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Roller vs. Solar Shades: Which Is Right for You?

Roller vs. Solar Shades: Which Is Right for You?

The home decor world can be a confusing place! Are you tripped up by all the terms and jargon? You’re not alone.

In fact, scores of customers come to us wondering what it means to mount window coverings on the inside, for example. Others want to know if their home is a good candidate for cordless blinds (hint: all homes are!). From the origin of Roman shades to the mechanics of motorized window treatments, the experts at Factory Direct Blinds have it all down pat—and they’re always here to help.

Today, they’re pooling their knowledge on two types of window coverings we manufacture and help homeowners install every day: roller shades and solar shades. How are they similar? How are they different? Why should you choose one over the other? And are roller shades or solar shades right for your home improvement project? Keep reading to find out.

What’s the Main Difference between Solar Shades and Roller Shades?

There's a big difference between roller shades and solar shades. Roller shades are made of a solid piece of fabric that's wrapped around a cylindrical tube, while solar shades are made of several horizontal strips of fabric, similar to blinds. The biggest difference between the two is the amount of light they let in. Solar shades allow you to see through them, while roller shades block out all light.

What Is a Roller Shade?

Remember the maps your teachers used in 10th grade U.S. history class? The ones that you could pull down from the top of the blackboard? That’s the idea behind a roller shade. It’s a window covering that you can pull down when you need it and roll back up when you don’t.

A roller shade is a window covering that consists of a piece of fabric or other material wrapped around a cylinder. The textile can be made from various sheets of material, including natural fibers such as linen or bamboo and synthetic fibers such as polyester. Roller shades can be operated manually by pulling the fabric up or down to cover or uncover the window, or they can be motorized.

The main advantage of having a roller shade is its blackout capabilities. Choosing a thick fabric will completely block out all light coming in through the window, making it ideal for bedrooms or home theater rooms. However, they can also be used to reduce opacity or glare if you want it in your living rooms, sun rooms, or home offices.

(Classic Fabric Light Filtering Roller Shades)

This type of window covering has come a long way in the last half-century or so. The roller shade category was once dominated by thin window treatments that had cheaply made (and easily broken) roll-up mechanisms.

Today, roller shades are made in luxury, refined materials that complement your interior design. Top-notch craftsmanship ensures they’re made to last. While you can still find vinyl roller shades, you’ll find the quality is far superior to the shades of old. They’re often used behind curtains, drapes, and other types of shades in order to enhance room darkening and add more sound insulation.

How Do Roller Shades Work?

Both roller and solar shades are built using a tube-shaped mechanism that neatly hides the fabric when the shade is open. For those shades with a spring roller mechanism, you can close the shade by pulling it down on the bottom of the fabric, and unrolling it to your desired level. To open it again, all you have to do is gently tug the bottom of the shade. This will trigger the mechanism to roll the fabric back upward.

Roller shades can be made corded, too, with a continuous-loop chain controlling the roller mechanism rather than a built-in spring. In fact, some particularly large or small roller shades—generally larger than 72 inches wide and smaller than 24 inches wide, though that can vary between products—must have this control chain rather than the spring-roller option.

Of course, with most windows measuring between two feet and six feet wide, that won’t be a problem for the majority of homeowners. Unless you’re looking to finish custom or antique windows, you can probably choose whichever operating style works best for you.

What Is a Solar Shade?

If roller shades take us back to high school social studies, solar shades are sending us straight to math class. You know the saying, “all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares”? The same is true of the solar shades we offer here at Factory Direct Blinds. All solar shades are roller shades, but not all roller shades are solar shades.

A solar shade is a window covering that helps to block out harmful UV rays and regulate the amount of light coming into a room. Solar shades are made from a screen-like material with no slats or gaps, making them very effective at light control. Solar shades have different control options, can be operated manually or motorized, and come in various opacity levels to suit your needs.

The main advantage of solar shades is their ability to protect your furniture and flooring from fading and damage caused by UV rays. Solar shades can also help to reduce energy costs by keeping your home cooler in the summer months. They are a great choice for nurseries and bedrooms, as they can create a dark, calming environment for sleep or play.

