Tinting Double Pane Windows


Window tinting is an easy and quick home improvement job that anyone with a bit of patience, can accomplish in an hour or less per window. Most of us are familiar with the one-way or blackout tinting we see on inside of store windows and doors. In fact, for those of us in the southern states, where summer temperatures regularly climb into the triple digits, I would guess that more than one of us has been stopped by the local police for having a tint on our vehicles that was darker than allowed by local laws.
For today’s purpose, we are going to learn the process that will allow us to tint what is commonly perceived as being a non-starter. In other words, tinting double pane windows. The problem with double pane windows is that in order to be energy efficient or low-e, they will contain a nearly transparent film that is laminated between the two panes of glass. This generally will allow light to penetrate, but will keep the heat out and cooling in or visa versa, depending on the season. Unfortunately, as good as that sounds, what the factory provides is not always good enough. As the seasons progress, we learn that, the low-e window is always warmer or cooler than the rest of the room.
The solution? Tint the windows!
Well maybe. With double pane windows, the problem is that the two panes of glass and the film between them will reflect the inside tint back and forth heating the glass causing it to expand. At first glance, this would not seem to be much of a problem, but with inside tinting, the expansion can be greater than the manufacturer allows in its design, thus cracking the glass. That is why most manufacturers will not warranty the windows if you apply tint.
The new solution? Tint the outside of the windows!
Lately manufacturers of window tinting have been providing newer products that are designed to be placed on the outside of the window. Yes, you will have some expansion of the glass, but it should not be more than normal and will not crack the glass. If, fact last summer we tinted the outside of two of our upstairs windows and not only did the air conditioning unit run much less, you could actually feel the temperature difference between the windows we tinted and those we had yet to tint.
Tools needed.
– Credit card
– Spray bottle
– Window cleaner(no ammonia)
– Exact-o knife/razor blade
The first step is to buy the film. You can find window film at any Lowe’s, Home Depot or any general hardware store. What you will need to find is the “peel and cling” window film that is designed for double pane windows. The best way to be sure you have the right material is to read the back of the box where is should say “for dual pane windows” or “outside mount”. If the film does not mount on the outside, it is not the material you want. Lastly, make sure the material you buy is large enough to fit the window in one piece. So make sure you write down the measurements of your window before you shop.
Next, you will need to clean the outside and inside of the window. Use a standard no ammonia window cleaner. This will allow you to see any imperfections when you apply the film. If you only clean one side, you will never be able to tell if you missed a bubble, and yes with “peel and cling” window film, you can fix the problem later, but why do it twice, when you can do it right the first time. Did you remember to clean the window? If so, great, but do it again. The window cannot be clean enough!
The third step is to cut your material to size, or rather to size plus two inches. This will give you enough room to easily apply the material without too much extra to complicate the process. You can use the razor blade for this step, in fact it gives you a cleaner cut line, but remember to put something under where you cut or you will ruin what you are cutting on top of.
Now for the fun part! Applying the film to the window. For this step, you will first need to use your spray bottle to moisten the outside of the windowpane with water. Yes, water! The products that are sold in the store are great, but 99% of their contents are water and in the case of “peel and cling” water is all you need to make it apply. In the case of adhesive film, it is 99% water and 1 % dish soap. The water provides lubrication between the windowpane and film while you apply and adjust the film.
Begin with peeling about four inches of the film backing away from the film and crease it so that it will not lay back onto the film. Line up the exposed edge of the film with the top of the windowpane using gravity to pull the rest of the film downwards. A word of caution, make sure that you do not line the edge of the film with the exact edge of the window. You will need to overlap the edge by 1-2 inches. Don’t worry you will trim this off later. Using one hand to hold the top edge in place, slowly peel off the rest of the backing. Ease the rest of the film onto the window using the credit card to brush the film flat and remove the excess water. Again, remember gravity is your friend, so with the exception of the top 1-2 inches, use the credit card to brush the bubbles and excess water downwards towards the floor.
After you have completed brushing all bubbles, wrinkles, and water out of the film, double check for any serious flaws in your application. If you find any, peel up the film and correct the flaw. This is the reason I like “peel and cling” film as I can never get the flaws out the first time and not having to worry about sticky adhesive just makes the job easier.
Lastly, using the razor blade and credit card, you will need to cut the excess film away. Start in the upper corner, either left or right, as it doesn’t matter as long as you start on the top, (remember gravity is your friend). Place the credit card up to the edge of the windowpane, and cut the film only where the card is. This will allow you to keep a straight edge as you progress. Move the card across the top of the pane as you trim. Once the top is complete, use the card to press out any additional excess water and then repeat the process as you move down the sides going from top to bottom. This will allow the film to fall out of your way as you cut.
Now you can enjoy your newly tinted windows!

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