com/index.htm?catalog.htm&1 is
the cheapest I found. I got the feeling that they are a California
group that is more interested in conserving energy than making a
profit. In any case, they were well below the cost of any of their
competitors that I found.
3.Maury says to "Get some extra screen, because unless you are
God-like, you will not be happy with the first few attempts."
Ameridan: Maury speaks the truth. Read what he says! He knows what he
is talking about! I didn't need any extra material because I did not
cut the fabric to size until I was happy with the results. It was easy
to pull the screen material out and try again. I took a few tries, but
once I got the hang of things, it was no problem. I found myself only
doing two screens a day because pushing the spline into the screen
frame was hard on my fingers.
4.I read that you should replace the spline but I read somewhere else
that you can reuse the same one. Is that true? Ameridan: You can reuse
the old spline material so long it is in good condition. However, the
spline is so cheep, I am not sure it is worth fighting with the older
5.I have several cats who like to lay in the windows and they keep
tearing little holes big enough for bugs to come in? Ameridan: You
want a product call "Phifer Pet Screen." It is a 16x12 mesh and is the
best you can get for pet protection, but does not offer any solar
6.Which store can find I find spline? What exactly am I looking for
when I go to buy it? Is it in a windows section of the store?
Ameridan: I found that the hardware stores carry spline material in
their window and screen door sections. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you
get the correct size. They are many different diameters of spline and
you need the one that fits the spline grove in your screen frame. It
you get the wrong size, you will find it very difficult to push the
spline into the grove. The hardware stores usually only sell one size.
7.Joe writes, " To add to the advice on this topic, it is easy to over
tighten the screening thus bowing the frames inward. To avoid this,
cut some braces from stock thinner than the frame so they will lay
flat on your work surface, one for width and one for height. Then as
you roll the spline in place, the resulting tension should be just
right. I've used this trick on very large screens successfully.
Ameridan: I wish had read Joe's technique before I started my project.
I did a lot of over tightening and need to make a lot of adjusting
after rolling the fabric onto the frame. Joe's techniques sound like a
good way to avoid over tightening and save a lot of time.
8.My experience has been that aluminum screening is much tougher,
harder to tear, and longer lasting than the fiberglass stuff.
Ameridan: I was told the same thing.
9.I don't know if you would be able to install it in your plastic
frames. Ameridan: You might be able to install the fiberglass
material, but it is unlikely that you will be able to install the
Suntex material. It is much heavier.
I found that all most all professional installations of solar screen
was with Phifer Suntex. (I use Black, Suntex 90%.) When I asked why,
the answer was always that it lasted longer and did not fade as
quickly as the other products on the market. In the final analysis, a
local window screen company gave me an estimate of $4,600 for 19
windows. By doing it my self, it took me two weeks at 2 windows a
night and $546.00 in material purchased at
http://www.onlinesolarscreens.com/index.htm?catalog.htm&1 . My only
complaint with this company was the length of time it took to ship the
product (8 business days) and they did not provide me with a UPS
tracking number, but there customer service was fantastic. Also, it
was easy to overlook this when I realized that I saved ~ $4,000. So,
there is my 2 cents. If anyone has a different experience, I am very
interested in hearing about it