Solar shades are roller shades that are made from a special material that filters out UVA and UVB rays. You can choose how much UV light your solar shades let through. When we talk about this filtration, we use the word “openness.” A 14 percent openness means that the solar shade lets in 14 percent of UV light and blocks out 86 percent of UV light.

Why Are Solar Shades Only Available as Roller Shades?

We don’t manufacture solar shades in other styles, like sheer shades or cellular shades, for three very good reasons. Here they are:

Reason #1: It’s more effective

Effective UV-ray filtration requires complete window coverage. If you have gaps in your window treatment, as is the case with zebra shades and traditional blinds, those dangerous rays will still be able to enter your home. That defeats the purpose of installing solar shades!

Reason #2: It looks better

The materials we use to make our solar shades are heavier and stiffer than other window-covering fabrics. It would be impossible to create the gauzy, translucent appearance of a sheer shade with UV-rated fabric. A cellular shade requires a more flexible fabric to create its honeycomb-like air pockets. As for Roman and pleated shades look best with a more malleable fabric.

And speaking of that heavy, stiff fabric: These materials need a sturdy structure to keep them hanging straight across your window instead of sagging. This is especially true with wider-than-usual spaces, like picture windows and window-lined walls in sun rooms and porches. The roller mechanism can be easily reinforced to add support where it’s needed without adding unnecessary bulk to your window covering.

Reason #3: It lasts longer

Solar shades are made to be installed both indoors and outdoors. However, outdoor installation requires a weather-resistant mechanism that can withstand the elements. Roller shades function in a very simple way. They also have a few moving parts, which makes them incredibly durable and long-lasting, even in extreme weather conditions.

A solar shade’s job is to filter sunlight and heat, thereby protecting your furniture, flooring, and artwork from fading. The roller style provides the tightest seal against the window frame, which means it will do a better job of keeping out harmful UV rays.

Here at Factory Direct Blinds, we want to build custom window treatments that will last far longer than a season. That’s why we carefully pair our different product styles with the best materials and mechanisms that suit them.

Why Should You Choose Roller Shades or Solar Shades for Your Home?

The answer to this question is easy: The best benefit of roller shades and solar shades is their versatility. They’re available in so many colors, fabrics, levels of light filtration and mounting styles that we’re certain every homeowner can find a shade to suit both their window covering needs and their personal style.

But that’s not the only reason roller and solar shades are excellent choices for your home. Let’s take a look at the long list of checks in the “pro” column for these two types of window shades:

Child-safe cordless option

All our roller shades offer the ability to customize the shade with a cordless design option for free. Blinds and shades with cords pose a known strangulation risk for children and even small animals, like dogs and cats. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has stated that they are among the top five in-home hazards for infants and young kids.

Also, all of our roller shades come with motorization control as an option. This is a great choice for hard-to-reach windows or if you want the convenience of opening and closing your shades with the push of a button.

And finally, you can choose to add a cornice to your roller shade for a more finished look. A cornice is a piece of wood or upholstered fabric covering the shade's top mechanism. It adds extra style and sophistication to the room.

Our cordless option has a durable, spring-loaded mechanism that lets you smoothly raise and lower your roller shades with zero risk.

HOA-friendly lining

Our shades feature a white backing that makes them automatically compliant with any rules your neighborhood’s homeowner’s association might have about street-facing decor. This goes for room-darkening and blackout roller shades, too!

Worried about the white backing showing when the roller shade is open? Don’t be. You can choose a waterfall-style roll direction, which will ensure the backing is invisible in your interior. You can also have us create a cassette valance, which will completely encase the roll-up mechanism and the rolled fabric.

Energy bill saving

You don’t have to go solar in order to see savings on your energy bill. In fact, adding any sort of window covering can help you save money by minimizing solar gain from direct sunlight and insulating your window against drafts and leaks.

Roller and solar shades do this better than most window coverings. An inside-mount roller shade or an outside mount with plenty of trim and wall overlap creates a barrier between your windowpanes and your room. That means you keep more of your conditioned air inside your home. It also prevents extreme temperatures outdoors from influencing the climate inside your house.

Increased sound insulation

As lot sizes shrink and the number of the apartment- and condo-dwellers grows, homeowners are doing what they can to minimize other people's impact on their at-home comfort. A well-fitting roller shade can do a lot to dampen exterior sound from construction, street traffic and neighbors. No more waking up to the garbage truck? That’s a win.

Easy to care for and maintain

Since roller shades don’t have any pleating or draping, they’re a breeze to clean. While care instructions will depend on the fabrication you choose, you can clean most roller and solar shades with a damp sponge or a quick once-over with a vacuum cleaner. There are even surface sprays you can use to help them repel dust!

Endless decorating possibilities

One plus that homeowners love about roller shades and solar shades is that they make other home design options more practical. Because of their slim profile and sleek look, you can install these window coverings behind curtains, drapes, and even decorative Roman shades.

Love the look of sheer curtain panels in your bedroom, but still want privacy? Roller shades can be pulled down behind your curtains when you’re changing and sleeping. Your room will still have that dreamy, cloud-like look, but you won’t have to worry about waking up with the sun or flashing your neighbors.

Don’t want to open and close your heavy drapes every morning and evening? Roller shades to the rescue! One smooth pull and release each day, and you’re set. That makes for less wear-and-tear on your curtain rod and pullbacks and less fussing with the hang of your drapes.

Want to soak up the view, but not the 5 p.m. direct sunlight? Solar shades lowered for that two-hour period when the sun hasn’t quite ducked behind the tree line are an ideal compromise between uncovered windows and practical interior living.

Looking to preserve a historic home and protect antique furniture from fading? Solar shades will keep your investment looking great without taking anything away from your period-perfect decor.

Tips to maintain your shades

Once you've decided on the perfect window shades for your home, it's important to maintain them, so they continue to look great and function well. Neglecting your shades can lead to them becoming damaged, stained, or otherwise in need of replacement much sooner than necessary. Here are some tips for cleaning and caring for your shades:

1. Vacuum them regularly: Use the soft brush attachment in your vacuum to remove dirt, dust, and other debris from your shades. Do this once a week or as needed to keep them looking clean.

2. Spot-clean when necessary: If you spill something on your shades or they get otherwise dirty, spot-clean with a mild soap and water solution. Avoid using harsh chemicals or scrubbing too aggressively, as this can damage the fabric of your shades.

3. Be careful when opening and closing: When opening and closing your shades, do so slowly and carefully to avoid ripping or tearing them. Also, be sure to keep any pets or small children away from them to prevent accidental damage.

4. Store them properly: Roller shades should be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight when not in use. This will help prevent fading and other damage caused by exposure to the elements.

5. Have them professionally cleaned: Once a year or as needed, have your roller shades professionally cleaned. This will remove any built-up dirt and grime that regular vacuuming and spot-cleaning can't reach.

Still Not Sure if Roller Shades or Solar Shades Are the Ideal Solution for Your Home?

There are so many customization options available for these two popular types of window treatments; how could they not be? Our experts would be happy to walk you through the pros and cons of your unique situation—and help you get the perfect window measurement once you’ve made your decision.


What Color Solar Shades Work Best?

Solar shades are available in a variety of colors, but neutral colors are typically the best choice. These colors reflect UV rays better than darker shades, helping to keep your home cooler in the summer months. Plus, they won’t clash with your home’s decor as much as a brighter shade might.

Do Solar Shades Offer Privacy at Night?

Solar shades are made of a material that allows light to pass through while still blocking UV rays. This makes them an ideal window treatment for those who want privacy during the day but don't want to have to close their shades at night. But if you want complete privacy, you'll need to pair solar shades with drapery.

Are solar shades worth it?

Solar shades are definitely worth it! Not only do they protect your furniture and floors from fading, but they also help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Are solar shades see-through at night?

If your lights are turned on inside your home at night, they will be visible from the outside. You can pair them with room darkening shades to achieve complete privacy or choose a material that is less transparent for more privacy.

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